What's Schadenfreude in Chinese?
Disarray in the West generates mixed reactions in Asia
Aug 20th 2011 | from the print edition
TO ERR is human. To gloat, divinely satisfying. The sequence of bad news from America and Europe has provoked its share of triumphalist commentary in Asia. What the subtitle to a book by Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean former diplomat, called “The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East” seems to be happening faster than anyone expected. Many Asians, naturally, are inclined to cheer. But many find the shift rather terrifying.
No sooner was America’s credit rating downgraded than China, its biggest creditor, (admittedly by a coincidence of timing) sent its first aircraft-carrier out to sea. For those living in emerging Asia, the memory of the devastating regional financial meltdown of 1997-98 is still fresh, and now they see smug Europeans struck down by their own debt crisis. And although many countries in Asia suffer political instability, none has been reduced in recent months to the sort of anarchy that for a few nights this month afflicted staid old Britain.
These sundry calamities in the West have provided Asian commentators with an unmissable chance to unveil Western hypocrisy. Many Asian leaders have vivid memories of the lectures they endured in 1997-98 over their thriftless, incompetent economic management, and of the harsh medicine they were forced to swallow in return for IMF assistance. So some must enjoy the reversal of roles: emerging Asia as the model of steady, consistent economic policy and sustained growth; America, Europe and Japan mired in debt and slow growth or even recession. Mr Mahbubani, now dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, says “every piece of advice that the Asians received has been ignored” in the West.
西方的种种灾难对于亚洲的评论员揭露西方社会的伪善是个不可多得的好机会。很多亚洲领袖们对97-98年那场风暴记忆犹新：他们那种奢侈而低效率的经济管理，以及为了获得IMF（国际货币基金组织）援助他们不得不苦苦吞下的劣质药物。因此有些领袖一定很享受如今这种角色的对调：亚洲是经济持续平稳发展的楷模，而欧美及日本债务缠身，发展缓慢甚至有倒退的迹象。新加坡的李光耀公共政策学院（Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy）的副院长Mahbubani先生说在西方，“亚洲得到的建议一概被置之不理”。