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Asia and the West — East is East and West is West?

Our best quotes on how Asians really feel about their Western counterparts.

September 30, 2003

Our best quotes on how Asians really feel about their Western counterparts.

Asia's relation with the West is often viewed only in the prism of U.S. relations with either China, India — or Japan. Yet, the West is much more than just the United States — and Asia is comprised of 30 countries altogether. Smaller Asian nations are no less assertive than their bigger regional brothers. Our Read My Lips feature examines how smaller Asian countries view their relations with the West.

Why are some people cautious about Western ideas?

"When we look from Asia to the West, it is our observation that nations that prosper economically tend to lose their sense of values."

(Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, April 1994)

Does that also include Western products?

“Asians still love their Big Macs, their Levi’s, their Harvard MBAs. Nevertheless, anti-American sentiment in Asia is brewing far stronger than a Starbucks espresso.”

(Hannah Beech, Asia Times correspondent in Shanghai, March 2003)

Who has so far benefited from trade agreements?

“If you look at the number of developing countries which have benefited from past rounds, they’ve been very limited — mostly a few South East Asian countries.”

(WTO Director General Supachai Panitchpakdi, May 2003)

Why is trade such a difficult issue for Asian countries?

“Do not, in the name of free trade, deny us time to integrate our resources — and having integrated them, deny us access to your rich markets.”

(Teofisto Guingona, Jr., Philippine vice president and secretary for Foreign Affairs, June 2002)

Why is the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) reconsidering its relations with the West?

“There is a dawning realization that the world does not owe us anything — and so we had better try to get our act together.”

(Senior ASEAN official, August 2002)

Why is unity crucial for Asia?

“If you look at the rest of the world, it is obvious that size matters. If this region remains divided, we will be marginalized.”

(Chalongphob Sussangkarn, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, April 2002)

What do ads for Western products — such as Coca Cola — show Asia about the West?

“They look like they are on drugs constantly. How can they be performing at school?”

(Singaporean high-school student, October 2002)

How do young Cambodians try to become more competitive?

“I want to have a good job because you cannot get one if you do not learn English. I want my country to be as good as others.”

(Young Cambodian, August 2003)

How do some Vietnamese think about privatization?

“Suddenly, I will stop working for the Socialist republic. I feel sad about this.”

(Manager of a state-run restaurant in Vietnam, October 2002)

Do workers in more prosperous Asian countries go through changes as well?

“Year-by-year, the world is changing. You have nowhere to run. You have to face it.”

(Worker in Singapore, March 2000)

Have Asian values permeated Asian banking?

“There is no such thing as Asian banking values. Either you are a sound banker — or not.”

(Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, May 2002)

What makes one a sound banker?

“In doing business, I believe the ethics and morality of banking are very important.”

(Lam Hoang Loc, Chairman of Vietnam’s Joint-Stock Bank for Private Enterprise, July 2003)

Why is Korea a difficult market for credit card companies?

“In Korea, many still regard saving as virtue — and spending as vice.”

(Dr. Jae-Kwan Byeon, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, July 2003)

Are Filipinos able to relate to the West?

“Filipinos like referring to their history as ‘three centuries in the convent — followed by 50 years in Hollywood.'”

(New York Times editorial, July 2003)

In what way did North Korea reinterpret Western ideas?

“North Korea’s leadership inverts Clausewitz. For them, politics is a continuation of war by other means.”

(Nicholas Eberstadt, analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, March 2003)

How important is the U.S. presence in Asia?

“We must keep America in the Asian dream — or the dream will become a nightmare.”

(George Yeo, Singapore’s Trade Minister, March 2001)

And finally, what do you think are the biggest failings for country relationships today, Mr. Prime Minister?

“We have not done such a good job managing this global village of ours. There is no trust — and no good governance.”

(Mr. Mahathir Mohammad, January 2003)