Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 07:19:13 -0400
Reply-To: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu>
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From: "Steven A. Leibo, The Sage Colleges" <LEIBO@cnsvax.albany.edu>
Subject: H-ASIA: Asian Values
Dialog from H-Asia list
April 22, 1998
From: Timothy Kneeland <email@example.com>
Roger DesForges etal "Chinese Democracy and the Crisis of 1989" contains a
variety of essays from both Western and Chinese angles that might be helful
From: Jo Kirkpatrick <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I would suggest a reservation about conceptualizing "the Asian side" as
THE Asian side.
There have been many debates about values going on in various parts of
Asia, more especially since the recent economic debacles, some of which
were in part attributed to "Asian values".
Have a look, for ex., at the online ed. of FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW
for April 15th, article titled "Culture Shock. Tougher Banking Rules
Test Thai Business Customs." If Ms. Standen cannot find it, she can
drop me an email and I'll send her my copy as an email attachment.
From: email@example.com (Mark Berger)
May I immodestly suggest an article by myself which sumarizes and analyzes
the 'Asian' and the 'Western' sides of the debate. See Mark T. Berger,
"Yellow Mythologies: The East Asian Miracle and Post-Cold War Capitalism"
positions: east asia cultures critique vol. 4. no. 1. 1996. pp. 90-126.
revised and reprinted as Mark T. Berger, "The Triumph of the East? The East
Asian Miracle and Post-Cold War Capitalism" in Mark T. Berger and Douglas
A. Borer, eds., The Rise of East Asia: Critical Visions of the Pacific
Century [London: Routledge, 1997]. pp. 260-287.
Mark T. Berger
School of Modern Languages
University of NSW 2052
From: Eric A Hyer <EAHyer@fhss.byu.edu>
Commentary magazine recently published a piece by Frances
Fukuyama on Asian values.
From: Wolfgang Behr <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Naomi, your students might wish to consult
M.C. Davis, _Human Rights and the Chinese Values. Legal
Philosophical, and Political Perspectives_, H.K.: OUP
M. Freeman, "Human Rights, Democracy and 'Asian Values'",
_The Pacific Review_ 9 (1996)
and, to get to the core of the problem,
H. Roetz, "China und die Menschenrechte: Die Bedeutung der
Tradition und die Stellung des Konfuzianismus", in: G. Paul
et al. eds., _Traditionelle chinesische Kultur und Menschen-
rechtsfrage_, Baden-Baden:Nomos 1997: 37-55.
A particulalrly polemical defence of "the" Asian position by Juha Janhunen
entitled "Human rights and Ethnic Rights in Asia as well as a critical
rejoinder by Chen Maiping ("What are Asian Values?") may be found @
Hope that helps, cheers, Wolfgang
Wolfgang Behr, Research Fellow, Int'l. Inst. for Asian Studies
email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
From: mark selden <email@example.com>
For reconsidering Tiananmen and human rights, Naomi Standen may find useful
the two special issues of the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars edited
by Peter Van Ness. These are "Debating Human Rights: The United States and
Asia," 27.4 and 28.2 (1996). Discussion includes but is not limited to the
PRC and Tiananmen.
A revised and expanded manuscript is in press at Routledge, possibly under
the title Debating Human Rights in the United States and Asia.
From: Genzo Yamamoto <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Effective Government in Singapore: Perspective of a Concerned American,"
by Douglas Sikorski, (Asian Survey, 36:8)--an American defense of Asian
"Culture is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew," by Fareed Zakaria,
(Foreign Affairs, Mar/Arp 1994).
"Is Culture Destiny? The Myth of Asia's Anti-Democratic Values: A response
to Lee Kuan Yew," by Kim Dae Jung, (Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 1994).
"Human Rights and Asian Values" a booklet of a speech given by Amartya Sen
at the 16th Morgenthau Memorial Lecture on Ethics and Foreign Policy
published by the Carnegie Council on Ethics and Public Policy. This is
also a defense of the "Western" side though his argument is that it is
hardly limited to the "West."
Amartya Sen has published extensively on this subject and his other
writings may be of interest.
I would also be interested in knowing other articles covering this--and if
people are aware of English-language govt publications of the various
Southeast Asian states that would reveal official positions of governments
on various issues.
