Pacific Asia after 'Asian values' : Authoritarianism, democracy, and 'good governance'

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1079-1095
Journal / PublicationThird World Quarterly
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


The 1997 Asian economic crisis discredited the international discussion about 'Asian values' in Pacific Asia, replacing it with a globalised 'good governance' discourse. The financial breakdown undermined claims by Asian autocrats that government should be based on authoritarian 'Asian values', not 'Western democracy'. Yet, seven years later, authoritarian regimes in the region are flourishing while the new democracies flounder. Why have dictatorships, not democracies, prospered politically since the Asian financial crisis? Pacific Asia began as an 'imagined community' of developmental dictatorships, making authoritarian development the 'original position' against which democratic governance is judged. While the demise of 'Asian values' contributed to the fall of the Suharto regime in Indonesia, it did less harm to authoritarian regimes in more economically developed Malaysia and Singapore. The US-led anti-terror coalition provided several authoritarian rulers in Pacific Asia with welcome support from the West, while allowing them to weaken internal opposition. The new democracies, by contrast, faced international pressures to combat terrorism, often arousing local protest. Finally, middle class-based reformist movements have risked destabilising the region's new democracies in the name of good governance.