Asian values

From ArticleWorld

Asian values refers to the idea that Asian societies have unique, fitting beliefs, priorities, and characteristics, due to their specific cultural, historical, and even religious backgrounds. The subtext is that Asian values will power the continent into a leadership position in the world, but on its own terms, and in a manner that poses a challenge to the hegemony of Western political and cultural factors. Traditional Asian values have been portrayed as reminiscent of Confucianism: elevating the interests of society, nation or corporation over those of individuals, being frugal, working hard, and striving to be the best in such perceived uncontroversial or apolitical areas as technology and education.

The concept was popularised in the early 1990s by such Southeast Asian leaders as Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, and Malaysia's Mahathir Mohammad. Although it lost some of its popularity after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the phrase has been nearly always used in a positive way by Southeast and East Asian governments and business. It has been suggested that the authorities in Singapore and Malaysia came to accept the idea because it bound the ethnic Chinese Buddhist, Taoist or Confucian, and Muslim populations of these countries together against the West. In Japan Asian values gained currency in right wing nationalist circles, where the idea was taken to mean that Japan could regain dominance in the region.

The idea of Asian values has been heavily criticized by some as being a damaging construct , including Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui, and former president of South Korea, Kim Dae Jung. Its provenance is said to indicate that it is merely a relativistic 'cultural' defense of oppressive or military government rule. Second, the very diversity of Asian cultures, ethnic groups, religions etc is thought to preclude any broad-based Asian values. Third, some point out that there is nothing especially 'Asian' about such values, but that they are found everywhere. The concept is generally thought to be supported by the elites of these societies, in general anyone with an interest in preserving the status quo.