Mahbubani, Kishore 1948–
Mahbubani, Kishore 1948–
PERSONAL: Born October 24, 1948, in Singapore; son of Mohandas and Janki (Devki) Mahbubani; Married Anne King Markey, March 30, 1985; children: three. Education: University of Singapore, B.A. (honors), 1971; Dalhousie University, M.A., 1976. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, reading.
CAREER: Civil servant, ambassador, and writer. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, administrator, 1971–73; Singapore Embassy, Phnom Penh, Kampuchea, charge d'affaires, 1973–74; Singapore High Commission, Kuala Lumpur, counselor, 1976–79; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, deputy director, 1980–82; Singapore Embassy, Washington, DC, deputy chief of mission, 1982–84; Singapore Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York, NY, permanent representative, 1984–89, deputy secretary, 1998–2004; Singapore Foreign Ministry, permanent secretary, 1993–98; United Nations Security Council, president, 2001–02; Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, dean 2004–. Fellow at Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 1991–92. Served in advisory capacities to numerous organizations, including International Peace Academy, Institute of International Education, United Nations Association of the United States of America, Young Presidents' Organization, Global Strategy Group, and International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis University.
AWARDS, HONORS: President's Scholarship, 1967; honorary doctorate, Dalhousie University, 1995; Public Administration Medal (Gold), Singapore Government, 1998; Foreign Policy Association Medal, 2004.
Can Asians Think?, Times Books International (Singapore), 1996, published as Can Asians Think?; Understanding the Divide between East and West, Steerforth Press (South Royalton, VT), 2002.
Beyond the Age of Innocence: A Worldly View of America, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2005.
Has written numerous articles for professional journals, including Foreign Affairs, National Interest, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
SIDELIGHTS: A long-time Singapore diplomat who spent many years working throughout the world, including the United States, Kishore Mahbubani is the author of the controversial book, Can Asians Think?; Understanding the Divide between East and West. In this collection of essays, the author explores the history of Asian societies over the past few centuries in the context of a future world dominated by Asian economies. Central to Mahbubani's thesis is the question of how well Asian societies can integrate themselves into the modern world while maintaining their historical roots and traditions. In an interview for Salon.com the author explained to Suzy Hansen: "In the year 1000 the most successful, the most flourishing and the most dynamic societies in the world were Asian. Europe was still struggling out of the Middle Ages and North America hadn't been discovered. One thousand years later you get the exact reverse of that: the most dynamic and flourishing societies are in North America, Europe is one tier below and Asia is far behind. And my question is why? How did societies that were once at the leading edge of global civilization lose an entire millennium?"
The first edition of Can Asians Think? was written and published in 1996, while Asia was experiencing a new era of economic success. In his essays, Mahbubani argues that this success will ultimately lead Asian countries such as Japan and China to become the world's economic leaders while Western nations will experience a steady decline in influence and power. Mahbubani also discusses his belief that this decline will be due largely to Western arrogance and hubris reflected by an insistence that capitalism and democracy are the only ways to conduct a successful society and establish an economically advanced nation. In a review in Time, Joshua Cooper Ramo commented that "Mahbubani writes with a diplomat's charm, gleefully untangling political knots into simple threads." Lucian W. Pye, writing in Foreign Affairs, called the author "an exceptionally lively and provocative polemicist."
In Beyond the Age of Innocence: A Worldly View of America the author analyzes what he sees as a weakening of prestige and power in America's global influence largely due to how other countries view the United States. According to the author, these negative views are based on far more than any single U.S. presidential administration. While the United States has done more than any other country to help the world, it has also failed in many areas, causing harm through unfulfilled promises and mixed messages. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book a "lucid analysis of America's diminishing prestige," and Brendan Driscoll, writing in Booklist, noted that the author's "obligatory discussion of the U.S. and Islam is eclipsed by his astute analysis of Chinese-American relations." In a review in Newsweek International, Max Boot noted that Mahbubani is only one of a recent spate of authors "castigating American policymakers," but added that the author "delivers one of the more gentle indictments, with a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2005, Brendan Driscoll, review of Beyond the Age of Innocence: A Worldly View of America, p. 1119.
Foreign Affairs, May, 1999, Lucian W. Pye, review of Can Asians Think?, p. 150.
Fortune, November 26, 2001, "Kishore Mahbubani: U.N. Ambassador, Singapore" (interview), p. 106.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Beyond the Age of Innocence, p. 104.
Newsweek International, April 11, 2005, Max Boot, review of Beyond the Age of Innocence, p. 97.
Publishers Weekly, January 24, 2005, review of Beyond the Age of Innocence, p. 231.
Time, July 12, 1999, Joshua Cooper Ramo, review of Can Asians Think?, p. 40.
Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/ (January 24, 2004), edited transcript of remarks given by author at "Books for Breakfast" meeting.
Global Policy Forum Online, http://www.globalpolicy.org/ (July 12, 2005), profile of author.
Kishore Mahbubani Home Page, http://www.mahbubani.net (July 12, 2005).
National University of Singapore Web site, http://usp1.scholars.nus.edu.sg/ (July 12, 2005), faculty profile of author.
Salon.com, http://salon.com/ (March 25, 2002), Suzy Hansen, "'Can Asians Think?'