Kishore Mahbubani: Can Asians Think?

Kishore Mahbubani Source:
Kishore Mahbubani

“Can Asians Think?” asks Mahbubani.

If they can, what were they doing during the European Renaissance and the Enlightenment? Not much, it seems.

But now, following Japan’s example, a new self-confidence is emerging as Asians consider how their societies have developed in recent years.

American fashions prevail amongst the poor, but educated Asians are turning to their own cultures for identity and inspiration.

Meanwhile, western democracies are disengaging from the Third World, despite the need for engagement, if only to dampen mass immigration into Europe.

Western nations often demand democratisation when they should first emphasise economic development and globalization.

Key Quotations

The most painful thing that happened to Asia was not the physical but the mental colonization. Many Asians… began to believe that Asians were inferior to the Europeans. Only this could explain how a few thousand British could control a few hundred million people in South Asia.


Educational excellence is an essential prerequisite for cultural confidence. To put it plainly, many Asians have realized that their minds are not inferior. Most Westerners cannot appreciate the change, because they can never directly feel the sense of inferiority many Asians experienced until recently. (p. 24)


In the eyes of the North African population, the Mediterranean, which once divided civilizations, has become a mere pond. What human being would not cross a pond if thereby he could improve his livelihood?

Kishore Mahbubani

David Hurley