Right on Prof Mahbubani!

Old friends of  mine will know that I don’t belong to Prof Kishore Mahbubani’s fan club. But that’s changed.

I am now a member, after receiving several emails from (possibly) fans of his who have extracted comments he made last month regarding recent Nobel Peace Prize winners right on the eve of the latest winner being announced.

Below is one version of that email making its rounds into many email boxes.

On the eve of the award of the Nobel Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Kishore Mahbubani, a former Singaporean career diplomat and now dean of public practice at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, spoke at a shipping conference in Singapore. He had this to say about the Nobel Committee’s picks for the Peace prize:

“We all respect the Nobel Peace Prize. Most winners deserve the prizes they get. Nobel Prizes by and large reflect the western world view. The winners in Asia are never leaders who brought great change. The man that did more good than anyone was Deng Xiaoping. When he came to power, 800 million people were living on less than one dollar a day. Thirty years later, after the results of his reforms, 200 million lived on less than one dollar a day. Six hundred million people were lifted out of poverty. 
Will he ever get a Nobel Peace Prize? Never. Because of the western world view that the prize must be given to dissidents in Asia . Aung San Suu Kyii (Although she deserves it) The former leader of Korea . What has Obama brought? Where is the peace in Iraq ? In Afghanistan ? How can you give him a Nobel Peace Prize? He is a wonderful guy but he has achieved nothing. Deng Xiaoping saved 600 million people and he will never get a Nobel Peace Prize. That ‘ s why it is important to step outside the western world view.”

Spot on, Prof Mahbubani! My sentiments in toto, as stated here in an earlier post on Oct 8.

I’m now your fan.

And I’m glad on checking the Internet, that your view of the Nobel Peace prize isn’t because China is now the flavour of the decade!

Let me quote the article that you wrote in October 2008 for the Project Syndicate website entitled “Nobel Injustice”.

Martti Ahtisaari is a great man. He deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his life work. But it was a mistake for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to cite his work in Aceh as a reason for giving him the prize.

As a recent story by Agence France Presse put it, Ahtisaari’s “most notable achievement was overseeing the 2005 reconciliation of the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement rebels, bringing an end to a three-decade-old conflict that killed some 15,000 people.” But it was Indonesia’s people and leaders who should have received the Nobel Peace Prize for the Aceh political miracle.

More fundamentally, the mentioning of Aceh in this Nobel citation raises serious questions about the mental maps used by the Nobel Prize Committee in making these awards. The committee members increasingly seem to be prisoners of the past. They continue to assume that we live in an era of Western domination of world history.

But that era is over. Increasingly, the rest of the world has gone from being objects of world history to becoming its subjects. By giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the Indonesians instead of a European mediator for Aceh, the Nobel Prize Committee would have recognized that the world has changed.

Three other big benefits would also have resulted from giving the award to an Indonesian. First, the West associates the Islamic world with violence and instability. Few believe that Muslims are capable of solving their political problems by themselves.

But this is precisely what the Aceh story was all about. Two key Indonesian leaders, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, showed remarkable political skill and courage in working out the peace deal for Aceh. A Nobel Peace Prize for them would have shown the West that Muslims can be good peacemakers and, equally important, it would have sent a message of hope to the Islamic populations of the world that have seen their self-esteem eroded by stories of failure.

Aceh was essentially a spectacular Muslim success story. Hence, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has squandered a valuable opportunity to send out a message of hope to the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims, one that would have rid the world of the grand global illusion that peacemaking is a “white man’s burden.”


And let me say what Prof Mahbubani might have been too diplomatic to write or say. And that is, who knows but the Nobel Peace Prize Committee are the pawns and running dogs of the western world view? Ngek, ngek, ngek… ^—————-^

And finally, a last word from the Prof. After his candid comment on the eve of the Nobel Peace Prize Award, he elaborated on that remark when he was interviewed by Winston Lord, the man who accompanied Nixon to China a life time ago. 

Now, coming back to the Chinese Nobel Prize winner, now, you know, unfortunately, I made a mistake of speaking at a Norwegian shipping conference — this is a fact — on the day before the Nobel Prize was announced. And before the Nobel Prize was announced, somebody stood up and asked the question, you know, hey, I understand a Chinese dissident, they got Nobel Prize. And I said, oh, I don’t know about that, but, you know, in general — a general response. I said, but frankly, I think Nobel prizes should also be given to leaders like Deng Xiaoping, who made a huge difference, because the largest poverty-reduction program in the world was carried out by Deng Xiaoping. He lifted up 600 million people out of poverty…. the other thing I said mischievously, also, I said, is that you give the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, who’s a wonderful human being, but what peace has he achieved? Okay?

So now going back to the Chinese dissident now, I do not know this Chinese dissident myself. In fact, I never heard of him, to be honest with you, until after the Nobel Peace Prize was announced. But I’m going to say something, which is — I’ve got to choose my words very, very carefully. But I want you to understand this, okay? You know, Max Weber once said it is not true that only good comes out of good intentions, and evil comes out of evil intentions.

The intention in giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo was a good intention, but the results may be negative. And let me explain why. Apparently — I don’t know enough about the domestic politics in China, but apparently there were some reformers in China who are trying to push China towards greater political reform. The reformers are being by resisted by people — what you might call “hard-liners” or whatever it is. And sometimes Western terms don’t capture the nuances.

The reformers thought they were making progress. Pop! The Nobel Peace Prize comes in. The hard-liners said, “See, I told you. The West is out to undermine political stability in China.” And they push back on reformers. So the intention was good, I agree. But the effect can be negative. And that’s why I actually believe that if you want to transform China, it can be transformed, but it has to be done by the Chinese.


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