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Kishore Mahbubani was appointed Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on 16 August 2004 after having served 33 years in the Singapore Foreign Service (with postings[…]

Mahbubani says Asians have rejected the West as a cultural ideal.

Kishore Mahbubani:  Well the Asian values debate, unfortunately is the most mistitled, that mostly badly mistitled debate in the world, because the Asian values debate came about at the end of the Cold War, because there was an Asian reaction to western triumphalism. I mean I was there. I went to Europe. I went to America and that was I mean, the western intellectuals where just plain cocky. Their attitude towards the rest of the world was “hey! the cold war is ended. The west has won. Now you the rest of the world, you have only one road of history. You all have to become cultural clones of the west” and that’s what the Asians rejected. They said “No, we will not become cultural or political clones of the west” and it was that reaction that was named the Asian values debate. It’s not that the Asians disagree about the values of democracy, or the values of human rights, or we disagreed about the way the west said it should be implemented and history, by the way, has vindicated what the Asians said, because the societies that tried to go overnight, like Yugoslavia, it was a disaster. Thousands of people died, because of this experiment in democracy, that was imposed in Yugoslavia. Take Rwanda. 800,000 people died, because you tried to converted democracy without paying attention to the underlying ethnic fabric down there. These things you got to change carefully, and in that sense that Asian approache say “hey! Let’s do this carefully and deliberately, I think that approach has been vindicated. Now of course, as you know no westerner advocates immediate democracy as in the way that they used to in 1990 - 1995.

Recorded on: 2/28/08