Modernization in many forms

Lee Kuan Yew, founder and longtime ruler of Singapore, passed away last week. His accomplishments in establishing Singapore as a modern economic power have been widely recognized and lauded, and he will be missed.

Mr. Lee's success in building a nation-state is instructive in many ways.  Recent commentary in the New York Times has focused on the relationship he had with China -- for while his government was an anti-communist bastion during the Cold War, it was also not a liberal-Western democracy, and the Chinese are interested in learning from his example.

“Singapore created a miracle of development that has astounded the world,” said a commentary issued on last week by Xinhua, China’s state news agency. “The impact and significance of this miracle lies in how Singapore forged a path that did not lead to Westernization, and instead took a path of Singaporean modernization through self-reliance drawing from the strengths of West and East.”

Taking a step back from global politics and looking at the larger question of modernization, Singapore's path demonstrates that while globalization and modernization are common driving forces worldwide, they are not uniform. There are multiple globalizations, multiple forms of modernization, and this has significant implications for corporations doing business on a multinational scale.

At Catalyst we have been interested in this topic for a number of years. We held a multidisciplinary conference a while back to examine what forms modernization was taking in Asia, and what this meant for economic and business models -- you can read our pre-conference and post-conference snapshots by following the links -- and our learning process continues.

-- Clara Shen

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