East Asia—Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China—have been among the world’s most stable societies. They don’t have many social problems, face disruptive public protests, or suffer from the rise of radical-leftism—wokeism—which is nothing but an expectation of free stuff from the state, a license to destroy others’ properties, and be feral.
Unrestrained expectations make the state poisonous, and the society and its institutions increasingly disoriented, amoral and fragile, an anti-civilizing process.
The concept of honor and not begging from other people has slowly weakened in the West—those who are by choice dependent have lost the shame and moral opprobrium they earlier faced in asking for welfare as a right.
A lot of values of East Asia came from the classical West. Being proud as a social virtue continues in East Asia. Poor and old people in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea would instead scavenge for leftover bottles, cartons, etc., for subsistence than government help. Once in a while, I go out with a group in East Asia to distribute food to old and sick people—those giving do not want to be seen as giving, and those taking do not wish to be seen as taking.
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People’s self-reliance gives society a moral, rational spine and significantly reduces the chances of systemic crisis from developing, and in the event of a natural disaster, makes readjustment easier. Without a moral compass, society invariably drifts in the wrong direction.
Implications of these values on institutions are such that while East Asia is mainly meritocratic and responsible, the West has suffered massively because of the need to accommodate all kinds of groups for largely imagined grievances—LGBTQ, women, colored people, natives—in positions of leadership. Affirmative policy demeans and degrades the “receiver,” the exact opposite of what it claims to achieve.
The decay caused by incompetent people having reached higher ranks, who have quietened or pushed out the competent ones, and the need for virtue-signaling, political correctness, and cancel-culture that this entails is increasingly visible in the West. It is subverting the greatness of western civilization and rapidly eroding the institutions.
This is reflected in how East Asia and the West have handled covid-19.
Japan never imposed a lockdown. None, Nada, Zip.
Taiwan was so good in dealing with the virus—with a total of ten covid-19 related deaths—that it seems as if it bypassed it. It achieved this with minimal intrusion in the individual’s life and virtually no lockdown. South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong have been similar.
Ironically, the number of people who died in Japan in 2020 fell by 0.7%, the first decrease in eleven years, despite being among the world’s most aged nations.
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China stopped the spread very early on and, with a minimal loss of life. Some people claim that China might have understated its death rate, while others covid-19 isn’t a real pandemic with death rates hugely inflated in the West for its political purposes, including ousting Trump. Either way, the Chinese have been living normal lives and conducting rock concerts, including in Wuhan, for many months.
The early stories showed that China might have been heavy-handed in how it went about controlling the virus. It is hard to compare, but Canada, Belgium, Holland, etc., have been very heavy-handed and so far failed in giving their citizens their lives back. East Asia implemented contact tracing systems, something not easy to implement in the West because of data protection and privacy regulations. This perhaps has been a negative aspect of East Asia.
One must be mindful not to assess China as if it were a developed country. A few decades back, the “intellectuals” used to compare China with African countries. Now, they compare it with the USA. By changing their yardstick, they have continued to make China look bad.
Despite its many problems, China has continued to improve drastically over the last three decades. This improvement has not just been economic but also cultural and social. Anyone who ignores the unprecedented improvement this society has undertaken is living in ignorance.
Notwithstanding China’s likely culpability for spreading covid-19, anyone who thinks China will lose its place in the world hasn’t looked at from where most of his material products—cellphones, laptops, clothes, high-technology equipment, etc.—come.
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Those who think manufacturing can move from China to the Indian subcontinent or Africa haven’t considered why it never went there in the first place. Lacking the culture and hence institutions for growth, the “desert” of the Third World will stay barren.
The West’s media makes it look like East Asia is a conservative, close-minded, illiberal backwater. Ironically, most of the blame that East Asia gets is for retaining the cultural goodness that came from the West or was earlier understood as the cornerstone of western society.
While hard to believe for those who don’t visit East Asia, I have never come across a busy-body public servant there, not even in China. And it might be hard to believe, but for the ordinary guy, today, East Asia offers a lot more freedom of speech and safety than the West does.
The world’s tourism industry is in disarray. Airlines, hotels, shopping, conferencing, religious gatherings, and many other activities are suffering. A lot of companies are going bankrupt, and people are losing their jobs. But those culturally prepared and self-reliant, who do not need a constant need for a nanny-state, as is East Asia, will find it easier to readjust from the covid-19 situation. Indeed, China today has lower unemployment than it had before covid-19 arrived.
The West, for many decades, has been giving up on its core philosophy of individuality, self-reliance, honor, and liberty. A meaningful chunk of society has become dependent on government largesse—they face no moral opprobrium. This predicament has led to moral degeneracy and relativism. The same people who are forever reliant on the government are also feral. Western institutions have got hugely corrupted as affirmative policy underpinned by political correctness, cancel culture, and virtue-signaling has replaced meritocracy. The results are there to see how different nations have handled covid-19.