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Origins and definition of Asian values


Write an essay about the "Asian Values and Economic Development".

The author in this essay presents an argument that whether the concept of Asian values is useful for explaining the economic and political development in Asia. Asian values define the cultural unity of the countries that are in Asia. It is used to define the cultural, social, historical and economic elements of the countries that are common in nations of east and south East Asia. It is basically a political ideology that was developed in the year 1990. It basically explains the democratic framework of a country and the elements that unify the nations together. The main aim of the concept of Asian values is to explain the differences in the culture of the west and the east. The concept is very contradictory in nature as there are various opinions and comments that occupy the topic. There are many critics that have put forth their argument on the topic. It defines the rights that humans that have that is guided by the political and cultural background that people hold. Asian values are the principles that state the culture and history of Asian countries and the elements that unify them. The concept of Asian values is essential to understand the political development of nations though it is not that important to understand the economic development (Sowell 1998).

Asian values

There are various definitions of Asian values that are presented by various authors. The main aim of the Asian values was to create a pan – Asian identity. It defines the elements of society, culture, history, politics that is common to nations of south East Asia and East Asia. Asian values use various principles and theories one of them being the principle of collectivism to explain commonalities that unifies people with same identity and culture for their economic and social good. The concept of Asian values was used to explain the rights that humans possess that differ due to differences in the cultural background of people. The concept of Asian values was developed by the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew in the year 1959 to 1990. But the concept gained the popularity in the year 1997 after the Asian financial crisis. During the time of the financial crisis it became evident that Asia lacked the rational and logical thinking and institutional mechanism to deal with the crisis. The concept of Asian value is greatly influenced by the Confucianism. It means showing loyalty towards the society and community and forgoing the personal freedom and working for the benefit of nation and society. Asian values and ethics explain the government structure of the Asian nations in particular which is different from the western culture. It emphasizes on personal freedom (Fukuyama 1998).

The concept of Asian value is based on various assumptions that create a methodological problem for the theory. It defines the system in which the political, social and economic characteristics of nations depend that is identifiable and distinct in nature. It exceeds the national, religious and ideological differences of nations. The cultural differences have been one of the reasons for the economic growth of the country that led to the development of society and politics (Hefner 1998).  

Principles and beliefs included in Asian values

Asian values include the following beliefs and values:

  • It transcends towards single party rule rather than political pluralism that means diversity within a political group.
  • Asian values give preferences to social unity and agreement as opposed to argument and disagreement.
  • The Asian values is concerned with socio – economic well being of a nation rather than civil freedom and rights of human.
  • The main aim of the Asian value is to explain the welfare of the entire community over the rights of individual. It believes in expanding and improving the condition of the entire society instead of just an individual.
  • Asian values also mean showing loyalty and respect towards the higher authority that includes parent’s teachers and government.
  • Asian values prefer collectivism and communitarianism over individualism and liberalism.
  • It also believes in authoritarian type of government structure as opposed to liberal democracy. This means that the nation is rule by the government who has certain responsibilities and privileges (Inglehart 1997).

The main argument that the vales of the eastern nations differ from that of west in terms of culture as eastern Asian values is more about society and authoritarian government while western culture is more of individualism and personal freedom. Historically the concept of Asian value was not only applicable and popular to Asian countries but it also gained popularity in People’s Republic of China, Singapore and Japan. In the western countries Asian values were used to understand the culture of Asian nations and to promote a closer relationship with the regions of Asia. Asian values were not used for the development of politics and economy mainly but for the development of culture of nations (Harrison 1985).

Few critics attribute the economic success of east and Southeast Asian nations to Asian values in 1960s to 1980s. The Asian political system as explained by Asian values is different from that of totalitarianism and liberal democracy. The concept of Asian values could not maintain its popularity until in 2006 when the vice president of Indonesia linked the agreement of East Asian free trade and East Asian community with the Asian values. The main argument of Asian was cooperation over competition. At present the concept of Asian value is used in context of human rights (Fukuyama 1998). 

The studies of rice farming show that large scale agriculture affects the collectivist mindset of the ease Asians. The Asian values indicates that compared to wheat farming, rice farming is labor intensive techniques that requires cooperation and coordination of labor. Asian value is a persistent concept to explain economic development in East Asia remains a topic of argument today also. An Asian value a theory that includes Confucianism does not accept the theory of social change. But economic development means bring about change be it changes in technology or the thinking of the society. It includes social change and it is a necessary condition. Economic development is not a matter of change in culture or cultural development. It is not a matter of values but economic development means improvement in technology, labor productivity and efficiency. Economic development depends on the skills and knowledge that, managers posses for proper handling of organization and not culture and value (Harford 2006). The example of China’s economic development proves that it depends on logical thinking and efficiency and not on values and culture. China was able to escape from poverty and economic stagnation through innovative economic philosophy and thinking by Deng Xiao Ping and not by archaic Confucianism. Economic development and growth only takes place when there is efficient administration, good policy and incorruptible leadership apart from the values of Confucianism that is explained by Asian values. According to the article presented in the economist Asian values did not explain the astonishing success of economy nor did it explain the economic failures. The Asian values that helped many economies in past attain economic success especially the East Asia is now being proven wrong. The pacific century helped create a global environment for nations. The values that have helped the Asians nations creates a structure for development in past is now being collapsed. The Asian values are different from that of the values of west and is somewhat considered to be universal (Carruthers and Babb 2000).  

