2018/04/23 Kishore Mahbubani, “Has the West Lost It? Can Asia Save It?”

Before judging democratic systems over authoritarian, examine the functioning of governments through its diplomats, where plutocracy has an alternative in meritocracy, says @mahbubani_k @longnow @asiasocietysfx.

Singaporean diplomat and scholar Kishore Mahbubani 

[1:19:30] … when people compare the American government with the Chinese government, they say: “This is a comparison between a democratic system and an authoritarian system”. And a democratic system is, of course, better than an authoritarian system. And I agree. A democratic system is better than an authoritarian system.

[1:29:55] But if you go … if you dig one level down, and you look at the functioning of the government, and how it makes its decisions and you analyze it, you may see that the democratic system may be performing as a plutocratic system serving the interests of the people of the tiny elite and leaving the … creating a situation where I think half of your [American] population hasn’t seen an increase in its median income for forty years. That’s what plutocracy is.

[1:20:30] The Chinese system is a meritocracy. The Chinese Communist Party, by the way, has got one of the most amazing meritocratic selection systems. [….] When I had a research assistant in Columbia University a few weeks ago she told me — and she was obviously one of the brightest students — she said she was very disappointed when she left high school, because you say when you graduate from high school in China, the top student — one student — is selected to join the Communist Party. And you want to be that one student selected to join the Communist Party. And then, in the first year in university, she says, five students are selected to join the Communist Party. Again, the top students. So, can you imagine the system which tries to select the best brains to run the country

[1:21:35] Now, the Chinese Communist Party is not perfect. It has a lot of flaws. It is making a lot of mistakes. But in terms of harvesting the brain power of China, it has done an amazing job. And I tell the story — and I was in diplomacy for thirty three years.

[1:21:55] When I started my career in 1971, if you had asked me: “Do you want to talk to an American diplomat or Chinese diplomat?”, I would say of course I’ll talk to the American diplomat. This graduate of Princeton, Yale, Harvard. Brilliant. Reads the New Yorker every week. Knows what’s going on the world. A Chinese diplomat 1971 would walk around with the Mao’s Little Red Book in his pocket. And when I talk to him, he’ll produce Mao’s Red Book and read to me Mao’s Read Book. Why should I waste my time. That’s Chinese 1971.

[1:22:30] You fast-forward to 2018, and you asked me to fly to a capital somewhere, and you say: “You want to talk to the American ambassador or the Chinese ambassador?” The likelihood is: that the Chinese ambassador would speak the language of the country; would have been posted there several times; would have a very nuanced and sophisticated view of the country. And the American ambassador would be one was demoralized, knowing that his budget is being cut; knowing his chances of becoming an ambassador in the top capital is practically zero, because they are political appointees. So you have a demoralized deployed American diplomatic service and an incredibly dynamic Chinese foreign service. That’s what the big change that has happened since 1971, and that’s a result of a meritocracy. And I can tell you, you’ll be quite amazed how good some of these Chinese diplomats are today.

Kishore Mahbubani, “Has the West Lost It? Can Asia Save It?”, Longnow Foundation and the Asian Society Northern California, April 23, 2018, MP3 audio at http://podcast.longnow.org/salt/redirect/salt-020180423-mahbubani-podcast.mp3


David Ing blogs at coevolving.com , photoblogs at daviding.com , and microblogs at http://ingbrief.wordpress.com . A profile appears at , and an independent description is on .

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