December 7, 2013
Kishore Mahbubani’s advice to the West
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”.