Kishore Mahbubani’s advice to the West

December 7, 2013

Kishore Mahbubani’s advice to the West

Kishore MahbubaniIt’s high time for the West to get off its moral pedestal and talk with Asia and the rest of the world on the basis of equality, Singapore’s Kishore Mahbubani told the recent Beijing Forum.

It’s high time for the West to get off its moral pedestal and talk with Asia and the rest of the world on the basis of equality, Singapore’s Kishore Mahbubani told the recent Beijing Forum.”We are living in one of the most remarkable periods of human history”, he said, “as there is a rebalancing of human civilization.”For the 18 centuries until the year 1820, China and India were the world’s two largest economies. The past two centuries, dominated by Europe and North America, have been an historical aberration. And like all aberrations, it is not sustainable. Thus, the return of Asia, currently underway, is a natural process.

The return of Asia could have brought a clash of civilisations. But paradoxically, we are living through a period of great peace. High intensity wars have declined since 1988. None of us today worry about a war between major powers.

Further, for a long while, we have been trying to eliminate poverty. But in the space of a few decades, we are not only meeting the Millennium Development Goal for reducing poverty, we are beating it, thanks to Asia’s exceptional development.

A great convergence is under way, as Asia’s middle class is exploding. Asia’s middle class of 500 million today, will grow to 1.75 billion in 2020.  How can the world be so peaceful with all these changes underway? There is now a consensus around a cluster of norms, shared by societies around the world, which are the foundations of modern peace and prosperity.

First, there is the importance of modern science and technology. The West became strong thanks to science and technology, and now Asia is following in its foot steps.

Second is the spread of reason and logic. Human beings are climbing the escalator of reason. We all use reason and logic, rather than conflict and violence, to solve problems.

Third is the success of the market economy. The experiment with socialist economic planning was an abject failure.

Fourth is the changing social contract. The era of strong leaders and dictators is over. Governments of all stripes understand that to stay in office, they must deliver economic growth and prosperity to their populations.

And fifth, multilateral cooperation, like the Beijing Forum, is spreading. Governments and societies are working together. They are cooperating.

We are not in nirvana yet. There are still challenges. We have our ups and downs. But we are now living through unprecedented peace and prosperity. But we are also living in a paradox. The West has been the most successful civilization in world history. But now the West poses the biggest danger to the world.

Asia is succeeding because it learnt from the West. But the West is faced with a very difficult adjustment. It must accept other civilizations as equals.This is very difficult for the West. Because, according to the West, all problems are caused elsewhere, not in the West.

But the West must reflect on what it is doing. Over the past decade, it has shockingly defied its own values. Torture has been brought back, especially a Guantanamo Bay. There are numerous civilian deaths by drone attacks. And now we are learning of widespread violations of privacy in the name of national security.

Big brother lives in Washington! This is a huge challenge for us all. Even in the private sector, Google has gone from “hero to zero”, as it uses personal data for corporate profits.

The West is no more sinful than other societies. All societies are equally sinful. But the West must get off its moral pedestal and talk with others on the basis of equality.

The West represents only 12% of the world’s population. And the other 88% is the world’s most dynamic. Going forward, the solution is that we should stop lecturing each other, and start learning from each other. We must all work for harmony.

According to Mahbubani, Southeast Asia is a region that lives in harmony. Even though it is the most diverse corner of the world with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, capitalists and communists.

The European Union used to be the gold standard for regional cooperation. But it refuses to accept a Muslim country like Turkey, even though it is a much stronger candidate than Bulgaria or Romania. The EU is basically a (closed) Christian club.

In conclusion, “the world should come to ASEAN, and learn from ASEAN”, Mahbubani said, “the world’s most successful, mullt-civilisational and multicultural regional group”.

13 thoughts on “Kishore Mahbubani’s advice to the West

  1. Look, i don’t know where this most distinguished Personage is going, but he seems to be out of touch with reality, or else a very narrow world view based on his own ethnocentricity?

    It’s never going to be an ‘Asian’ century – the closest it can be is a ‘Pacific’ century. Geographically. The movement and change is cross-cultural, transformational and transnational, and the Information Age is actually enforcing a change from imposed cultural feudalism/stratification to individualism. Otherwise ‘Liberty and Freedom’ mean nothing.

    Although i’m not Indian, Middle-Eastern, but a Banana (certainly not a WASP or WOG) – i can tell you, the Sub-Continent and Desert Countries are but footnotes and transitions in the Epic Journey of Humanity out of Africa. Otherwise, why then is there the unreasoning urge for Educated Asians/Africans to seek ‘greener’ pastures in the ‘West’ – away from the stifling heat of geographical hovels of their own making?

