23 July, 2021

Vision Of A Continent

Are 'Asian values' only a western concept, based on simplistic and lazy generalising?

Vision Of A Continent

IT is conference season in London and I have been attending policy and strategy sessions with professionals from all over Asia. Meeting fellow Asians in another continent is an interesting experience. We are as curious about each other as the Europeans are about us. There is ample opportunity to satisfy this curiosity, as Europeans (in general) tend to treat 'Asians' as a homogeneous group, with 'Asian values'.

This leads to Asians clustering together during coffee breaks and cocktails, and meeting informally in the evenings. We talk a lot about the 'Asian values' that Europeans endow us all with. What are Asian values? Do we share the same values?

Ask a European and you get a two-part answer. Asian values are moral and economic. Moral values include respect for the family, deference to seniority and a desire for social order even at the expense of democratic dissent. Economic values include hard work, a desire for technological superiority and a strong corporate culture.

Talk to other Asians and things are not so clear cut. Korea and Japan...

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