New Asian ideas needed immediately

FEBRUARY 9 — The US political system appears to be stuttering. The attempted (and failed) impeachment of US President Donald Trump by the Democratic party has largely underscored the divisions in US politics. 

An increasingly confident and nationalistic Donald Trump on one side, a divided, shrill and veering erratically left Democrat party on the other side. 

It’s not the best recipe for the long-term progress of the world’s most powerful nation. 

But Europe doesn’t appear to be faring much better; we see polarisation between left and right and increasingly jarring wealth inequalities.  

The richest 1 per cent of the UK's population, for example, is estimated to control around 20 per cent of the nation’s wealth.  

These deep problems — inequality, rampant financialisation and profiteering, a polarised and weak media — are basically not being addressed by the either side of the West's political systems. 

Basically, the system is proving unable to course correct which means inequalities will simply keep getting worse until the whole system becomes unstable. 

The question here — as we watch the West's once vaunted and successful political systems go off kilter — is what are we in Asia to do? 

The West has traditionally been our model for governance; in most cases Western colonisers put in place the foundation of our own political systems. 

But in a modern globalised world, it's clear these systems aren't really delivering solutions. Or matching the expectations of most people. 

But what’s the alternative? States like China present an authoritarian alternative. There is no polarisation as there is just one party. 

But how sustainable is a model which lacks checks and balances? China's struggles with corruption are well known and inequality in the PRC is now severe. 

The challenge is for Asian states to look beyond Western models of bipartisan democracy without simply offering authoritarianism as a solution. 

How do we bring more voices into the fold and ensure that everyone has a chance to participate actively in the decision-making process — without the system devolving into a shouting match?

How can we ensure there is a commitment to more than just GDP? But also, to reducing inequality and increasing quality of life and improving the environment around us. 

Is it not possible to have Asian-led liberalism?

The answer is a return to ideology — a much maligned word but something we need.  

To build strong independent political systems and models that work for us.  Asian states need to identify what they really believe in and value and develop governance structures that reflect these priorities.   

Whether that’s family, heritage, social harmony or economic growth we need to define what we value and work to incorporate these values into systems that respect both individual freedom and national aspirations. 

The time for pasting templates from abroad has come to an end and it’s time for ideas and ideologies of our own. 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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