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998
From: "N. Sivin" <email@example.com>
Whenever anyone tells me about Asian Values or anything else
that is true of all Asia and different from all the West, I
ask myself whether it is a wooden nickel they want me to
take, or snake oil they want to sell me. In the case of
autocrats who want ever so much for Americans to understand
why the people of their country shouldn't have free
political choice, and don't want it in any case, I would say
it's both at once.
Any sophomore who takes a course of mine and who still
airily generalizes about Asia as a unit--except as a
European stereotype--is unlikely to pass. Why are we wasting
space on a scholarly list with this tawdry stuff?
History and Sociology of Science
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia PA 19104-6304
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 22:08:38 -0400
From: YU LAN <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It seems to me that the Tiananmen Square protest has its roots in the
ancient tradition of making radical suggestions to the court when
seeing the court is malfunctioning.
Now in official discourse, it is related to dissidents. But in
China's history, there had always been dissidents. Kang Yuwei was a
dissident. The very reality of dissidents of toda
discursively constructed by both the Chinese government and the West
with different political agendas. The West wants to play a role in
China's "peaceful evolution" while China wants to link any dissenting
voice to "bourgeois liberalization." On this point, the West and the
Chinese government actually conspired to create people like Wang Dan,
Wei Jingsheng. China thus is legitimized in persecuting them. The
behavior of these "dissidents" also has been shaped by this discourse
in that they now look to the West for support instead of seeking
support from cultural roots of China itself. This builds up an
vicious circle and the democracy movement in China will never walk out
of the shadow of Western ideas.
Department of Anthropology
University of New Brunswick
From: Kenneth Paul Sze Sian Tan <email@example.com>
>Whenever anyone tells me about Asian Values or anything else
>that is true of all Asia and different from all the West, I
>ask myself whether it is a wooden nickel they want me to
>take, or snake oil they want to sell me. In the case of
>autocrats who want ever so much for Americans to understand
>why the people of their country shouldn't have free
>political choice, and don't want it in any case, I would say
>it's both at once. Nathan Sivin
Might it not be the case that these Americans themselves erroneously assume
from the start that Asia is governed by autocrats, and peopled by
unenlightened subjects unable and unwilling to exercise free political
choice? Perhaps the "Asian Values" debate, while often ludicrously
reductionistic in its description of East and West, is merely part of the
very same game that critics of Asia play ever so often in journalism,
academia and diplomacy.
In any case, the act of generalizing Asia and the West is interesting not
for its textual content, but rather more for its political and sociological
motivations. More practically, looking at the various formulations of "Asian
Values" by different Asian governments may go some way in producing greater
understanding of how they might wish their countries to evolve in the global
context. That, surely, must count just as much as what America and others
might wish for them.
Kenneth Paul Tan
University of Cambridge
From: "Howard L. Goodman" <HLGoodman@compuserve.com>
I agree precisely with Sivin. Well put.
From: Steven Leibo <leibos@Sage.EDU>
While I understand the point Prof. Sivin is making I think it is a little
like claiming there is no reason to study religion if one does not believe
in God. The fact is that religion has long influenced the human
community whether God exists or not. In the same vein, "Asian Values" as an
idea may mean nothing when we look at whether Asia exists as a single
entity, yet the fact is that the term "Asian Values" has most certainly
emerged as a set of ideas, however valid or bogus and they are most
certainly worth looking at.
Steven A. Leibo
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1998
From: Scott Simon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As I read the recent thread about Asian values, several thoughts
immediately come to mind.
1) "Asian values" are usually associated with authoritarian
governments. Taiwan, however, offers an example of an Asian country
with a thriving civil society, a democratic government, and a
commitment to human rights, and it is not the only example in the
region. Perhaps Sun Yat-sen was more on the mark with his idea that
democracy requires a period of tutelage before it can be implemented.
Counter-examples of Asian democracies clearly reveal the political
implications of "Asian values," especially when espoused by such
figures as Lee Kwan-yu of Singapore.
2) If we look at country-specific examples of "values" arguments,
they often contain strong nationalistic elements. Taiwanese school
children (in the fifth class textbook "Shehui"), for example, are
taught that foreign parents, like animals, love and take care of their
children. Foreign children, however, leave their parents when they
grow up, like birds flying away from the nests they are born in. The
Chinese, however, are the only people to have developed the moral
qualities of filial piety, benevolence, etc.
