Book Review: The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World by Kishore Mahbubani

'The Great Convergence' by Kishore Mahbubani.
‘The Great Convergence’ by Kishore Mahbubani. Source: Asia Society.

Kishore Mahbubani is the Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at National University of Singapore, former Singapore diplomat, and former ambassador of Singapore to the United Nations (UN). This book is about the reemergence of Asia (China and India), threats to USA and the importance of multilateral organization such as United Nations.

Kishore Mahbubani served at the United Nations for many years and have seen the workings of United Nations and the various under-the-table actions of United States and other countries. It gives a good overview of what motivates the actions behind countries like United States and China which can benefit readers who want to know what is going on in the political scene.

In the first chapter, Kishore Mahbubani argues that the world is the best it has ever been, with fewest casualties in war and conflict since history, the most educated population, lots of people joining the middle class. The world, despite their diversity and differences, all believe the same thing, such as science, logical reasoning (business, strategic thinking in politics), free-market economics, social contract (the ruler gets their power from the people), and multilateralism. Multilateralism, means stronger rules-based multilateral institution such as United Nations.

For now, the sole superpower in the world is United States. This is the case for the last 200 years plus. But, China economy is growing fast and going to exceed USA in GDP terms soon. Following history, there always has been conflict between the greatest power in the world and the greatest emerging power in the world. In our case, is the conflict between the USA and China.

The last time this happens is between USA and Great Britain. The transfer of power from one Anglo-Saxon power (Great Britain) to another Anglo-Saxon power (USA) causes less conflict. This time however, the transfer of power is from a western power (USA) to eastern power (China). Conflict should be strong, however, war does not break out. This is because of the interdependence in area of economics between China and USA. It is not an interest for both sides to go for war.

Ex-USA president Bill Clinton had said:

If you believe that maintaining power and control and absolute freedom of movement and sovereignty is important to your country’s future, there’s nothing inconsistent in that [the US continuing to behaving unilaterally]. [The US is] the biggest, most powerful country in the world now. We’ve got the juice and we’re going to use it. . . . But if you believe that we should be trying to create a world with rules and partnerships and habits of behavior that we would like to live in when we’re no longer the military political economic superpower in the world, then you wouldn’t do that. It just depends on what you believe.

Kishore Mahbubani praised that Bill Clinton had the wisdom to see what is coming. So far, USA had been trying to weaken multilateral institutions such as UN because they don’t want UN to put handcuffs on USA on what it should do, they can act unilaterally. They chose UN leaders that would not criticize them or bring about changes. However, Bill Clinton said that, if China were to rise, and become Number One, it is not the national interest of USA to weaken UN, but to strengthen UN, because this will put handcuffs on China, and make it a fair playing field in the world. It is in the interest of USA to strengthen international rules because soon China will be more powerful and the rules that are weaken that benefits USA will soon benefit China.

Despite knowing that multilateralism is important, no politician in USA dares to put global interest above national interest as it is political suicide if any politician in USA were to tell the USA citizens that they will be number two in the world.

He also criticize that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank for being too european centric. The head of IMF can only be European and World Bank can only be American. This is not how a global organization should work. The IMF is used by USA for their own national interest even though it is a global organization.

Another organization is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC consists of 5 core members, UK, USA, France, Russia, and China, which is called the P5. The P5 comes and discuss global issues, and each member has the veto power, this means that even if one member veto an issue, the issue will not be passed, issues such as action to condemn genocide at certain countries. This gives UNSC a great power.

The decision-making of P5 is very secretive and not open to debate. Kishore Mahbubani suggests a 7-7-7 systems. 7 top members, 7 middle members, and 7 bottom members for great power, middle power, and lower power, so that the UNSC can be more balanced. If the P5 does not heed the recommendation, it may risks becoming less legitimate in the eyes of the world.

He praised the European Union as an organization that has peace among its members and zero prospect of war, this is a historical anomaly. He also says that asian countries had a similar organization called the ASEAN. In fact ASEAN had done more, because it unites many countries in South East Asia, which was called the Balkan of the Asia, with diversity, unlike EU which consists of mostly Christian countries.

The book also discusses geopolitics such as the America-China relationship, China-India relationship, Islam-West relationship. America-China relationships includes the economic ties between the two countries, China’s red lines (Taiwan South China Sea territory dispute, legitimacy of Communist Party of China, crisis of USA becoming number two, China joining WTO, etc). China-India relationships include shared interest in global warming, both shared rapid growth in economy, global access to natural resources, and secure sea lanes. Islam and the west includes the Israel-Palestine issue.

Using a boat metaphor, Kishore Mahbubani illustrates how the world had gone global. In the past, countries live in their own boats. Now, countries live in their own cabins in the same boat. The challenges the countries face now is global issues such as terrorism, health. Things happening in one part of the world can affect the other part of the world, such as the financial crisis in 2008.

Here are some podcasts where Kishore Mahbubani talks about China and the USA, Kishore Mahbubani by HARDtalk (March 25, 2013China and the United States by Experience ANU (21 June 2016).

