Do “Asian Value” and “Orientalism” Exist?

For the nature of Asia itself, Asia is the largest continent by landmass and covers 8. 6% of the Earth’s surface and hosts 60% of the world’s current human population. With so much diversity, is it possible to for Asians to share quintessential values which only exist in the area of Asia? In some extent, the answer is yes as Asians, like people of any other region (i. e. Latin Americans), hold their own cultural norms, rituals, and traditions inherited from their histories.

However, the temptation to see Asia as a single unit reveals a distinctly Eurocentric perspective. Indeed, the term “the Orient,” which was widely used for a long time to mean essentially what Asia means today, referred to the positional vision of Europe. The attempts at generalization about “Asian values” (with forceful and often brutal implications for masses of people in this region with diverse faiths, convictions, and commitments) cannot but be extremely crude. Further complicating the notion of Asian values is the definition of what it means to be “Asian. In a country like Malaysia where there are about 60% ethnic Malay and other indigenous peoples 59%, 30% ethnic Chinese, and 10% ethnic Indian. Do all of these people, from vastly different religious (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Islam), ethnic, and financial backgrounds, share the same set of Asian values? The ethnic Chinese population of Malaysia Chinese are dominant in both the Malaysian business and commerce sectors, controlling an estimated 40% of the Malaysian economy.

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They are also one of the biggest taxpayers contributing to almost 90% of the nation’s income tax. Is the ethnic Chinese “more Asian” than the Malay because they are “better” at economic development and are concerned with socio-economic well-being instead of civil liberties and human rights? The Europeans used orientalism to define themselves. As Said writes, “the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality and experience. ”(pg. -2) The Europeans defined themselves as the superior race compared to the Orientals and they justified their colonization by this concept. However, “It [the Orient] is not merely there, just as the Occident is not just there either” (pg. 4) The Europeans divided the world into two parts; the east and the west or the occident and the orient or the civilized and the uncivilized. This was totally an artificial boundary. Prejudice and discrimination may be formed once the boundary is made. Orientalists need to be very careful not to have any bias.

The problem occurs when orientalists started to generalize the attributes they associated with Orientals, and started portraying these artificial characteristics associated with Orientals in their western world through their scientific reports, literary work, and media sources. These creates certain image of Orientals in the European mind and some of the generalized attributes associated with the Orientals can still be seen even today, for example, the Arabs are defined as uncivilized people who are cruel and violent and Islam is seen as religion of the terrorist.

Nowadays, with globalization and rise of awareness, people have more chance to understand about Asia more deeply. Especially with the rise of China and India’s vast economic growth, the world cannot ignore the power they have. For New Zealanders, China is already the second largest trading partner after Australia. There is a good research from AsiaNZ on these demographic projections out to 2026, which would see our Asian population rise to nearly 900,000 and surpass Maori population. What values will these people bring to New Zealand? Are we ready for that?

For the nature of Asia itself, Asia is the largest continent by landmass and covers 8. 6% of the Earth’s surface and hosts 60% of the world’s current human population. With so much diversity, is it possible to for Asians to share quintessential values which only exist in the area of Asia? In some extent, the answer is yes as Asians, like people of any other region (i. e. Latin Americans), hold their own cultural norms, rituals, and traditions inherited from their histories.

However, the temptation to see Asia as a single unit reveals a distinctly Eurocentric perspective. Indeed, the term “the Orient,” which was widely used for a long time to mean essentially what Asia means today, referred to the positional vision of Europe. The attempts at generalization about “Asian values” (with forceful and often brutal implications for masses of people in this region with diverse faiths, convictions, and commitments) cannot but be extremely crude. Further complicating the notion of Asian values is the definition of what it means to be “Asian. In a country like Malaysia where there are about 60% ethnic Malay and other indigenous peoples 59%, 30% ethnic Chinese, and 10% ethnic Indian. Do all of these people, from vastly different religious (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Islam), ethnic, and financial backgrounds, share the same set of Asian values? The ethnic Chinese population of Malaysia Chinese are dominant in both the Malaysian business and commerce sectors, controlling an estimated 40% of the Malaysian economy.

They are also one of the biggest taxpayers contributing to almost 90% of the nation’s income tax. Is the ethnic Chinese “more Asian” than the Malay because they are “better” at economic development and are concerned with socio-economic well-being instead of civil liberties and human rights? The Europeans used orientalism to define themselves. As Said writes, “the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality and experience. ”(pg. -2) The Europeans defined themselves as the superior race compared to the Orientals and they justified their colonization by this concept. However, “It [the Orient] is not merely there, just as the Occident is not just there either” (pg. 4) The Europeans divided the world into two parts; the east and the west or the occident and the orient or the civilized and the uncivilized. This was totally an artificial boundary. Prejudice and discrimination may be formed once the boundary is made. Orientalists need to be very careful not to have any bias.

The problem occurs when orientalists started to generalize the attributes they associated with Orientals, and started portraying these artificial characteristics associated with Orientals in their western world through their scientific reports, literary work, and media sources. These creates certain image of Orientals in the European mind and some of the generalized attributes associated with the Orientals can still be seen even today, for example, the Arabs are defined as uncivilized people who are cruel and violent and Islam is seen as religion of the terrorist.

Nowadays, with globalization and rise of awareness, people have more chance to understand about Asia more deeply. Especially with the rise of China and India’s vast economic growth, the world cannot ignore the power they have. For New Zealanders, China is already the second largest trading partner after Australia. There is a good research from AsiaNZ on these demographic projections out to 2026, which would see our Asian population rise to nearly 900,000 and surpass Maori population. What values will these people bring to New Zealand? Are we ready for that?

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Do “Asian Value” and “Orientalism” Exist?. (2016, Dec 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/do-asian-value-and-orientalism-exist/