Asia Society presents; 22
The Asia Society at present. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster league Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. Instead of talking about one Asian country as we often do on a program in this series we're going to talk about Asia generally. But from the point of view of the revolution which seems to be taking place there and discuss what the problems are and what the opportunities might be. Our guest is a man who has a very good view of this and we're fortunate that he's at a microphone and he is Ralph Booge and Mr. bookends is chairman of the salon Council of the Asia Society chairman of the New York Buddhist Council and aid to the former prime minister of Ceylon Mr. Bill Jens. Since you were born in Ceylon
you no doubt have traveled through a great part of Asia. Which countries to be visited. I've visited most of Asia in the past 15 years from. Sail on through India Afghanistan right through most of the Far East. Well since this is a topic that you suggested Asian revolution that's a strong word. Why do you apply it. Well throughout Asia today there are tremendous changes taking place changes in every sphere of activity which I think history will build as one of the great revolutions of our time. When we talk of the Asian revolution I think we've got to view it as a process by which the peoples of contemporary Asia seek to find a new definition of themselves both within their continental ethos and in relation to the rest of the world.
Well there's a phrase that one hears that often of rising expectations that people are striving in this direction. They expect more and they are insisting upon getting more with this coverage. Well to my mind the Haitian revolution is a movement at three levels. It is first and modernisation process changing traditional political social and economic patterns. Secondly I think it is as you mentioned a revolution of rising expectations in which Asians aspire to share are in the advances of this is age. And thirdly I think it is an effort for recognition in a world largely oriented towards the north Atlantic concepts and goals of I think at all these three levers. There are changes taking place and this is what I would define as the Asian revolution.
Our Western goals also the goals then of Asians in many ways as there are in the east in the area of social welfare the area of concern with human affairs. I think they are identical but they tend to differ very sharply in the political context and in matters concerned with material. Aspirations and outlook of the peoples of Asia. Is democracy for example considered the ideal form of government aid or is it that we stress that more and agencies are not that interesting. Well this is one of my pet subjects. And democracy in Asia is a relatively new concept. It was really left behind it's a tradition of or it's a legacy of imperialism. Most of the countries which left a shar after
World War 2 left behind them. This tradition of democratic political framework. My own view is that this has proven largely unsuited to Asia. We see this in many areas of Asia democracy failing revision to authoritarianism. We see in many parts of Asia people resorting to direct action as they find the Western democratic systems and the party system in a place they find it unable to fulfil the aspirations they think it is slow and to a sense it ignores the traditional ition approach to political affairs. I think the approach to political of things in Asia must be very much influenced by your philosophy in general not just in Salon but Asian philosophies and religions which do not dictate this attitude or this kind of behavior.
If you think that's one of the great mistakes that the West makes about the east Well I think the West tends to look at Asia in naturally perhaps through Western eyes. But those of us in Asia who have seen the reaction to. Western policy is a nation of fear that in many ways and Asians a view of Asia is perhaps more realistic then a Western view. In this context of course religious forces local cultural forces the whole ition ethos is very significant. Then democracy do you think is considered desirable in the long run. Or add with the other kinds of government handling the political situation now. What do you think democracy is something that Asians really wouldn't care for in spite of our regard for my own personal view is that democracy in its
broadest concept as providing a means of expression for people is suited to Asia but some of the. Western as pics of democracy the party system. Some of the systems of public administration have proven unsuited to Asia and are really ineffective in dealing with the Asian problems. I only speak of the Asian revolution has this touched some countries more than others. Yes I think the countries of South and Southeast Asia are at the present time more affected or moved in the vanguard of the Asian revolution than other parts of Asia. I refer particularly to countries like India Pakistan Ceylon Malaysia Indonesia and the countries round that area. And naturally the West that those Western countries which feel that democracy is the best way for people to live and express themselves