Taiwanese sociologist Hu Youhui argues that the state makes such
arguments in order justify the lack of a decent welfare system, and to
place responsibility for taking care of the elderly on children. I
add that such rhetoric also has a nationalist dimension, as it makes
the claim that Chinese people are morally superior to foreigners.
3) The rhetoric on "Asian values," like other nationalisms, creates a
polarity between "Asia," or "China," or "Taiwan." By emphasizing
nationality, it obscures conflicting interests within societies,
including those based on gender, class and ethnicity. Such
ideologies, therefore, tend to maintain the status quo and benefit
those who already hold power.
Susan Greenhalgh wrote an excellent piece in American Ethnologist
(1994) about how the rhetoric about Confucian values in Taiwanese
family enterprises obscures gender inequalities within such firms.
Considering the pervasiveness of "Asian values" or "Confucian ethics"
rhetoric in journalism, business writing, and even anthropology, the
political implications of the discourse merit further research.
Ph.D. candidate, Anthropology
McGill University, Montreal
(currently living in Tainan, Taiwan)
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1998
From: Pat Gunning <email@example.com>
Yu Lan hypothesizes a governmental "conspiracy" to explain people like
Wang Dan and Wei Jingsheng. He does not mean that the governments (the
"West" and the Chinese) actually joined together and made a deal. His
meaning is that in explaining the current popularity of these men, one
ought to focus on the "actions" of the separate governments and not on
the actions of the men themselves.
It is surely true that a lot of false history attributes events to the
special strength, charisma, etc. of particular individuals. However, in
the case of the Tiananmen Square protest, as he calls it, the leaders of
the Chinese government deliberately prosecuted (persecuted) particular
individuals. Now if the government's choice of those individuals were
completely random, Yu Lan's case would be proved. On the other hand, if
the choice was calculated with the goal of stifling future "protests" by
potential leaders such as they, then at least the government regarded
particular individuals as potentially affecting history in significant
ways. In this event, it seems to me that the idea of a conspiracy, in Yu
Lan's sense, would be far-fetched. It would be more correct to call Wei
Jingsheng and Wang Dan "heroes of the revolution" not only or primarily
because of their specific actions but because of the Chinese governments
response to their actions.
So the important question in how one should interpret this historical
event, it seems to me, is whether the Chinese government targeted these
individuals because it judged them to be leaders or whether it simply
selected them at random.
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998
From: "Rudy S. Tan" <tanrs@leland.Stanford.EDU>
What do we mean by "Asian values"? To start off, lets say that
we actually mean "East asian values", i.e. for the moment,
we leave out West and South asia.
Next we note that "asian values" sometimes means
different things to different asians, when ethnic chinese talk
of asian values, they sometimes mean chinese values
The concept of "Asian Values" is a useful artifice, like
the idea of "Western civilization" or "Oriental despotism"
Take a look at any book on western civ and you get the impression
that the whole of europe/the west was/is a single monolithic entity.
Look at a popular book like "The wealth and poverty of nations" by
David Landes, we have this passage, taken from the chapter titled
"European exceptionalism: a different path":
To be sure, Europe had always thought of itself as different
from societies to the east. The great battles between Greeks
and Persians - Salamis, Thermopylae - have come down in folk
memory and in the classes of yesteryear as symbolic of the
combat between East and West, between free city (the polis
which gives us our word "politics") and aristocratic empires,
between popular sovereignity (at least for free men) and
oriental despotism (servitude for all).
Reading this, one gets the impression that there was such a
an entity as "Europe" in those days or that the Greeks were Europe
in its entirety, and the idea that the europeans were somehow
"different" (i.e. culturally or morally superior) to the rest
of the world (as though europe did not have some home-grown
"oriental despotisms" of its own).
We are then persuaded that "western civilization" today is
somehow a direct descendent of Ancient Greece, that the Greeks,
Swedes, Germans, Poles, Serbs, Croat, Americans and English of today
are somehow linked by a bond of common culture which sets them
apart from the rest of the world.
