Asian values

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Asian values, or Asian customs and values, is a cultural and political ideology that defines elements of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts, and technologies common to the nations of East and Southeast Asia.[1]

The ideology of Asian values has primarily been associated with and discussed in certain East and Southeast Asian countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, China, Japan, and Korea, but has also generated some discussions in other parts of Asia, such as Iran, India, Arabia, and Turkey. It aims to use commonalities – for example, the principles of collectivism or communitarianism – to unify people for their economic and social good and to create a pan-Asian identity. This contrasted with and challenged the perceived Western ideals of individualism, which is felt as incompatible for the region.[2]


Asian values are usually thought to be incompatible with Western liberal democracy or individualism. Asian values favor collectivism, strong leadership, and an organized society to address its needs. They give positions of power through their own democratic processes. The idea is based on societal governance and principles, without forcefully adopting Western values or assuming Westernization as mandated in neoliberalism.

The concept was advocated by Mahathir Mohamad (Prime Minister of Malaysia, 1981–2003, 2018–2020), Lee Kuan Yew (Prime Minister of Singapore, 1959–1990), Park Chung Hee (President of South Korea, 1962–1979), Shinzo Abe (Prime Minister of Japan, 2012–2020) and other Asian politicians and diplomats such as Tarō Kōno, Kishore Mahbubani, Han Sung-joo, Goh Chok Tong and Bilahari Kausikan.[3][4]

The concept's popularity slightly waned after the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Asia then lacked a coherent regional institutional mechanism to deal with such crises.[5] A few months after the crisis, The ASEAN Plus Three (APT) was conceived in December 1997 with the convening of a summit among the leaders of ASEAN, China, Japan, and South Korea. The APT Summit was institutionalized in 1999 when its leaders issued a joint statement at the 3rd APT Summit. It determined the main objectives, principles, and directions of APT countries. It resolved to strengthen and deepen cooperation at various levels and in various areas, particularly in economic, social, political, and other fields. Asian values were further reinforced with the signing of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It was the first free trade agreement between China, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea, four of the five largest economies in Asia at the time of its signing.[6]


The idea of Asian values has been criticized by leftists within Asia and by some human rights groups in the West, accusing the ideology as inherently authoritarian. Critics point out that it may perpetuate issues surrounding gender-based discrimination, homophobia, and strict attitudes toward children, also known as tiger parenting.

Because of Asian values, while various nations in East and Southeast Asia can be as economically rich as the Western world, with some even more so, it has a much more conservative, semi-authoritarian attitude and a deferential social culture than the West. This could explain why many Western conservatives or alt-rightists who are against political correctness and multiculturalism often praise East and Southeast Asian societies, who seek to emulate it back in the West.

Asian cultures are also not as uniformly collectivist as one might imagine. Some communities tend to be more individualistic (e.g. in HokkaidoWikipedia[7]); it is hypothesized that cultures evolve as more individualist or collectivist depending on any number of incidental things, including even the simple facts of a community's geography, food staples, or need to respond to diseases.[8]

Asian values-oriented figures[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Subramaniam S. "The Asian Values Debate: Implications for the Spread of Liberal Democracy" Asian Affairs. March 2000.
  • Ankerl G. "Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations: Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western" INUPRESS, Geneva, 2002 ISBNWikipedia: 978-2881550041


  1. Hoon Yau, Chang (January 2004). "Revisiting the Asian Values Argument used by Asian Political Leaders and its Validity Leaders and its Validity". Indonesian Quarterly 32 (2): 154-174. Retrieved 26 December 2020. 
  2. "Case Study: The concept of Asian values". BBC World Service. 
  3. "Remarks by H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, at the Symposium "Shared Values and Democracy in Asia" (Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister) | Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet". 
  4. Michael D. Barr [1] "Lee Kuan Yew and the "Asian Values" Debate" Accessed 8 January 2020.
  5. Gred L. "Asian Values revisited" Asia Europe journal 2003.
  6. "What is RCEP and what does an Indo-Pacific free-trade deal offer China?" (in en). South China Morning Post. 12 November 2020. 
  7. (May 25, 2007). "'Cowboy' culture can be seen in some Japanese". University of Michigan.
  8. David Robson (January 19, 2017). "How East and West think in profoundly different ways". BBC News.