The roots of modern political regimes in Southeast Asia lie in the development of nationalist and anti-colonial movements in the 1920s and 1930s. In the highly interconnected region of the South China Sea, these movements heavily influenced and inspired each other. These movements have not been studied on a transnational or regional basis. Nor have they been properly approached in the vernacular languages which were spoken by their members. Western engagement with these countries' present and future requires greater understanding of their past. This study proposes to address the issue by using Chinese and Malay newspapers, which were heavily circulated throughout  the region, to follow the emergence, development, and adoption of the ideas of nationalism throughout the port cities of the South China Sea in the period between the World Wars.

This study thus re-examines the nature of nationalism and self-determination by re-evaluating the fundamental nature of these movements in a regional and global context. It will shed new light on the histories of South China and Southeast Asia, radically rewriting the historiography of Southeast Asian nationalism by recontextualising it in a regional and global perspective.