Asian Renaissance in the view of Kishore Mahbubani

By FAN LEI / 11-30-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

The Asian 21st Century

The Asian 21st Century is a collection of in-depth reflections on East-West relations by the Singaporean expert on Asian studies Kishore Mahbubani, who is also the founding dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and former Ambassador of Singapore to the United Nations. The book was translated into Chinese by the Center for China and Globalization and published in July 2023.

When the English version was made available for download online, it was expected to be downloaded 20,000 times. In just a year and a half, downloads have exploded. According to Springer Link, the book has been downloaded more than 3.3 million times. Enthusiasm for the book is not only a recognition of Mahbubani’s academic thought, but also reflects the global interest in the Asian Renaissance and deep concern about the direction of the 21st century. 

There are profound structural and practical reasons why Mahbubani advocates the “Asian Renaissance” and labels the 21st century as the “Asian Century.” “The end of the era of Western domination” is the basic premise for the arrival of the Asian Century. In Mahbubani’s view, the main strategic mistake made by the West is its refusal to face up to and accept this reality. In the 21st century, the West, represented by Western Europe and the United States, must learn how to act in a world that will gradually no longer be dominated by itself, and learn how to adapt to the interdependence with Asia and adjustment of order, which will become the normal development of human history in the future. 

In the past 200 years, Western Europe and the United States surpassed Asia by the advantages of objects and ideas, and achieved take-offs in economic development and overall national strength, leading to the subjugation and domination of Asian countries such as China and India. This deviation from historical norms represents an abnormal phenomenon in human history. In reality, Asia has historically been the true leader of the long course over the last 2,000 years, and the resurgence of Asia signifies a return to this historical trajectory. The author elaborates upon the strengths and weaknesses of the East and West in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and illustrates Asia’s wisdom, resilience, and leadership with the “ASEAN miracle.” He argues that Asia should play a more active leadership role in the future process of globalization, and that “the 21st Century will see the return of Asia to the centre of the world stage.” 

Fan Lei is director of the Institute of Public Diplomacy at Shandong Youth University of Political Science.