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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World

KISHORE MAHBUBANI -
The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World. [Hardcover]

The twenty-first century has seen a rise in the global middle class that brings an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values. Kishore Mahbubani is optimistic. We are creating a new global civilization. Eighty-eight percent of the world’s population outside the West is rising to Western living standards, and sharing Western aspirations. Yet Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive global commentators, also warns that a new global order needs new policies and attitudes.

Policymakers all over the world must change their preconceptions and accept that we live in one world.

National interests must be balanced with global interests. Power must be shared. The U.S. and Europe must cede some power. China and India, Africa and the Islamic world must be integrated. Mahbubani urges that only through these actions can we create a world that converges benignly. This timely book explains how to move forward and confront many pressing global challenges.

Kishore Mahbubani is the Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. From 1971-2004 he served in the Singapore Foreign Ministry, where he was Permanent Secretary from 1993-1998, served twice as Singapore’s Ambassador to the UN, and in January 2001 and May 2002 served as President of the UN Security Council.

For years former diplomat and academic Kishore Mahbubani has studied the changing relationship between Asia and the U.S. in works like “Can Asians Think?” and “The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East.” “Then  Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust Between America and the World,

In The Great Convergence, he assesses East and West at a remarkable turning point in world history and reaches an incredible conclusion: China stands poised to become the world’s largest economy as soon as 2016.

Unprecedented numbers of the world’s population, driven by Asian economic growth, are being lifted out of poverty and into the middle class. And with this creation of a world-wide middle class, there is an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values: a truly global civilization.

Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines have listed him as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world, and in 2009 The Financial Times included him on their list of the top 50 individuals who would shape the debate on the future of capitalism. In 2010 and 2011 he was selected as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.

On February 6, 2013, at the Asia Society in New York, before a full room and in a give and take with Ian Bremmer (who is President of Eurasia Group and worked with Henry Kissinger), the lively discussion was being beamed to Australia, where the local Asia Society was gathered to follow New York.

Mahbubani sees the rise of China and India, but the reality is that in this last decade while another 1,25 million Asians joined National militaries – but this was a decade of no wars. He projects that while today there are 500 million Asians of Middle Class, the number will be 1.5 billion by 2025.

His vision of the World is that of a boat with 193 compartments and steering-less. The Americans who are now steering their boat in a competition with the another 192 boats will soon decide that it is better to get their own compartment in the large united boat, and not rock it from inside.

He was adamant at saying that he has not yet met an American leader who is contemplating the day that America will not be Number 1 anymore and that this position will actually be passed on to China just in 3-4 years from now – maybe 5 years. But he expects his change to happen smoothly, and the only problem he follows is that of the small islands of the coast of China, that the Japanese are holding but do not own yet, and will have eventually to negotiate away between their Nationalists and the Chinese Nationalists. Mahbubani moderated this January 11 a panel on the future of the American power at Davos, and did not get the feedback and recognition he feels as obvious to him.

He also said that it is hard to find Chinese that recognize they are on the way of being #1 – like it is hard to find Americans that recognize they will not be #1. Both sides are not ready to see the reality – so they will co-operate in hiding it.

The Mahbubani logic is that we converge in aspirational goals first, and then find people to get us there. At Davos he saw convergence of perspective, but he did not see there many people from China yet.

The magic is the rising of the global consumer and the rising of the global conscience of the problems.

Global leadership? There is a decrease of demand at the time the supply is diminishing.

Geopolitics? The middle classes in China want the economic growth to continue – “to pivot poison or make peace.” Multilateralism and multilateral organizations are needed to help solve global problems like global warming, environmental pollution, and climate change, but we decreased the stature of the multinational organizations, so it will end up with National governments working on solutions within their compartments in the common boat.

Capitalism in China? It was the accession to WTO that killed the Chinese State enterprises and opened up the way to privatization – but the illusion of communism will continue in order to justify the State structure. He had an anecdote that mentioned a Chinese leader who was able to look with humor at this false face of communism that has taken roots in the fast growing Chinese economy of today.

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