The upshot of this is, everyone likes to feel that they are
somehow "different" from the rest of the world, it gives us
a warm and fuzzy feeling to say that we are "asians" and have
"Asian values" the same way a german puffs up his chest when
he declares himself a "european" or a "westerner" hence making
himself a direct heir of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
One way of interpreting "Asian values" is that it is a
reaction to the west looking at itself as "The West",
now that economic success has been achieved by some asian
countries, its a realization that we don't have to be
morally and culturally subservient anymore to the West.
it's a realization that though
east asians are a diverse lot (ie. the "confucianist" cultures
of China, japan, korea and the chinese diaspora and South-east
asia - muslim indonesia and malaysia, buddhist thailand, etc.)
we have a bit more in common with each other than with the
rest of the world.
Whether we actually have that much in common is to some extent
irrelevant, if enough people buy into this thing, and if enough
asian governments take it upon themselves to proselytize this idea,
it will take a life of its own.
We shouldn't dismiss "asian values" as just the invention of some
authoritarian governments to justify their hold on power, it's
greater than that, a kind of regional nationalism if you will.
Sometimes the myth can be more powerful than
reality. I think its unwise to dismiss "Asian Values"
as a scam, I think you will be seeing a lot more of it in the
Rudy S. Tan
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 07:45:08 -0400
From: Salma & Lubis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I don't see how Asians can hang on "Asian values" when the environment
for extended families is being eroded especially in the cities. For
example, Malaysian and Singapore leaders keep talking about Asian
values, but the housing policy is that everyone from villagers to urban
settlers should be resettled into low-cost high-rise apartments designed
for nuclear families and eventually, alienated individuals. This is so
that we have more space for oil palm estates, shopping complexes, roads,
golf courses and other modern and "higher order" land uses. This is
in spite of any Confucian, Islamic or other rhetoric we may have to
swallow together with Asian values myth.
Khoo Salma Nasution
Asia & West Pacific Network for Urban Conservation
From: email@example.com (Micheal Ashkenazi)
I agree with Professor Sivin in his suspicions of the use of "Asian
Values" as a cloaking device for good old-fashioned autocracy and denial
of human rights (whatever they are). Nonetheless, it IS a legitimate
area of inquiry. One thing that is always intriguing (at least to
me) is the question of the ability of the West (as broad and amorphously
gaseous an entity as "Asia" to absorb so much carrot-ware of the
"Mystical East" variety. Is it the case that we have adopted
comparative ethic\cs as a form of PC, and that this is being exploited
CONSCIOUSLY by the powers-that-be? Or is there some other explanation?
Perhaps it is all down to marketing? And is there a difference between
the emphases of "Asian values" as sold by Beijing and by Singapore?
Dr. Michael Ashkenazi
Gyosei International College
Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AQ
Tel: +44-118-9310152 (ext. 359)
From: Edward Friedman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rudy Tan wisely points out the chauvinistic idiocy in the notion western
values and rightly notes that Asian values is the other side of the same
feel-good myth. But I am not a westerner. I am a Midwesterner. I root for
the Green Bay Packers. Besides much of civilization is rooted in its
dominant ethos. The Judeo-Christian ethic originates in Asia and Africa,
where Moses was born. Numerous European fascist racists denounce Judaism,
Christianity and Islam as all non-European threats to Europe's primal,
tribal, martial vigor. The Asian values theory was invented in the 1960s by
American conservatives frightened by the deepening of democracy reflected
in the civil rights movement, feminism, etc. To limit democracy at home,
they insisted that Japan rose because it was really authoritarian and
premised on Confucian discipline. By the mid 1980s many Asians accepted the
American theory, claiming that Asia was resistant to AIDS because it had
values in contrast to immoral Africans and decadent Americans. Now Asia is
on the way toward having the most cases of AIDS in the world. The Asian
values theses-- there are many-- as Western values ideas which forget
Torquemada, Hitler, Cromwell and Simon Legree are misleading myths,
rationalizations of prejudices which serve political purposes.
From: Naomi Standen <email@example.com>
I see that others have already engaged with Professor Sivin's comment, but
as I am just back, I will have my two penn'orth as well. Professor Sivin
seems to be assuming that in making my bibliographical request for material
giving the 'Asian' side of the debate, I am in some way stating that I
agree with or approve of that 'Asian' view, or even the existence of the
debate, and that I will be passing such an approval on to my students.