are concerned about communism in Asia. What countries would you say have experienced the strongest effect of communism. Well aside from North Vietnam and North Korea. Well there are different views of communism in Asia and I think to answer your question one has to take this in perspective. Many Communist movements in Asia are nationalist. In there are goals in their objectives. The West I think tends largely to brand most of these movements as being totally communistic. This is not so. And for instance countries like Burma have experienced the communist influence to some extent communist infiltration. But the communist movement in Burma for instance has also been a vehicle for expression of the
dissatisfaction of some of the local people through one of the few structured political organizations available to them. What would you say then that there is a different way of looking at communism and a way perhaps which we don't understand that communism is not necessarily a powerful international movement but can be a strong national movement without any loyalty let say to Moscow or Peking. I think you are correct because when one looks at Communism in Asia there are really three viewpoints there is the International Communist viewpoint that is the Western viewpoint and there is the local Asian viewpoint and in many cases communism in Asia in its local setting has provided an outlet for the feelings of people who have no other way in which to express it. Of course there have been ties that have been proven cases of
support by Peking and by Moscow. But in many ways and correct cries the communist movement of most of the Communist movements in Asia is somewhat akin to Yugoslavia and communism a communism of a different breed from either Peking or from Moscow's communism. Yes perhaps our thinking is too rigid about communism and we see it as an either or proposition. If we speak about these social changes taking place in a country like India as I understand the caste system as well I think it has been abolished and no traces of it may linger. But are there these changes in other countries as well that is shop class distinctions are they listening. Well to look at social change in Asia is to view a fascinating evolution as almost two billion people are precipitated into the modern world. The nature of Asian societies changing the traditional framework where relationships were based on
birth and custom is evolving towards a more modern concept of talent recognition. Modernization and communications have tended to exacerbate social discontent. The growth of education illiteracy has created a great deal of intellectual ferment made evident a generation gap. And for the first time in the history the three great religions of Asia. What is Hinduism in Islam. Fine they are values question. As society becomes more secular I think the breakdown of caste rigidity is just only one facet of this whole picture. And one of the key influencers in social change in Asia is the influence of western living which is bringing to Asia a new idea of social welfare and new thoughts with regard to the whole area of social change.
Well if a country then has the idea of giving the people more self expression about the economically and politically. And if it wants to consider the welfare of the people by giving them certain legislative programs why would such a country then be called a communist country. Where does the communism come in in that the government is controlling all production and economic growth. Is that why such a country would still be called a communist country. I suppose if one were to look at it from a Western point of view that would be correct although take China for instance. We look at China today. As a communist country people who are subject to communist rule. But I think if one were to compare China today with China in 1949 one is forced to recognize the messy the cheap Mints of the present government and of course one also realizes that these achievements have been gained at
considerable expense of life and personal freedom. But then how much personal freedom did the average Chinese enjoy before 1949. And what was life worth been in a country torn apart by warlords where disease and famine were common and where human existence had very little meaning. I think this is one of the questions that is relevant to a shark today. What they have today versus what they can get under different forms of political administration. It seems to be difficult doesn't it Mr. bookends for a country which is in need of massive development and change to give people democracy at the same time as it gives them growth. There seems to be necessary to have this subordination of what people want to do in order to force them to do what's good for the country at large and for society at large. But one wonders at what
point are the people then given the freedom which they've been denied. At what point does the government say we're not think we've grown far enough so you may vote you may travel you may be yourself. When is that when is that promise fulfilled. It's been a bone of contention among political philosophers for centuries. Yes no I'm asking you the question. I think in Asia as we see it today there has to be some form of organized development if the continent is not to recede economically. The people have to get a better standard of living a larger share of the rice plate so to speak. In mobilizing these forces for economic development. There are several alternate courses. We have the Western oriented course Western type democracy.
