In a well filled Vereeniging in Nijmegen, Kishore Mahbubani gave a good speech on his perspective on the rise of Asia and the response the West in his eyes should formulate to that. It turned out I had picked up quite a bit already from fragments on tv, and flicking through his book last weekend, as several sections of his talk were verbatim renderings of earlier things I saw. It is, I know, unavoidable when you are asked to share the same story on several occasions and in several locations. Internet and the casual transparancy that comes with camera and blog equipped audiences do that. It just became a lot more apparant because they also showed excerpts of the excellent VPRO documentary before Mahbubani went on stage. It was good to be there though.
The basic argument is that the rise of Asia is unstoppable, already on demographics alone, but that it does not constitute a threat as Asia is emulating several worthwile aspects of the Western world. Those seven (of course seven…) are:
Free market economy
Science and technology
Culture of peace (with the EU as an example, but leaving out the debacle of the Balkan wars I’d say)
Rule of law
Education (the start of it all of course)
In short Mahbubani says Asia is succesful because they are adopting the things that are important to the West as well. The rise of Asia is now approaching the Islamic world from the east, which he said was surprising as he sees the modernization of the orient and Northern Africa as a more logical European task and influence.
The response he would like to see Europe make consists of four parts:
1) share power in bodies like the UN, IMF, Worldbank etc.
2) create a lasting strategic alliance with Asia (between EU and ASEAN primarily) and stick to it (unlike the last Asian economic crisis when Europe ‘walked away’)
3) create a long term vision towards the Islamic World (which he said should be a no-brainer given the mutual influence we had on each other over the centuries, with the Islamic world conserving Greek and Roman culture and knowledge through the European dark ages)
4) work towards a solution of the Palestine-Isreali conflict (now that both the Arab world and the Israelian PM seem to have grown tired of it all)