The Asian Value Debate

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The “Asian Value” debate came to prominence when it was strongly advocated by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and also Mahathir Mohamad. Asian Values predicated on the idea that Asian countries have a unique set of institutions and political ideologies that reflect the region's cultures and histories. Although Asia consists of diverse ethnicity and cultures who practice various religions, the core basis of most Asian cultures are similar such as the importance of collectivism and consensus. Asia as a whole lacked a regional institutional mechanism, and because of this ‘Asian Values’ has been interpreted differently by different ethnic and religious groups (Langguth, 2003).
Mahathir introduced the concept of Asian values in the 1990’s where there was global democratization, political and economic stability before the currency crisis of July 1997, which shocked Asian countries (Naisbitt, 1997). Asian values were advocated by Mahathir to try to unite Malaysia as a nation. He used it as a platform to claim collectivism, defending the ‘East’ against the imperialistic designs of the Western world. Mahathir’s views, known as the ‘Mahathirism’ can be summarized as combining a universalist Islam, a developmental nationalism, and a more laissez-faire approach to the people as an attempt at mass appeal to Malaysians.
Errol P. Mendes (1994) described the Malaysian version of Asian values as “The Mahathir Model” to differentiate it from other types of Asian values. This
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