Asian values and its influence on government structure

The Asian values do not accept change but when development takes place change is automatically backed by it. The theory of social change as described by Asian values is not compatible with the change that the development and growth of the economy brings. For the critics of Asian value change was nothing but the decay of society and economy. The use of Asian values has created a difference in development of South and North Korea. The economic development in Asian nations was achieved through learning and knowledge that the Asians possessed. The nations already have wide range of technologies and savings. Therefore it was essential for the nations to improve the leadership and apply leader’s decision making for the development of the economy. It was essential for the firm to apply the policies to make the best use of technologies and savings for the economic development. Policies were essential to innovate the products in an economy and also provide profitable opportunities. The economic development in east was in contrast with that in the west as the western economic development was more of a spontaneous process than faster one. If Asian values were based on the empirical test then it would not be applicable in India because the values in India are based on Hinduism and not Confucianism.  Asian values will encourage development only when the traditional reforms are transformed to be similar with development. For development of the economy it is essential to change the ideology for the destruction of ideas. This will mean that the Asian values need to be destroyed or modified to apply modern change in the economy. The theory of Asian values assumes that all countries of East Asia share the same culture which is wrong in practicality (Nagle and Mohr 1999). 

Asian values are a political ideology developed in the year 1990. It supports the authoritarian type of government rather than liberal government. Authoritarian type of government is a structure where the government is authoritarian rule that has certain rules and responsibilities for the nation and also enjoys certain benefit. The main aim of Asian value is to show that the nations in Asia share some common political development and structure.  The cultures of nations are defined through modes of social and economic organization that also includes patterns of political relationships, participation, citizenship and government. The Asian values have been an essential indicator of economic and political development. The Asian values have helped the East Asians nations arrange its political and social structure. The values are based on traditional belief. The culture defined by the Asian value is declining as a determinant of international and domestic politics in the context of globalizing process (Mackie 1998). With the rise in globalization and competition the power of government is declining as the government is said to influence the economy in negative way. The success of any country depends on the policies and rules set by the government because it is essential to utilize the resources of the country wisely. The neo liberal theory is the main concern of the Asian values. The debate is said that the Asian values are inseparable from the qualitative and quantitative patterns of development and economic growth. Asian values are a reflection of Asian politics of East Asian countries and not the values and the beliefs. The new debate of Asian values gave rise to populism a new Asian politics rather than describing the democratic theory of nation. The main aim of the Asian value is to describe the authoritarian type of government. It describes the democratic organizational structure where the government that rules the nation is for the people, by the people and from the citizens. The main aim of the government is to improve the general well being of the society as a whole and not just one individual. It is nation where people respect the higher authorities and have some loyalty for the government (Jones 1997).  

The debate over Asian values and economic development

Asian values have said to be general in nature. Asian values is also said to surpass the human rights and the freedom of speech by individuals in society. The main criticism lies in the concept of perceived success of many Asian democratic societies such as Taiwan, Honk Kong and Japan and many other countries. The other criticism of Asian values is the values only supported the rich ethnic group of society among the diverse minorities of the nation. The other criticism is that Asian value is a general theory rather than a specialized one. It is believed that the Asian value is in contrary to the universality of human rights (Friedman 2006).   


Hence it can be said that Asian values is the concept used to describe the development of economy and politics of the traditional Asian economies. But Asian values cannot be used in recent times because in the changes in tradition and culture. Economic development is more of development in the efficiency and productivity of the economy and it does not depend on culture of the nations. Asian values are a concept that depends on the political ideology. It unifies the nations of the Asian continent through culture of the economy. It describes the authoritarian type of government where the government has responsibility to be fulfilled and also enjoys some benefit. Hence Asian values are a useful concept to describe the economic development and political development but the popularity of the Asian value is declining currently due to the drawback that it has. The main aim of the Asian value is to describe the differences in the cultures of East Asian nations and western countries. The Asian values are based on the belief of freedom, coordination and society. Its main aim is to increase the well being of the entire nation and society and is greatly against totalities and individualism. The main principle is the principle of Confucianism that unites the nations based on the diverse culture. 


Carruthers, B. and Babb, S. 2000, “Economic Development”, in Economy/Society: Markets, Meanings, and Social Structure, Pine Forge Press, Thousand Oaks, California.

Ferguson, N. 2004, “The Case for Liberal Empire”, in Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, Allen Lane, London.

Friedman, T. L. 2006, “The Virgin of Guadelupe”, in The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first century, Penguin Books, New York.

Fukuyama, F. 1998. “Asian values and the Asian crisis”, Commentary, 105: 2.

Harford, T. 2006, “Why Poor Countries Are Poor”, in The Undercover Economist, Little Brown, New York.

Harrison. L. 1985, “What makes development happen?”, in Underdevelopment is a State of Mind, University Press of America, Boston.

Hefner, R.W. 1998, “Introduction”, in Market Cultures: Society and Morality in the New Asian Capitalisms, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.

Inglehart, R. 1990, Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Inglehart, R. 1997, Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in 43 Societies, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Inglehart, R. 1999, “Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, but Increases Support for Democracy”, in Norris, P., Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Inglehart, R. and Caballo, M. 2000, “Does Latin America Exist? (And Is There a Confucian Culture?): A Global Analysis of Cross-Cultural Differences”, in Crothers, L. and Lockhart, C. (eds.) Culture and Politics: A Reader, St. Martins Press, New York.

Jones, D.M. 1997, “Political Culture and Political Development in Pacific Asia: The Evolution of the Developmental State”, in Political Development in Pacific Asia, Polity Press, Cambridge.

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Mackie, J. 1998, “Business Success Among Southeast Asian Chinese”, in Hefner, R.W. (ed.) Market Cultures: Society and Morality in the New Asian Capitalisms, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.

Nagle, J.D. and Mohr, A. 1999, “Economics First, Then (Maybe) Politics: the Challenge of the East Asian Model”, in Democracy and Democratization: Post-Communist Europe in Comparative Perspective, Sage, London.

Sachs, J. 2005, The End of Poverty: How We Can Make It Happen in Our Lifetime, Penguin, London.

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