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The New Asian Hemisphere By Kishore Mahbubani

Asian Hemisphere By Kishore Mahbubani
"The New Asian Hemisphere"

With the presidential elections upon us, political analysts in the United States are already suggesting the next president may preside over the end of U.S. global primacy. As China and India are rising, Washington's power throughout Asia will be increasingly diluted. America's foreign policy will have to factor in new realities on the ground - and at sea- to maintain influence in the region. From Beijing to Bangalore, many in Asia believe that America's policy leaders have yet to formulate a coherent strategy for engaging the world's most vibrant and fast growing region.

Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore and a former Singaporean Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for his daring "controversial claims," including, "The United States must disavow protectionist economic policy to remain competitive with China in the coming years; Washington must cede a degree of control over the UN Security Council and IMF to Asian partners."

"The New Asian Hemisphere" by Kishore Mahbubani, PublicAffairs, 314 pages, $26, released last month across the world, focuses on the change that must be made in Western mindsets with regard to the rise of Asia and the sharing of global power.

The widely quoted expert on U.S.-Asian relations, led an inspiring and thought provoking discussion at Asia Society, New York City last month as part of his world book tour on: "U.S. Policy Towards Asia: An Asian Leader's Advice for the Next American President."

In his new book, he states that for centuries, the Asians (Chinese, Indians, Muslims, and others) have been bystanders in world history. Now they are ready to become co-drivers. Asians have finally understood, absorbed, and implemented Western best practices in many areas: from free-market economics to modern science and technology, from meritocracy to rule of law. They have also become innovative in their own way, creating new patterns of cooperation not seen in the West.

According to him, Asia wants to replicate, not dominate, the West. For a happy outcome to emerge, the West must gracefully give up its domination of global institutions, from the IMF to the World Bank, from the G7 to the UN Security Council. History teaches that tensions and conflicts are more likely when new powers emerge. This, too, may happen. But they can be avoided if the world accepts the key principles for a new global partnership spelled out in The New Asian Hemisphere.

Ambassador Mahbubani believes: "The need to develop a better understanding of our world has never been greater. We are now entering one of the most plastic moments of world history. The decisions we make today could influence the course of the twenty- first century. But it is clear that the worldviews of the leading Western minds are trapped in the previous centuries. These minds cannot even conceive of the possibility that they may have to change these worldviews to understand the new world. Unless they do, we could make disastrous decisions.

He describes decision of the U.S. and UK to invade Iraq in March 2003 as "disastrous." He said, "The Americans and British had benign intentions: to free the Iraqi people from despotic rule and to rid the world of a dangerous man, Saddam Hussein. Neither Bush nor Blair had malevolent intentions. Yet, the mental maps that they brought to understand Iraq were mired in one cultural context - the Western mindset.

Many Americans actually believed that invading American troops would be welcomed with petals thrown on the streets by happy Iraqis. The idea that any Islamic country would welcome western military boots on its soil defies belief. The invasion and especially the occupation of Iraq will go down as one of the most botched operations in human history," he states.

"The New Asian Hemispher" is said to fall into various forms of anti-Western diatribe and Asian triumph, Mahbubani also plays down the challenges that Asian nations will face — among other things, surging energy costs and growing political restlessness — as their economies try to catch up with the West.

Amartya Sen Thomas, W. Lamont University Professor Harvard University, 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics and author of The Argumentative Indian,wrote, "In The New Asian Hemisphere, Kishore Mahbubani has given us a very powerful account of the world seen through Asian eyes, and has shown the global relevance of that penetrating vision. The book is both insightful and delightfully combative as well as fun to read." Lawrence H Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard University, Kennedy School thinks, "There is no more thoughtful observer of Asia, the United States, and their interaction than Kishore Mahbubani. Having written about Asia, then the United States he has produced a book on their interaction that should be read by anyone who hopes to or will shape US foreign policy over the next decade. And it should be read by anyone in Asia who hopes to understand or influence that policy...The rise of Asia and all that follows it will be the dominant story in history books written 300 years from now with the Cold War and rise of Islam as secondary stories."

"The Western, particularly the American, response to the rise of Asia has been petulant, degenerating into protectionism and panic. Japan-bashing of the 1980s was succeeded by India-bashing over outsourcing in the 1990s and now we have China-bashing in the 2000s. Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive and influential Asian intellectuals today, shows the folly of these reactions and the wisdom of applauding and working with the reality of Asia's remarkable success. His splendid book must be read by every Western policymaker; it is a tour de force."

Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor, Economics and Law, Columbia University & Author of In Defense of Globalization, wrote, "An incisive analysis of the long-term implications of the ongoing shift in the global center of gravity. The new Asian hemisphere offers warnings and lessons that America should digest if it is to continue playing a preeminent global role and the advice comes from a friend of America with an intimate understanding of Asian realities."

In his third book, Mahbubani illustrates how global status continuously shifts toward worldwide equality and how the rise of Asia, starting with Japan, stemmed from the "march to modernity." Modernization, he argues, does not mean Westernization, so if Western countries want to foster a global marketplace or a more modernized Islamic world, they need to understand the difference and the wisdom of pushing for the former rather than the latter.