Actually, the course is at 300 level, and the students are well able to
think critically about the material I present them with, which is precisely
my purpose in choosing something that may, perhaps, be regarded as
controversial by some on this list, and undoubtedly regarded as
problematical by many, including me.
I cannot imagine that Professor Sivin only ever presents to his students
material that he agrees with, and neither do I. Are we to deny our students
the opportunity to think through these issues for themselves simply because
some of us might assume that they are not capable of it? Well, we all teach
differently, but I find it hard to avoid the view that the issue is out
there, however tawdry it may be, and whether we in the academy like it or
not. As a historian, I am accustomed to dealing with what's in front of me;
whether or not I think it SHOULD be there is not a relevant question. My
purpose as a teacher is to get my students thinking about things - lots of
things, regardless of what viewpoints they might form or I might have.
What would happen if we only taught what WE, from our ivory eminences,
thought was suitably untawdry (if that is a word)? If one of my students
goes to some part of Asia and is confronted with some version of 'Asian
values', how are they going to be able to respond to their own satisfaction
if they have never met the ideas before and never had a chance to reflect
upon them? If, as is the case for most of this particular class, one's
students are going to become high school teachers, how are they going to be
able to respond to the question or challenge in class from someone
presenting some version of 'Asian values' - or to the student who trashes
the whole of Asia BECAUSE of 'Asian values' - if my student, now themselves
a teacher, has never met and thought about these ideas before? I happen to
think that most 'women's magazines' are pretty tawdry, but I can also see
the validity - if not the necessity - of teaching students new ways of
'reading' them that enhance the students' understanding of the world in
which they live, and enable them to SEE the tawdriness for what it is.
Department of History, Politics and Society
University of Wisconsin-Superior
From: Bryan R Ross <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The problem with the "Asian Values" argument is that like Weber's
argument it is a "post hoc ergo procter hoc" argument. It has no real
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998
From: singa <email@example.com>
I'm a new member of the H-asia list and have been around for a month.
I'm pleased to see discussion of some sort finally taking place in this
list after deleting a month's worth of bookprice, conference, and
annoncements of the likes that seems to go on.
I'm pleased that Rudy S.Tan has cleared the air and brought to our
attention with regards to exactly what Asian Values mean to different
readers. The phrase `Asian Values' has become a cliche used for the
identification of the East as a collective world or culture. Before we
even discuss Asian Values, it is probably helpful if we knew what it
entails and if `Asian Values' really exist afterall! We may like to
consider the following:
1) An important point already put forward by Rudy Tan, that is when we
say Asian Values, we ask, which part of Asia? China, India, Russia,
Indonesia, Malyasia, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong
Kong or Australia? If a blanket term such as Asian Values can be
representative of the whole of Asia then in the same way it is
possible for the existence of European Values. I think not because a
British is as much an Italian as a Japanese is an Indonesian.
2) The ambiguity of the term `Asian Values' is further revealed with its
usually immediate associations with the Chinese race. This may
imply China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and very often,
carelessly included, Singapore. There is perhaps a possible
argument here for Asian Values as the span of this blanket term
narrows down in its implications to a particular race (in this case
focusing on the Chinese), rather than the large geographical
territory of diverse cultures the term tries to cover. So, if it is the
value system of the Chinese we are concerned with then wouldn't it be
more precise and direct to confront the issue as `Chinese Values'
rather than `Asian Values'?
3) Why is Singapore a careless inclusion?
i) Well one of the most successful aspects of the Singaporean
government is its ability to maintain racial harmony
amongst its people. The beautiful island of Singapore is populated with
an interesting racial mix of Chinese, Indian, Malay, and others.
