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Feb 1998 Asian values and the Asian crisis Authors Francis Fukuyama AMERE decade ago Americans at every level of business and government were being chided for their failure to emulate the example of Asia The key to that regions economic success was said to be its cultural values--a combination of the work ethic respect for community and authority and a tradition of paternalistic government--all of which were contrasted invidiously to the rampant dysfunctionality then plaguing the American economy and American society alike Today as the International Monetary Fund IMF imposes Western market-oriented rules on one desperate Asian country after another the mood has shifted to the other extreme Asian values we are now told are what led to nepotistic credit allocation an overly meddlesome state and a disastrous lack of transparency in financial transactions From being the cause of Asias success Asian values are now seen as the root of last summers currency crisis and of the ensuing economic meltdown across nearly the whole region Neither reading is correct II THE SUBJECT of Asian values emerged in the early 1990s thanks largely to two politicians Lee Kuan Yew then Prime Minister of Singapore and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia Each was in pursuit of a relatively narrow agenda Lee seeking to improve his ties with China hoped to gain favor in Beijing by promoting a mildly anti-Western sense of Chinese cultural identity Mahathir for his part wanted to fend off the Bush administrations push to create a forum known as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in favor of a new Asian political bloc that would exclude white powers like Australia and the United States But the idea of a distinct Asian cultural and political identity had a larger resonance as well In part it reflected the genuine pride felt by many people in the region at the stunning success of their economies over the previous two generations It also
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