In many cases in a shabby says proven ineffective. We have the traditional Asian or rural village type government form of administration. This in the modern world is also proven ineffective. We have the totalitarian system which has certain benefits but can only achieve them at substantial expense in terms of human values. I think what the Asians are searching for and what they are making some progress towards equality is a system of or rather a political framework essentially initially incorrect and which is. Particularly valid in the Asian ethos today. The president can try this with some success in Pakistan over the past 10 years although now the
outcome seems to be in doubt. And we have seen this in other parts of Asia but it hasn't yet emerged a clear clearly defined political framework which would suit Asians I think they are searching for this. Well if we go back to India as an example of an Asian country which has about as much democracy as a country can have their other. The prime minister or the ruling class doesn't feel that Asians have to be suppressed. Do you think this interferes with the economic development the fact that they have freedom of expression. My own view is that India in the past 20 years has in many ways been an authoritarian type of. Set up because up till very recently India had really one functioning national political party. It was only recently that we are seeing if you can call it that
true democracy being manifest in India. It is only in the past three or four years the Congress hold on India has slipped. And to that extent I think we will see in India a wider diffusion of political power. But I don't know whether this will be matched to economic growth. One feels that if people are convinced that the government is doing things for their welfare and that if they all work hard together they will prosper and it will and maybe not prosper immediately but enjoy life better. And these are all called People's Republic. You just wonder about why the government has to enforce this kind of thing such an iron hand. Why should people have to be forced to do something which is for their own good. Well I think one has to look at the structure of Asian states. To appreciate the situation we've got to remember that most Asian states are really an agglomeration of naturally independent
communities. Once administered collectively as a dependent colonial territory and then it'll be towed by a departing colonialists to the status of independent but largely artificial states. Now within these national entity s. There are all sorts of minorities racial linguistic religious cultural and so on. And the artificial structure of most of these states makes it difficult to absorb these large minorities into the mainstream of national thought and national development. We see this trend towards national solidarity under pressure evident in many parts of Asia. We see it in India which has 70 million Muslims. We see it in Pakistan which has 10 percent of its population Hindu. We see it in Burma a large number of
minorities we see it in Sudan. And the question of the developing truly national good. With a large number of divergent forces is one of the problems that is occupying the attention of most of the nation's statement today. What are the problems do you think that Asia will have to face in sight and this one which is anonymous of course. I think if you run want to talk in terms of economics I think there are serious economic problems which Asia faces for instance the decline in the price of commodities. Excluding Japan approximately 70 percent of Asia's export earnings are derived from commodities like Jute. So on the price of commodities has fallen world markets. At the same time the price of capital goods from industrialized nations has increased in the
period over the late 1950s and mid 1960s. The price of primary commodities exported from Asia declined seven percent whereas the price of goods imported from industrial countries increased by 27 percent. So the grep gap grows larger. I think the gap the economic gap between Ishai and the Western world is dramatically last created by the Hudson Institute's comparison of the four largest Asian countries with the U.S. to do it. At present rates of growth are measured in GNP per capita terms to reach current US standards it will take China one hundred and one years. India a hundred seventeen years. Pakistan one hundred forty four years and Indonesia five hundred ninety three years. Still. Why is it necessary for countries which are that different from the West do appropriate only if they approach Western standards. Well
the Western mean is that is so desirable is that what these countries live to do. I don't think these countries seek to approach Western standards but they do seek to evolve a system whereby they can get a better share of it. Benefits where they can as we spoke of earlier where they are rising aspirations will be satisfied. We are moved of the economic benefit in the world could be shared among more equally among its people are probably Asia has 55 percent of the world's population but produces only 10 percent of its world. The world economic output. Yet it is one of the richest continents potentially perhaps there. That's the irony of it that Asia would like to emulate. Let's say the Western economic goals and standard of living and yet does not want to imitate the West's political system. Feeling that it is not right for them.
I think there is a dichotomy there and this is one of the problems that Asia will have to resolve and is trying to resolve. Perhaps not as logically as the West would like to see it being absorbed and certainly this country with US would not want to put more aid into Asia. It has contributed magnificently to Asia approximately 25. I think the figure is approximately 25 billion dollars in the past 20 years. But it is this dichotomy which has to be resolved. Well Mr. bookends a final question I think most of us are aware of the fact that the United States plays a tremendous role in aid to economically and and to some extent militarily. What should in your opinion the United States stance be in Asia and the future. Well my own view is that U.S. policy in Asia could be most effective if it is based on five principles. First a recognition of
political realities. Second abandonment of the principle of intervention occurred cessation of support of non-representative regime and politicians to fourth to be Asian developments in an Asian light and not in terms of European politics. Policy is effective in Asia and fifth increasing the emphasis of U.S. policy towards economic development and reducing the security and defense emphasis of U.S. policy. That takes a very large mind and heart to follow your suggestions but perhaps the West and the United States may be capable of that. I thank you very much Mr. Belgians for being on our program. May I say that our guest has been rather bookends the bookends is Cham of the salon Council the Asia Society chairman of the New York British consul and an aide to the former prime minister of Ceylon. And this is me Graham saying goodbye and ask you to remember that although East is East and West is West we
- Asia Society presents
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-22 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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