Are there Asian Values asks Asia Media Summit?

Friday 11 May, 2018
Krishnamurthy Ramsubramanian


In an Asia Media Summit session examining if there is a set of common Asian Values, host Steve Ahern told a story about a refugee who recently arrived in Australia and saw that a schoolboy had missed his bus, so he gave him a lift to school.

“The man’s father was very angry when he heard about this because he feared the man may be planning to kidnap the boy, so he went to see him to tell him to stay away.

“As they talked the father explained that in Australian society there are many dangers and parents need to protect their children. But he also learnt from the man that in his society, his values meant that the whole village has a responsibility to protect children and that back home he would never want to leave a child waiting alone at a bus stop.

“As the two talked more they came to understand each other’s values.

The session explored understanding each other’s values, learning from each other and sharing information about how those values affect the media in Asian countries. It also pondered, is there a common set of Asian values?

“In my country Australia there is a healthy disrespect for politicians. We like to remind them often that they work for the people, not the other way around. This attitude is reflected in our media. But this may not be an acceptable value in other countries. That doesn’t mean our values are better or worse than anyone else, they’re just different,” said Ahern

A range of knowledgeable speakers explored these differences and by the end of the session the following list was compiled to summarise some of the common Asian values:

  • Family
  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Collectivism
  • Nationalism
  • Rule of Virtue
  • Controlling Ego
  • National Language
  • Harmony without Uniformity

In the discussion the speakers pointed out that, due to expansion of media and access to international content through new media platforms, the values of individual countries are converging. While this may be a good thing to help countries understand each other, it can also be a negative factor for individual countries, because it can lead to a loss of traditional social structures and homogenisation of culture.

Do Asian values differ from those of the West? This was not the main focus of the session, but the question did emerge in several presentations. While there were many commonalities, two key areas were identified as being different between Asia and the West:

  • Western Countries often value individualism, while Asians value collectivism.
  • Western values give priority to the rule of law, while Asians value the rule of virtue, meaning that it may not necessarily be about what is legal, but what is the virtuous thing to do.

The interesting discussion was concluded with the thought that those in the media should use the power of media to build understanding of individual and shared values that will help bring peace and harmony in the modern world.

Speakers in the session were:

  • Krishnamurthy Ramsubramanian, Professor, India Institute of Technology, Mumbai
  • Letchumenan Shanmugam, Undersecretary, Ministry of Communications, Malaysia
  • Sachchidanand Joshi, Member Secretary, Indira Ghandi National Centre for the Arts
  • Vikram Channa, Vice President, Production and Development, Discovery Channel
  • Yang Fuqing, Deputy Director, China Global Television Network
  • Chung Hyunsook, Executive Producer, EBS Korea
  • Sangeeta Goel, Additional Director General, Doordashan India


Country India
28° 42' 14.6124" N, 77° 6' 8.964" E
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13 May 2018 - 12:37am
I am enjoying reading your stories from Asia Media Summit, it's really insightful stuff.

I liked the observation about the west being a little wary of politicians and respecting the rule of law rather than virtue as opposed to Asia.

At least in India, while people are generally aware that politicians are not the cleanest people around and are normally considered corrupt - people mostly avoid questioning them publicly due to fear of persecution by those in power.

Also, people here value virtues they have projected on to an individual and created an image of him or her they like to worship. So actually the value they put on individualism (at least here in India) is enormous. People here need heroes, they need a Sachin Tendulkar or a big movie star or a big mouthed politician they can live their dream through. Perhaps it is safe to say that the society here collectively values individualism!
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