Although the Chinese race makes up the largest percentage (about
70%) of the population, it has in their 30 odd years of
independance developed a culture of its own - a
multi-racial, vastly westernised culture. For this reason, to
indicate that Singapore is a representative of the Chinese race seems to
stretch the imagination a little too far.
ii)The Singaporean govt.PAP has in the recent years been concientious
in injecting into its society the essence of Asian Values, of the
importance of its applications in All Singaporean families. Done
with all good intentions for its people undoubtedly (although the idea
of imposing Chinese values and occassionally dropping in ideas such
as confucius ethics, in the presence of non Chinese
Singaporeans however small their ratio is seems surreal and absurd),
their faith in the existence of this magic term known as `Asian
Values', this mysterious set of moral values that they see as
peculiar only to asians, or rather, the Chinese, is highly abstract. An
idea of the list of what
Singapore constantly refers to as Asian or Nationalistic
Values are as follows:
a) effective communication within the family unit
b) respect for the elders - speak their language
(most younger generation Singaporeans only
speak English and are unable to relate to their
elderly who only speak their native language - a
sign of westernisation)
c) Be patient with your children, listen to what they have to say
(The list goes on, there are about 6 items. The above 3 have been
rephrased but the meaning has been kept as accurately as possible)
Reading the list and we can only take them at face value, it seems to
me that this so called Asian/Nationalistic values of Singapore is
nothing but a set of moral standards that can be applied across all
cultures world wide! Oops! Here I have made a sweeping statement of
exactly the kind of loose usage attached to the term Asian Values
that I m trying to demolish. If every moral system, values or
standards can be applied across all cultures world wide than all efforts
to explore the subject of anthropology will be nothing but a futile
gesture. What I mean is the set of values listed can be recognised
easily by any if not most cultural groups whether they are Asians or
It is important thus to look closely into the content of Singapore s
agenda entitled in bold and caps.`Asian Values', and decide upon its
relevance to the context of this debate.
4) So, what about the infamous authoritarian system that Nationalistic
spirit and its domestic counterpart,
filial piety, project? Again it is significant as to which cultural
context are we discussing this issue? Say, in the Chinese context,
to quote Scott Simon s article paragraph 2 :
"2) If we look at country-specific examples of "values" arguments,
they often contain strong nationalistic elements. Taiwanese
children (in the fifth class textbook "Shehui"), for
taught that foreign parents, like animals, love and take
care of their
children. Foreign children, however, leave their parents
grow up, like birds flying away from the nests they are
born in. The
Taiwanese sociologist Hu Youhui argues that the state makes such
arguments in order justify the lack of a decent welfare system,
place responsibility for taking care of the elderly on
add that such rhetoric also has a nationalist dimension, as
the claim that Chinese people are morally superior to
I admit the existence of such a concept the Chinese have of the West
with regards to filial piety. To me this concept is nothing
but a lack of imagination on the part of the Chinese that
perhaps there are more than one way filial piety can be
However the issue I wish to discuss here is that it will be more
interesting if instead of again being trapped quickly into associating
ideas such as filial piety, authoritarian system, Asian values,etc with
the Chinese race, but to take a step back and look at it from a
broader perspective, we will discover that these values that we ve
been interrogating the Chinese or Mr Confucius with, are beginning to
reveal itself in non Asian cultures! Take Southern Europe - Italy for
example, inspired by the film Godfather - I mean its family structure
not its`mafia- ism , the signifiacnce of the family unit - or of the
extended family unit, the authoritarian - patriarchal tradition, etc.
How is it then for a culture so distant from asia be so asian in their
It seems to a large extent that our value system respond in accordance
to the development of our cultural/social infrastructure, which in
turn accelerates at a particular rate, in response to some extent the
development of its economic infrastructure. Thus we can expect the
existence of similar value systems at the moment collectively still
known as Asian Values, in societies whose social/cultural
infrastructure perform at relative levels.
Whether that particular culture is in asia or not is not the point.
Ie. It can happen in Italy or in Latin America! The fact that most
of Asia share similar value systems is not a coincidence, it is based on
the relative performance of their social/cultural infrastructure.
To revert to Scott Simon s article para 2 again, that the state makes
such arguments in order to justify the lack of a decent welfare
system.... " is a good example of this concept.
In conclusion I still wish to know what this set of Asian Values that
we so often talk about entail?
