Tun Dr Mahathir: Look East Policy

Tun Dr Mahathir: Look East Policy

The Seminar On 20th Anniversary Of The Look East
Tokyo, Japan 12 December 2002

"Look East Policy - The Challenges for Japan in a Globalised World"

I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak at this 20th Anniversary of the Look East Policy. I have chosen to speak on "Look East Policy- The Challenges for Japan in a Globalised World."

2.    The people of East-Asia had been Looking East long before Malaysia adopted the Look East Policy. When Japan started modernising during the Meiji Restoration, East Asians who were then faced with aggressive European and American free traders to open their countries for trade, looked at Japan's handling of this problem.

3.    The assumption by China that its culture was superior and the foreigners were barbarians could not be sustained in the face of Western successes inforcing open the country. Elsewhere in the East the Europeans simply occupied the countries in order to gain access to their products. By the middle of the 19th century only Thailand and Japan remained free. China had many ports converted as European trading stations.

4.    Japan was able to ward off European and American hegemony by adopting the administrative systems and the commercialisation of the economy. Large numbers of Japanese were sent to Europe in order to acquire industrial technology. Very quickly Japan became as much an industrial and commercial power as the Europeans. Any idea that the Europeans had of colonising or dominating Japan was shattered when in 1905 a modern Japanese Navy defeated the Russians decisively. From then on Japan was looked up to by East Asians.

5.    Attempts were made by East Asians to emulate Japan's modernisation. Siam, now Thailand being independent followed in Japan's footsteps. Looking East is therefore not a new thing. The people of East Asia had been Looking East at Japan even when they looked up to the West. Japan's success in modernising gave them hope. They believed they could become as good as Japan.

6.    The success of the Japanese Army in the early days of the Pacific war finally broke the spell cast by the Europeans regarding their invincibility. East Asians were able to see that their European overlords could be defeated. Their yearning for independence gained strength.
7.    True, Japan was eventually defeated by superior Western arms, including the atom bomb. But the post-war years saw yet another demonstration of Japan's capability. From almost total destruction, Japan rose to become the second most powerful economy in the world.

8.    East Asians cannot help but look more and more eastward, at Japan, as a model for their countries. Malaysia is perhaps less bashful and announced loudly that it intended to look East, to look at Japan mainly for inspiration and guidance.

9.    Malaysia identified what we believed to be the factors which contributed towards Japan's success. They are the patriotism, discipline, good work ethics, competent management system and above all the close cooperation between the Government and the private sector. And so we tried to adopt these practices and instill these cultures in our people. And everyone now acknowledges that Malaysia has made better progress than most other developing countries. The fastest pace of Malaysia's progress and development took place in the last two decades coinciding with Malaysia's Look East policy.


This article is incomplete. To read the full transcription, click here.

More articles related to the Look East Policy:
1) 19820324 Going East to Learn the Skills
2) 19830508 Dinner with Japan PM


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