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Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was called "Father of Modernization."

Diversity trumps 'Asian values'

The 'Asianist' idea of a collective East Asian cultural unity is withering


Political and strategic policy differences between the democracies of Northeast and Southeast Asia are widening. In the era of globalization and social media, long-assumed cultural similarities between these two regions are not holding up. This is in sharp contrast with the intellectual consensus of 25 years ago, when the "Asian values" narrative was in full blossom, with Japanese, Singaporean and Malaysian leaders providing the fertilizer.

Then, culture was destiny, if not predestination. This primordial force was said by 'Asianists' to unite Northeast and Southeast Asian societies, and to separate them irrevocably from the West. A decade later, David Kang's seminal article "Getting Asia Wrong" debunked gloomy Western predictions of an arms race and damaging power politics in Asia, arguing that Asian states seemed content with the rise of China.

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