"Asian Affirmation"

Philosophically, “affirmation” can be defined as the mobilization of one’s inner resource or potency. Economic success generates self-confidence and to a larger extent self-assertiveness on the part of those who produce it and benefit from it. Wealth, like power is overwhelmingly comprehended as a primary source for promoting both individual and collective sense of moral and cultural superiority. All these factors contributed to an undeclared, but a well plausible phenomenon rapidly developing in East Asia and probably beyond, reflecting the reincarnation or reemergence of once buried Asian interests into modern life, huge in strength and size, literally termed as “Asian Affirmation”.

The process of economic development in Asia led by Japan in the 1950s and spread to the Korean Peninsula and to the sizable islands in South China Sea, and thereafter to China and virtually all of East and South East Asia contrasts dramatically with the modest growth of European economics. This consequently preserves grounds for Asian to assume their superiority over their western counterparts. On one hand, some might argue that European economies have reached the age of industrial maturity at which no economy is capable of driving any conceivable growth. On the other hand, why is an Economy like Japan, no less advanced and mature than its European counterparts, still generating remarkable growth while the United States, economically a very similar country to Japan is confronted with stagnant growth?

The Japanese draw assertion from relative socio-economic success at the expense of the European economic failure and social disintegration. Early Japanese leaders emulated the West, borrowed the latter’s techniques and institutions and launched its modernization efforts earlier than any society in the orient. Utilizing the borrowed bureaucratic institutions and advanced technology, Japan defeated the Soviet, the largest country on earth, and even challenged the United States, the global superpower (through bombing the Pearl Harbor). However, by late twentieth century, the American and European economic decline plus their mal-functioning social systems had laid the foundation of Japanese relative economic and social well being neither on the European techniques nor European social institutions, but on the Japanese (Confucian) culture itself.

In a similar fashion, early Chinese intellectuals indentified their Confucian culture the primary source of their backwardness. However, when it turned to the end of twentieth century, they came to assert Confucianism as the generator of their social and economic progress. “In China, a state with a highly trained bureaucracy existed for thousands of years. In Europe, modern states, deploying large armies, taxation powers, and a centralized power is much more recent, dating back to four to five hundred years.” At times in history (colonial era - 1800s), China and India combined economic output constituted more than half of global capacity. Functioning with market-economy principles, China has become a vast economic powerhouse, generating economic growth infeasible by the West at any time in history plus relative social stability. Maintaining relative social discipline under the guidance of authoritarian (semi-communist) type of government, China posits a fairly enticing model capable of deluding the West to reconsider its liberal-oriented social and political arrangements in tackling with the successive economic and moral decline that form the most notorious agendas facing their society today.

While the development of a fully operating democratic culture has terrifying negative social impact with global reach, it is ostensibly more pronounced in the European West. The continent-wide moral and ethics of the European culture are more or less prescribed in their holy bible though operating churches. However, as a growing number of people in the West become distanced from religion to conform to liberal principles under democratic regimes, norms and conditions has been decaying and a negative social trend has started to develop. And uncontrolled availability of birth control pills in the modern and secular society has further entrenched a decaying Christian tradition, driving the entire European culture into an inescapable destruction.

In the West, as the whole gamut of rights are granted to their citizens given a democratic, libertarian, and secular government is in power, people of their citizens, conforming to humanness, seek to maximize their personal autonomy (self-interest) out of the system. Individualism reigns, and marital conflict and parental absence substitute for what was once American nuclear family. Cohabitation replaced marriage. Negative factors like divorce and crime rates climb until they arrive at a point which whether a local or an outsider can well observe it as a phenomenon leading to a complete destruction in society. The absence of parental care and solicitude on the part of children further create massive crime rates bringing the entire European society into complete bleakness.

Quite the contrary, while what is generally termed “modernity” (advanced economies containing similar social structures to the West, like bureaucratic governments and institutions) has been successfully imported into a number of countries in Asia, these Asian societies seem to be protecting and preserving their traditions and norms. For instance, Japanese melded their “work-ethic” tradition into both public and private bureaucratic (Western) institutions. And surveys have shown that in order to deliver much intimate parental care to the child, most South Korean women are discontinuing working while rearing up their children and join the workforce again only after their children have become physically well grown up. These are the most developed and modern societies in Asia. Many of these advanced countries adopt the principles of democratic culture entitling their citizens more or less the same array of rights that every European or American citizen is granted. The medical technology to deter an unwanted child is also available with affordable prices here in Asian societies. Surprisingly enough, all these countries have maintained relative stability and harmony in society, drawing a sharp contrast to their European counterparts. The reason is while Asian stress the importance of discipline, trust, family and community in their society, the latter consistently promote competition, rationality, and personal autonomy (self-preservation) filling the latter’s societies with absolute distrust. Asians see a deeper entanglement (relatedness) between sex and marriage, but people in America and the Western Europe perceive those as separate entities leading the latter to maximize their sexual partners. Consequently, Asian marriages are more stable, producing disciplined and productive children (because both parents are in harmony, their children receive parental care). To the contrary, Western (American) marriages are transient, leading to divorce and consequently deteriorating early childhood life. Under no reliable parental care, children bring uncontrolled and indecent behaviors to their adulthood promoting disharmony in society.

Observing the prevalence of a mal-functioning society in virtually all of Western Europe and America, sizable communities in the Middle-East also reform their currently installed Western social and political foundations. Beginning in the 1980s, monitoring Western governments’ successive failures to develop a creditable model to repair their own negative social trend resulting from their liberal ideologies, Islamic regimes started to launch extensive efforts in publishing and disseminating Islamic values. Regimes after regimes in the region once borrowed the western liberal principles to restructure their apparently pre-modern socio-economic landscape. However, both the inability of Islamic states to resolve subsequent regional crisis and sectarian strife (stemming mostly from democratization and Westernization of individual regions in this area) and the incompatibility of Islamic ideology with the alien (Western) customs have always been contributing factors promoting regional instability and animosity within their family (Arab world). Eventually, far from stabilizing a democratic culture, Islam rises as an identity for all in the Middle-East again to rebuild their brotherhood. Many of these counties like Turkey and Saudi Arabia has per capita income parallel to many European countries. However, what the West call “political development” is taking an opposite direction in these countries and beyond in the Mid-East. According to some western intellectuals, more states in the Middle East are found to be religious or taking religion as national identity than a couple of decades ago. The assumed mandate of the West to manipulate the social and political landscape of the Muslim brotherhood is about to be over. Economic well-being and cooperation and integration through religious resurgence are promoting affirmation throughout Arab nations as well.

Buddhism or Islam, Confucianism or Hinduism all share and cherish certain types of traditions, cultures and a set of similar morals and ethics. East Asians, Indians, and Arabs, all claim and affirm the distinctiveness of their culture but were uncertain for some time about proclaiming the superiority of their culture over the Western traditions. However, the capability of their (paternalistic) authoritarian regimes in promoting relative social harmony and creating enormous wealth has successfully mobilized these citizens to affirm the superiority of the values they altogether embrace and to fight to sustain it.


Francis Fukuyama 2004. “State-building” Governance and World Order in the 21st Century (Cornell University Press)

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