UTMSPACE Fakulti Komputeran course outline and prerequisites for 2015

Sometimes it becomes tricky when you register for subjects because you don’t know the requirement of the subject, and no one tells you. Finally, after months of googling, I finally found the course outline and prerequisites of each subject.

One kind lecturer had posted the outline on the web (click FC Courses Sypnosis).

Book review: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

This is a book by Ashlee Vance, a famed tech writer. Initially I thought the writer is a female!

Elon likes to think from the first principle. The whole space rocket can be boiled down to the physics. Instead of improving the existing rockets, his company built everything from scratch, minimizing cost of each component, and increase efficiency by thinking about how to change fundamental things. One thing that is different also, is that, every component in the rockets or cars he built is built in house.

At one point after reading, I am sort of in sync with what he is talking about, the plan to have human live on Mars, the steps he envisioned to achieve that, after he tells you about the that, you can actually see how this can be done.

Elon is hard on people, people may have his vision like myself, but I doubt I want to work with him.

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. A review from 2016.

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature start screen.
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature start screen. Source: CoolROM.com

Around 2005, when I was still a teenager, I remember playing this game on my PlayStation 1 with my brother at my old house at Bandar Utama. We stayed in my parents room and we have the PS1 attached to the small square TV in the room.

I was excited and amazed that I can enter any name of my choice for my character and the game will type out my name during conversations with the characters, which blown my mind as a kid as this level of customization is very new to me.

The game is about a boy inheriting a farm from his grandfather, and his life there. You can plant vegetation, chop woods, stomp stone, buy a barn, rear sheep, chickens, cows, squeeze the cows for milk, sear the sheep for wool, and collect eggs. You can also marry in the game, there are few girls that you can court, and the level of intimacy with them is indicated by the heart color at the end of the conversation box with them.

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature gameplay.
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature gameplay. Source: Rambling Fox Reviews

There are blacksmith, hospital, church, fishing dock, gathering place, potpourri, sauna, lumberjack, and horse farm which you can visit and interact with the people inside. There are occasional events held at the common square.

This is one of the most memorable game of my growing up period. I bet my friends still have memories of this game too.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

I will share 5 truths from the book to you:

TRUTH 1
THE FEAR WILL NEVER GO AWAY
AS LONG AS I CONTINUE TO GROW.

TRUTH 2
THE ONLY WAY TO GET RID OF THE FEAR
OF DOING SOMETHING IS TO GO OUT AND DO IT.

TRUTH 3
THE ONLY WAY TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT MYSELF
IS TO GO OUT . . . AND DO IT.

TRUTH 4
NOT ONLY AM I GOING TO EXPERIENCE FEAR WHENEVER
I’M ON UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY, BUT SO IS EVERYONE ELSE.

TRUTH 5
PUSHING THROUGH FEAR IS LESS FRIGHTENING THAN
LIVING WITH THE UNDERLYING FEAR THAT COMES
FROM A FEELING OF HELPLESSNESS.

Truth 4 gives you comfort, because everyone else faced fear when they are doing unfamiliar things. What differentiates those that felt crippling fear and excitement is whether you approach it from position of helplessness or power. Fear faced by everyone is comforting because we are not alone in this (one of the element of self compassion is shared humanity).

Truth 5 resonates with me because I have been avoiding stuffs lately, and the sense of helplessness it caused me made me worse than if I face my fear directly.

What I am going to do after going out of psychiatric ward

  • Improve socially via practice – smile, laugh, make people comfortable
  • Make close friends.
  • Job.
  • Degree.
  • Make my life interesting.
  • Make AI for psychiatrist.
  • Spend 50% time outside.
  • Play
  • Travel
  • Girlfriend
  • Happy outlook – surround with normal people
  • Try to break the envelope – try a new tone, new experience
  • Stop avoiding
  • Do silly things
  • Independent
  • Be good at what you do – blog, program
  • Approach people
  • Join group
  • Enjoy your extrovert time so that you can enjoy your introvert time
  • Read books around people such as coffeeshop and act normal.
  • Talk, making mistakes are crucial to advancement.
  • Get a good role model, or interactions that you can learn from
  • Quiet and soft can be good
  • Good storytelling does not have to be loud
  • You don’t have to be good to everyone, just try your best to have a few that you can laugh at.

4 days stay at University Malaya Psychiatric Ward

Day 1 and Day 2

I came to University Malaya Medical Center emergency ward at 3am. I am distressed that I cannot socialize in group, loud, fun, spontaneous, felt left out during church fellowship. I waited in the Bilik Lili, a male nurse came and asks me why I’m here and the medicines I am taking. Then, the psychiatrist, Dr. Marini came and asks me why I’m here and then talk to my dad privately to tally my account. My dad says the psychiatrist says I have to be admitted to the ward because I may injure myself.

The nurse took my blood and put a blood plug on my hand and I am wheeled to the psychiatric ward. It was 4am. While I am at my bed, in front of me, there’s an uncle. The uncle is a chinese with muslim wife. I slept and woke up at 8am. They served me bread with red bean and butter. Later, they will ask me what I want to eat for lunch and dinner. I changed into the blue patient clothes and the pants are hard to tie.

