The form that Asia’s soft-power story will take remains a work in progress: Asia’s intellectuals still need to forge that vision. In some circumstances, networks can usefully replace multilateral agreements. In many situations, a duties-based social understanding can perfectly substitute for a rights-based one. Reverence for learning and scholarship is not a Western monopoly. Gentle pluralism beats arrogant universalism. And that fetishism that for creativity one needs space to rebel, flies in the face of all manner of important disciplined scientific investigation. All these sit easily with and, indeed, are on ample offer in Asia.
- But certain other things need to be excluded right away from Asia’s narrative. When Trump and his circle display xenophobia, racism, anti-Islamic policies, nationalist populism, and an extreme zero-sum mentality, Asia needs to NOT say, “We see no problem with that.”
- When Trump undermines the free press and subverts America’s democratic institutions or America’s judiciary, Asia can NOT say, “We are okay with Trump and his people doing those things; we have the same problems here. “ Asia must NOT say, “Let’s focus on Trump’s business acumen and deal-making instincts” – for that too is what Asia knows best and likes most.
- These ideas have no place in Asia’s soft power narrative; Asia must categorically reject them.
- Otherwise, Asia has no story.