Asia Must Free Itself From Western Chains

Financial Times Opinion

By Chandran Nair

The world is still reeling from the financial crisis, with Asia one of the few areas with strong future growth prospects. This should mark a new intellectual era. But policy makers across the region continue to turn to those very things that got the world into its current predicament – western ideas.

It is not just that we have failed to figure out how to live with the forces released by the industrial revolution, but that we are struggling with the ideologies it created too, notably the continuing stubborn belief that markets, technology and liberal democracy will deliver all the things we need.

Yes, those ideas, born in Europe and then refined in North America, brought great prosperity to a part of the global population. But their formulas cannot be endlessly repeated and applied everywhere.

With a population that could peak at 6bn by 2050, Asia does not have the luxury of exploitation of global resources that the west enjoyed in the building of the modern world. What Asia therefore needs is new ideas – ones that tackle the challenge of establishing what kind of prosperity can be spread across such a huge number of people.

The western paradigm sees Asia’s large population either as a tremendous market opportunity or a threat to its well-being. Similar ideas fill too many Asian minds. Instead, Asia must imagine a future in which urbanisation is not seen as inevitable and necessary, where its cities do not follow the car-driven ways of the west, where food is not produced in fields drenched in chemical fertilisers and pesticides, or where ever-expanding consumption is seen as the only recipe for economic well-being and political stability.

Among the specific questions countries must ask are: what level of per capita energy consumption is viable; how to pay for sustainable food production; whether people are better off sticking with low-meat diets; how transport systems should be built around mobility, not car ownership; and whether new technologies could be used to allow people to prosper in the countryside rather than being forced to migrate to cities for a life of urban squalor?

Universities and schools should educate students in ways that equip them to contribute ideas relevant to the country in which they live, rather than promoting unattainable western lifestyles. Much of this work will be in economics and public policy. But new ideas must also be sought across every major discipline – in the sciences and the social sciences, of course, but also in the humanities, in studies of values, of history and of culture.

To confront this challenge, the starting point has to be Asia’s universities. Sending the best young minds of the region to western institutions serves to reinforce that intellectual subservience. What Asia needs is for the best research about the region to come from universities within Asia – not from Harvard or Cambridge. Therefore Asia needs a rallying call – the launch of 100,000 PhDs. It must ask 100,000 of its smartest graduates to launch a revolution of original thinking and research that will allow the region to move beyond the ideologies that have driven it for the past 50 years.

This research must acknowledge that the needs of Asian countries are very different from those of the US or Europe. It must create a body of ideas in academia that can enter the public consciousness and aid national leaders in making the tough decisions about increasing populations, resource constraints, climate change and technology.

Universities across the region must focus their curriculums and research on a drive for new ideas applicable in their local contexts. They should be forced to ask themselves critical questions – ones that directly confront conventional thinking.

Above all, we must look to those who will have to live in Asia through the next half-century and beyond to come up with new ideas and ways of thinking – ones that look beyond the economic ideologies that enriched one part of the world at the expense of the rest, but which if continued to be applied in Asia will only create catastrophic outcomes for all.

The writer is author of ‘Consumptionomics’.

Source: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0a388cdc-4a9e-11e2-9650-00144feab49a.html#axzz2HMLFGwEp

 

Chinese Translation:

亚洲必须摆脱西方思维的束缚

《消费经济学》作者 程子俊 为英国《金融时报》撰稿

世界仍在受到金融危机冲击波的影响,只有亚洲是少数几个呈现强劲增长未来前景的地区之一。这本应标志着一个新的知识时代莅临。但亚洲地区的政策制定者仍然求助于西方思想,恰恰是这些西方思想,使世界陷入目前的困境。

我们不仅没有弄明白如何驾驭工业革命释放出来的力量,还难以把握工业革命所创造的意识形态,最典型的就是坚持顽固地认为,市场、技术和自由民主将带来我们需要的一切。

这些思想诞生于欧洲,完善于北美,的确给全球的一部分人口带来了巨大繁荣。但其公式不可能永无止境地重复下去,也不可能适用于任何地方。

到2050年人口可能达到60亿的亚洲,不能奢侈地希望像西方那样,利用全球资源构建现代化世界。因此亚洲需要新思想,以解决这样的挑战:什么样的繁荣才能惠及如此庞大的人口?

按 照西方的观点,亚洲的庞大人口要么提供了巨大市场机遇,要么威胁到西方的福祉。太多亚洲人脑子里也充斥着这样的观点。相反,亚洲必须设想一种这样的未来: 在这个未来世界里,城市化不是被认为不可避免、不可或缺的,城市发展不是效仿西方那种汽车驱动的模式,食品不是生长在化肥和杀虫剂浸泡的土地中,不断扩展 的消费不是被当作增进经济福祉和保持政治稳定的唯一秘诀。

各国必须提出的具体问题包括:什么水平的人均能源消费是可行的?如何为可持续的食品生产买单?人们保持低肉类饮食习惯是否更好?如何围绕机动性(而不是汽车保有量)建设交通系统?能否利用新科技让人们住在乡间即可致富,而不必被迫迁徙到城市,过着都市底层的肮脏生活?

高校在教育学生时,应该鼓励他们贡献与自己生活的国家相关的想法,而不是一味宣扬难以企及的西方生活方式。这些工作多数应落实在经济学和公共政策领域。但每一项重要科目都应寻找新观点——自然科学和社会科学当然不例外,但也应涵盖人文科学,对价值、历史和文化的研究。

这要求挑战支撑西方思想的正统基石。例如,西方思想认为,我们应该寄希望于企业来提供克服资本主义内在问题的工具,或者市场激励是解决气候变化的关键。

要应对这一挑战,必须以亚洲高校为起点。输送亚洲地区最优秀的年轻人去西方机构学习,只能强化知识屈从的局面。亚洲需要的是,由亚洲内部的高校—— 而不是哈佛大学(Harvard)或者剑桥大学(Cambridge)——提供关于本地区的最佳研究。因此亚洲需要动员起来——培养10万名博士。亚洲必 须要求它最聪明的10万名毕业生发起一场原创的思考和研究革命,让亚洲地区突破过去50年间推动亚洲增长的意识形态。

这种研究必须承认,亚洲国家的需求与美国和欧洲非常不同。亚洲必须创建一套学术思想,使其进入公众意识,并帮助国家领导人针对日益增长的人口、资源限制、气候变化和科技进步,做出艰难的决策。

亚洲的高校必须使其课程和研究专注于产生切合国情的新思想。它们必须向自己提出一些关键问题——能够直接挑战传统思维的问题。

总之,我们必须寄希望于在未来半个世纪以及更遥远的未来生活在亚洲的人,让他们提出新的观点、新的思维方式——突破那些让世界一部分地区的人富裕起来、却损害其他地区利益的经济意识形态。如果这种意识形态继续应用在亚洲,只会让所有人陷入灾难。

本文作者著有《消费经济学》(Consumptionomics)一书

译者/倪卫国

原载: http://www.ftchinese.com/story/001048251