My neighbours are the chinese alcoholic guy, an indian male about my age, Dinesh, which has Schizophrenia. He always walk around and stops. There are only about 12 patients and some nurses. We can only walk within the red lines at both ends of the ward. The visiting hours are 3pm to 7pm. I try to make friends. Some student doctors talk to me, asking me routine questions. There is a student doctor named Johnny which is friendly, he told me he is an extreme introvert but am flexible, he dislikes orientation also and labeled as asocial but he has his stand. He talks to me for about 2 hours. He spends 80% of the time alone but is “kiasu”, so spends Sunday taking case histories to increase his case history taking skills. He says that he could sit at the bed beside me because I am too normal.

There is also a Chinese student doctor which looks like Dr. Vincent who take histories from me. He looks like an introvert and rarely smiles. My parents brought shampoo, towels, biscuits, colgate, sandals, and some books for me. At night, someone took my blood pressure. There is a room behind which supposedly we can play carom, draw, and stuff.

The chinese muslim guy has alcoholic, which causes delirium, can see hallucination. Professor brought a bunch of students here to observe him.

There are some politics in the ward. Food sharing brough by relatives are pieces of power. Not to mention cigarette. Mental health is defined as the state where you functioning is not impaired. The nurses likes to chat, some laugh a lot. The patients spend time chatting also. The student doctor says I am quite sane.

The nurses here are friendly, learn to small talk like them. I bathe once a day but some people no bath, messy hair.

img_20160911_035736_hdr

Day 3

Slept not very well. Knew a friend known as Adidas. He talked to Redzuan (Chinese alcoholic guy). He works at hotel and wife works in this hospital. I borrowed my sweater to him because he was cold. He has bipolar.

A male Indian psychiatrist talks to me. Everyone is unique. Everyone has strengths. Not everyone can be outgoing. Don’t act outgoing, are you being outgoing or acting outgoing? What happens during childhood and now? Didn’t learn adult communication? Feel sad and hopeless most of the time. Don’t like my personality now. Why did I take Ritalin?

Two medical students came and see me. Fourth and third year. I talked about my past quitting or avoiding as coping mechanism. There is activity behind the ward. I like the activity and exercise. The exercise makes me happy.

Day 4

Another student doctor interviews me. I’m considered the most sane person here.

I find student doctor life interesting, they are good at learning at becoming a doctor. Maybe I can bring this spirit to the programmer world.

Redzuan says I treat the student doctors very well after I told him I have social problems and maybe will discharge today.

Psychiatrist visit again: bought a book

Dr. Vincent says that he read my blog post about my chat with pastor.

Dr. Vincent says I have to be myself, there are things that cannot be changed, but some can be improved. He says that for example, he sees that other doctors that are more charismatic, he cannot be that, being own self is enough. He says he likes to deep talk too.

He says that I have some Asperger traits such as emotional sensitivity, lack of emotional expression. Being  mistreated as an aspie is not my fault, sometimes its the society’s ignorance of mental conditions.

He says that I have more expression today. I think because I tried to be light and fun. I also have to focus on non verbal communication.

He showed me a book “My Battle With Depression” by local author Irene Tan and sold it to me for RM10.

"My Battle with Depression" by Irene Tan
“My Battle with Depression” by Irene Tan

Chat with pastor

Today I had a good chat with Pastor. I told him about psychiatrist saying I have asperger, pastor says its just a label, you still have to move on with life.

And he says that social don’t need so many rules. If you want to improve socially, you have to go to real social situation, not practicing in front of computer.

Also, he says that I spent way too much time in front of computer, need to spend more time social with real people, not online chat.

He says that the reason why my social skills are not very good is because maybe my dad and mom’s relationship are not that good or I spent too much time in front of computer.

I could also use some humour in conversation. I have low self confidence and no initiate topic. He also point out that I care too much of what other people think.

He also said that I don’t look like someone with autism (自闭症).

Since I am behind academically from my friends, I felt self doubt, but pastor says its not too late, he started preaching at age 30, now with 6 years experience.

At last, he said I can visit him once a week if I want to.

The things I am happy about this week

  • I talked more and deeply with parents. My mom used to felt ignored when she talks to me but I now respond to her. Also, I found both of my parents interesting.
  • I shared what music I like (Big Bang, Jay Chou), and my dad shared the old music that he liked.
  • My dad brought me to two very good banana leaf Indian restaurant. We went for movies, MATTA fair, cybercafe, random places.
  • I started to smile in front of my parents.
  • I verbalize my problems (such as overthinking) to my parents and they gave good advice such as stop thinking about it in a caring tone. I feel like I can depend on them for help.
  • I lists out all the friends I currently have, and I realised that I do have lots of friends. My friends liked my posts, I always thought they disliked me after meetups. They also offer to have future meetup with me.
  • I also know who I want to be, more light hearted, express more emotion, open to experience, spend time have fun with family and friends.
  • I also want to thank my doctor and therapist for various help they offer when I seek their help.
  • And I decide to go back to my old church tomorrow, its been 6 years, some may have forgotten me, some may be surprised to see me, some may be happy that I am back, I miss them.