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Evaluation of the concept of 'Asian Values'

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Amy Bowden

on 22 February 2013

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Transcript of Evaluation of the concept of 'Asian Values'

Asian Values THE WEST USA EUROPE THE EAST The East is most commonly referred to as Asia, but within this region there are subdivisions; South-East, Central.
How we classify the region is constantly evolving Where would we classify as Asia now? India China Indonesia Cambodia Japan Malaysia Mongolia What are the Asian Values? The main core values are seen to be:
•respect for authority;
•acceptance of hierarchy;
•an orderly society;
•loyalty to the family and nation;
•belief in strong family ties;
•belief in frugality, saving and sacrifice;
•belief in punishment as a deterrent to crimes;
•the pursuit of academic and technological excellence;
•a strong work ethic and thrift.
•Concerned with socio-economic well-being instead of civil liberties and human rights.
So why is there a debate over ‘Asian Values’? 1- Political reaction to the argument that Western liberal democracy has emerged as the global norm and that there is no alternative. (Fukuyama) Asian Values however are the alternative and are used to resist Western hegemony 2 - Growing confidence in some Asian countries due to their strong economic growth.

For example, China – China’s explosive economic growth is linked to the combination of authoritarian politics and its free market economics. This has been seen as a threat to liberal world order. 3 - A number of state leaders making it a prevalent issue, such as Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammed, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. They maintain that Asia has their own set of values and thus Western liberal democracy, to them, is an alien concept and is not the best option. They also suggest that Asian values and western values are binary opposites, examples of this are;
Asians value community and Westerners value the individual.
Asians appreciate order and harmony, Westerners appreciate personal freedom.

With regard to human rights… Some Asian leaders have argued that since not all Asian nations are as economically developed as Western nations, it is not fair to expect them to uphold all of the rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dr Mahathir and Mr Lee argue that the supposedly ‘universal’ human rights documents and treaties actually privilege Western values to the detriment of Asian values.

‘China is the protagonist in a clash of values, governance and two versions of modernity in the twenty-first century’ – Stephan Halper.

Evaluating the claims of Asian Values:
Culture is not physical it evolves and changes over time. Therefore claims of absolute cultural values are questionable.
Are Asian Values evident within the modern culture and society of Asian countries ?

Asian values are often used to justify political actions in Asia but can there be a justification if the ‘Asian Values’ concept is not actually evident in modern culture?





Can not generalise over such a large region

The values of few rather than many?

Can Asian Values be from culture if they are imposed on the citizens?

Globalization - homogenization of values and culture

some seen as more important than others
Do these ‘Asian Values’ correspond with contemporary Chinese life?

There is very much a respect for authority in China. Incidents such as Tiananmen Square are very rare. There has been nothing to suggest an ‘Arab Springs’ uprisings in China in recent years. However this may not be due to the Asian Value of respect and order but out of fear of authority.

Punishment is very much at the centre of the Chinese penal system. Hard labour and the death penalty are very common. China conducted four times more executions than the rest of the world in 2005. This ensures that tough punishments are used to effectively deter potential criminals.

The pursuit of academic and technological evidence has indeed been at the forefront of China’s rapid economic development. China is the world’s number one importer and exporter and is one of the only places where goods can be produced at such a low cost. This ties in with another one of the Asian Values “a strong work ethic and thrift”. What can be made of the claims that Asian nations use politics based on ‘Asian values’ –

•Belief systems such as Islam, Buddhism and Confucianism all influence Asia’s political culture, for example Islamic democracy in Indonesia.
•This unique political system has allowed many diverse groups to be able to live together.
•The order that a strong state provides has arguably led to the extraordinary economic growth in the region which has then led to increased political power within the global community.
•However this concept of Asian values is a contestable one. Politicians have an interest to consolidate their position by perpetuating in their rhetoric the ‘Asian values’ that suit their ends through interpreting them in a way favourable to their regime.
•Principals of non-interference promote unjust political practices which can be justified under Asian values as promoting order through political consensus but may ignore certain minorities.
•Of course even in Europe strong states were required to garner material prosperity at the beginning of industrialisation, however this economic liberalism has led to political freedom, calls for which are increasing in growing in Asia. Such people that espouse any view against the political grain are labelled ‘cultural deviants’.
•On the contrary, Kim Dae Jung argues that democracy is in fact part of Asian tradition and values.
•Culture is not fixed or static, so why can there be no democracy? There may well be a style of Asian democracy but it will not be a mirror of Asian values but will evolve from them.
For example the traditional importance of the family is becoming less so, with economic migrants moving away from their families for employment.

Can the economic success in Asia be attributed to Asian Values? -Asia’s strong sense of statehood and principle of non-intervention, lack of regional security architecture and instability in SE Asia have strongly influenced economic policies throughout the Asian states in order to increase security for each.
-Asian values of strong states and authoritarianism are used to encourage economic development.
According to the politicians, YES
-East Asian politicians have argued that economic modernization did not necessarily lead to a political pluralism as it did in the West.
-Many East Asian nations had experienced rapid economic growth in the 90s but not necessarily as a result of democratic processes.
-East Asian politicians argued that it was predominantly their Islamic-Confucian cultural values that were acting as the driving force behind Asia’s tremendous economic success during this period.
ASEAN’s Influence on Asian Economic Performance.
-Although Economic cooperation was forseen, the evolution of ASEAN was driven by political security and security concerns.
-In 1992 it was agreed to establish an ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). This aimed for a single market but with no common external tariff, and restricted flows of labour.
-The asian financial crisis of 1997-8 provided a renewed impetus for regional cooperation and led to a new format of cooperation with China, Japan and South Korea as “ASEAN Plus Three” (APT), seen by some as the realisation of the idea underlying the East Asian Economic Caucus.
-2003 the ASEAN Economic Community, and an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community by 2020.
-Nov. 2007 a charter was signed with specific references to “ASEAN identity”.
APEC
-Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
-Formed in 1989 on the principle of ‘open regionalism’.
-It was not to involve any discrimination against like-for-like countries, not to reflect any distinctive regional identity so much as the desire of the non-Asian states of the region to consolidate links with open market economies of East Asia.

This Asian style of democracy has been described as one focused more on community than the individual and with political consensus as opposed to pluralism to create a harmonious society. However this does not seem like a good model for a region so diverse. A harmonious society can be established by eliminating discontents and difference; a political consensus may not reflect the views of national minorities while most Asian Values will benefit the government more than the people.
In Conclusion
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