Faculty of Architecture and Design
International American University
Date: Mon, 04 May 1998
From: Kristin Stapleton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I agree with Naomi Standen's response to Nathan Sivin, but I also think
that the question of "Asian Values" deserves some scrutiny for other
reasons, as other posts have suggested. The existence of the concept, as
Steven Leibo points out, may actually change how people behave. To try to
explore this possibility, which I consider only a hypothesis, I
number of eminent Korea scholars if people in South Korea looked to Lee
Kwan-yew as an "Asian leader" who could speak for them (Akira Iriye has
argued, rightly or wrongly, that some Chinese accepted the idea of the
Greater East Asian Co-Properity Sphere, after all, so it didn't seem all
that far-fetched to me that some non-Singaporeans might be pleased to see
Lee Kwan-yew rise to world prominence as spokesperson for "Asia"). The
answer I got is that few, if any, Koreans care at all about "Asian Values."
When I asked why this might be, one scholar told me he thought it is
because the South Koreans are obsessed with living in an American-style
democracy, for various reasons. I think the relationships of Lee Teng-hui
and Jiang Zemin to the "Asian Values" concep -yew) are very
interesting, also for various reasons.
University of Kentucky
From: chenj <email@example.com>
Mr Yu Lan's view of the PRC and the West conspiring to create people like
Wang Dan and Wei Jingsheng is most interesting. It reveals an
understanding of the world by someone who used to live in an iron box,
with little input for his mind to process and now, in the absence of the
iron box, he carries on his habit of thinking without input. I do not
believe that he is a student of humanities or social sciences. He is just
fond of discussing world affairs without input.
One finds similar ways of thinking among PRC students and scholars in the
Jerome Chen firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 23:33:07 -0400
From: "Peter C. Perdue" <pcperdue@MIT.EDU>
The debate over Asian values is not one we can avoid, but is it possible to
inject any coherence at all into the discussion? The concept is stretched so
broadly as to be utterly meaningless: what country does not think that
children should obey their parents? But one specific hypothesis I find
intriguing: The two most outspoken proponents of the concept are Lee Kwanyew
of Singapore and Muhammad Mahathir of Malaysia. Both have common roots as
former socialists, anti-communists, strongly influenced by British colonial
rule. They like the authoritarianism of the old colonial regime, they
preserve the socialist faith in government intervention and its suspicion of
global capitalism, and, explicitly for Lee, more surreptitiously for
Mahathir, they have a great admiration for what are really overseas Chinese
practices of intense dedication to family-centered achievement in commerce.
[See the interesting comments of Syed Hussein Alatas in The Myth of the Lazy
Native on Mahathir; James Fallows discusses Mahathir and Lee in Looking at
the Sun; Mahathir makes his own statement in a recent issue of Current
History]. One reason the PRC, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan have failed to come
up with any coherent set of Asian values is that they have no legacy of
direct Western colonial rule to react against or transform. Instead, each of
these Asian countries pits itself against one or more other Asian countries
as its main enemy.
Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 05:59:19 -0400
From: Jacqueline Dumpis <email@example.com>
A few words of introduction, first: I study Chinese and History at Vienna
university and am in the process of getting my master's degree in
"sinology", as we still call it.
I should like to add my own bit to the Asian values debate: last week I
heard an Austrian law professor expound his idea of Oskar Weggel's idea of
Confucianism as a business ethics system. It was indistinguishable from
anything I have heard about Max Weber's protestant ethics as a base for
modern capitalism - hard work, saving and investing, etc. ad nauseam.
Business people will just do what is practical (mostly) and at the same time
fit it into existing cultural codes. If this seems too bold or simplistic,
please correct me. The one exception to practicality seems to be "face" - a
concept not only found in Asia, but anywhere, I believe (I'm fairly well
travelled ;-)).So, if Jerome Chen talks about people with no input in their
closed little mind boxes harboring big ideas about the world in general, I
just want to emphasize that this phenomenon comes in many degrees and
guises. Even with very experienced Western Asia scholars I've met. "Saving
Face" is a serious obstacle to communication
on an equal and thus satisfying base. And the Asian values debate is just
what was pointed out in the beginning: a cozy feel-good strategy of "us" vs.
"them" (read the western and other barbarians), and thus for "our" face.
Maybe it's more rewarding to look at ways to understand the need and for
coping with it. I always believed that communication is the essence of area
studies. So we dabble in communication with a "wild psychology" in mind-
"what makes them tick?" was how I first put the question to myself. Alas, I
know very little about anthropology and psychology. But something is going
to be needed - because "Asian values " are clearly not the answer.