Globalization vs. Asian values
Globalization vs. Asian values

Some government officials in East Asian nations have boldly proclaimed an alternative to the Western cultural model by declaring an adherence to traditional “Asian values.”

Asian values are typically described as embodying the Confucian ideals of respect for authority, hard work, thrift, and the belief that the community is more important than the individual. This is said to be coupled with a preference for economic, social, and cultural rights rather than political rights. The most frequent criticism of these values is that they run contrary to the universality of human rights and tend to condone undemocratic undercurrents in some countries, including the suppression of dissidents, and the excessive use of national security laws.

Some commentators have credited Asian values as contributing to the stunning economic rise of several countries in East Asia. It is also suggested that Asians have been able to protect and nurture their traditions in the face of utilitarian modernity, lax morals and globalization. (Suh, 1997)

Neighboring Singapore’s former leader Lee Kwan Yew has used the term to justify the extremely well-ordered society Singapore maintains, and its laissez-faire economic approach. His theories are often referred to as the “Lee Thesis,” which claims that political freedoms and rights can actually hamper economic growth and development. According to this notion, orderĀ as well asĀ personal and social discipline, rather than political liberty and freedom, are most appropriate for Asian societies. Adherents to this view claim that political freedoms, liberties, and democracy are Western concepts, foreign to their traditions.

But critics argue that the concept of Asian values is merely an excuse for autocratic governance and sometimes corruption. Martin Lee, the democratically elected leader of the opposition in Hong Kong, has been severely critical of the concept, calling it a “pernicious myth.”

‘Those who wish to deny us certain political rights try to convince us that these are not Asian values. In our struggle for democracy and human rights, we would like greater support from our fellow Asians’

-Aung San Sui Kyi, Burmese democracy advocate and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize

Lee proclaimed that the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 and ensuing economic collapse should mark the death knell of the Asian values argument, and the “related notion that economic progress can or should be made independent of the establishment of democratic political institutions and principles.”

Other critics have leveled more strident criticisms against the use of the Asian values argument. They argue that these supposed values have stymied independent thinking and creativity and fostered authoritarian regimes. According to this view, Asian values were partly responsible for the corruption that affected so many nations in the region, making the press and people reluctant to criticize their governments.

Learn More

For information on what Kazakhstan thinks about globalization, click here.

For information on the impact of globalization on Tibet, click here.

For information on what Japan thinks about globalization, click here.

For information on what Pakistanis thinks about globalization, click here.

For information on what India thinks about globalization, click here.

For information on Malaysia thinks about globalization, click here.

For information on what South Korea thinks about globalization, click here.


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