The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a miracle. Why? In an era of growing cultural pessimism, many thoughtful individuals believe that different civilizations – especially Islam and the West – cannot live together in peace. The ten countries of ASEAN provide a thriving counter-example of civilizational coexistence. Here 625m people live together in peace. This miracle was delivered by ASEAN.
In an era of growing economic pessimism, where many young people believe that their lives will get worse in coming decades, Southeast Asia bubbles with optimism. In an era where many thinkers predict rising geopolitical competition and tension, ASEAN regularly brings together all the world’s great powers.
Stories of peace are told less frequently than stories of conflict and war. ASEAN’s imperfections make better headlines than its achievements. But in the hands of Kishore Mahbubani and Jeffery Sng, the good news story is also a provocation and a challenge to the rest of the world.
Kishore Mahbubani is Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, and author of The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East.
Jeffery Sng is a writer and former diplomat based in Bangkok, and co-author of A History of the Thai-Chinese.