Monday, April 16, 2012

Yay For Me

As the title suggests, this is more of a "shiok sendiri" post. Last week, I posted a comment on Scott Sumner's post about the role of culture in economics. Here is my comment in full:
As a Malaysian Chinese, I can strongly relate to the culture argument. For those who are not aware, Malaysia practices “pro-Bumiputra (pro-indigineous/Malay)” policies, resulting in the vast majority of opportunities (education placement in top schools, business deals, cheap housing, etc) being channeled towards the Malay community. On the surface, it appears to be a form of affirmative action, but bear in mind that the Malaysian population comprises around 70% Malays. So, the so-called affirmative action policies actually favor the majority. And the Malay politicians in Malaysia insist on maintaining rights of Malays in obtaining these excessive privileges, which is often perceived as “racial supremacy” in Malaysia. 
Despite the oppressive policies that have been implemented since 1970, the Chinese community has continued to thrive and are responsible for the vast majority of business activity in Malaysia. They have still managed to succeed given the “handicap”, which demonstrates a cultural resilience and determination to overcome the overwhelming odds. I am not saying that Chinese are superior to other races in Malaysia, but there is a certain cultural element to it that is possibly unmeasurable as we do not see the same kind of success for other races in Malaysia. But I can attribute part of this to the kind of upbringing in Chinese families. Since I was young the message that was drummed into my head was to keep working hard in order to overcome the overwhelming odds. Despite 40 years of oppressive policies, Malaysia has remained rather peaceful and the Chinese community seemed to have accepted it as a way of life, simply working harder (among other things) to overcome the handicap. This is very much in line with the peaceful/passive approach taught by Confucius. 
Now, back to China. I think what a lot of analysts miss and what is written by Professor Zhang Weiwei in his book, “The China Wave – Rise of a Civilizational State”: 
“Good governance matters more than democratization. China rejects the stereotypical dichotomy of democracy vs. autocracy and holds that the nature of a state, including its legitimacy, has to be defined by its substance, i.e. by good governance, and tested by what it can deliver.”
“China is still faced with serious challenges such as fighting corruption and reducing regional gaps. But China is likely to continue to evolve on the basis of these ideas, rather than by embracing Western liberal democracy, because these ideas have apparently worked and have blended reasonably well with common sense and China’s unique political culture, the product of several millennia — including 20 or so dynasties, seven of which lasted longer than the whole of U.S. history ……… While China will continue to learn from the West for its own benefit, it may be time now for the West, to use Deng’s famous phrase, to “emancipate the mind” and learn a bit more about or even from China’s big ideas, however extraneous they may appear, for its own benefit. This is not only to avoid further ideology-driven misreading of this hugely important nation, a civilization in itself, but also to enrich the world’s collective wisdom in tackling challenges ranging from poverty eradication to climate change and the clash of civilizations.” 
These are just excerpts from his marvelous book, which I think gives some very insightful thoughts from a true Chinese perspective.
 I managed to get a response from Scott, albeit a short one:

Yay for me!

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