  2. Phua,
    Sorry, I have never respected the man who can’t make up his mind what he wanna become. President of the whole nation or politicians. Perhaps, the words of Raymond Lim rings a bell to such people.

  3. actually I was waiting for some enllightening comments from our regulars to this quite ordinary article from Mahbubani.
    since my early schooldays, end of the 50’s, I’ve been hearing this myth about the coming of the Asian Age.
    not India, China, Brazil or SEA, but the West, especially the US will hold the Aces. at the best China or India will play the second fiddle in the future turbulent world.
    don’t underestimate the military might of the US and its Allies and never forget that someone like George W. could come to power in the USofA. then it is hardluck for you.
    the first sentence to come out of a newborn lndian baby will be, ‘I’ll be going to the States soon!’
    good luck Mahbubani, stay put in Singapore, thats where you belong.

  4. “The European Union used to be the gold standard for regional cooperation. But it refuses to accept a Muslim country like Turkey, even though it is a much stronger candidate than Bulgaria or Romania. ”

    Turkey has started to steer away from its founding principle on the separation of religion institutions and state machinery when it pays the salaries of 300,000 clergies who are aligned to sunni sect. I think EU and the west are not true to their core belief on freedom of religion if they embrace Turkey without conditions. See what happen to Turkey’s minority:

    I don’t know where the urge of constantly asking for respect from the west comes from. Does it point to inferiority complex?

  5. Apart from Kishore no one in Asia has the moral authority to tell the Europeans to get off their moral pedestal? Morality begins and ends with the man. You create your own morality and exploit it to its fullest extent and then re-write history of your nation to justify your morality.

    Here lies the fault or should I say hypocrisy of our so-called intellectuals. They are spot on when it comes to calling foreign leaders to get off their moral pedestal but give the moral authority for their own local leaders to do whatever they like in the name of moral self-censorship.

  6. Raymond Lim from Siglap ?

    One of my Singaporean relatives is from Siglap. (But does not support PAP 🙂 )

    (And I lived in Tampines for 2 years in the mid 1990s. Not an enthusiast for the PAP. But still think PAP is much better than our UMNO Baru-BN gang of crooks, thieves and incompetents).

  7. Malaysia is Malaysia but Singapore is Singapore. Right from the start the leaders of Singapore decided that without Special privileges they had no choice but to make that S$1.00 work like S$04.00. While we took the high road of trying to make our RM1.00 work like RM00.40. The results are there for all of us to see. Singapore Per Capita income has gone through the roof to from R$400.00 to S$ 44,000. Believe me this is no mean feat. Even the Per capita income of those of us who live and work in Kuala Lumpur is yet to hit that level. Though I must confess that our brothers and sisters living in Putra Jaya surpassed that Singapore figures some time ago.
    Never underestimate the power of good governance and leaders being honest and playing by the book.(Constitution).All Singapore has to do now is to take a leaf out of the History Books of South Korea which in 2000 allowed the dissident Kim Dae Jung to assume the office of The Presidency and thereby opened the doors for Korea to be governed in a manner to reflect the socio-economic gains made since the end of the Korean War. There is no other way to ensure the stability of your country to move forward and prosper with its GDP doubling every 15-20 years but to pay homage to the freedoms of the individual because that is the only way known to man, at this point in, time to unleash the power of the individual.

    Leaders of Asia stifle those freedoms today at their own peril.

  8. TL,
    The provision guaranteeing malay special position is still there in singapore constitution. Just that Singapore government did not enfroce it vigoriously & the melayus feel ashamed if they use that special position

  9. Reeper,
    Nobody is underestimating US military might. Or rather US needs such might so as to preserve its survival. Anyway, I would prefer you to listen to this instead

  10. looes74,
    military might is a prerogative to be a super-power. whether it is China India or Russia, without ‘Macht’ they become irrelevant.
    the more you analyse this article the more ridiculous it sounds. he says for 18 centuries, until 1820, China and India were the biggest economies! I thought India as we know today, started existing after it became part of the British Empire.
    in the process of evolution, aberrations are not uncommon.

    whatever I’m supposed to read, looes74, I can’t because my Maxis Broadband takes to bite out of my Lapdog. have to reserve it for later.

  11. Reeper,
    So was Germany? Thanks to Bismarck. By the way, it’s Prussia who is holding the bulk of German empire. Plus don’t forget, Liechestein, Austria & Luxemborg are germans too. Hahahaha…….Anyway history lesson on germany & a France Gall’s song

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