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    Professor Kishore Mahbubani: The challenges that youth face in the 21st century


    28 Apr, 2023

    17 : 32

    Yew Chung Yew Wah Education Network hosted "Meet Professor Kishore Mahbubani: A Dialogue with Young Students in Hong Kong" on 26 April at the Yew Chung International School of Hong Kong.


    During his presentation, Professor Mahbubani explained the pressing global issues and challenges that young students will inevitably face during the next two decades, including geopolitics, global governance, and good governance. As the starting point to underscore his discussion of geopolitics, Professor Mahbubani specifically examined the relationship between China and the United States. He offered a thorough analysis of how the dynamics and interactions between these major powers could impact the direction of the global situation, ultimately affecting the lives of all individuals.


    Drawing upon his extensive diplomatic experience and astute observations, Professor Mahbubani emphasised that the world has undergone a fundamental transformation: “The world has shrunk dramatically as a result of the forces of globalisation, and effectively the 8 billion people on earth no longer live in 193 separate boats. They live in 193 separate cabins on the same boat.”


    Despite this major structural change, Professor Mahbubani said that the mentality of global governance is still stuck in silos. When citing the example of the fight against climate change, a major challenge young students will face when they grow up, he noted that, "Countries are still focused on their own cabin, and not on saving the boat."


    During his discussion about good governance, Professor Mahbubani used recent major international events as examples, expressing disappointment that, “Even in the most advanced and most developed society, you have a shortage of good governace.” Reflecting on his own background, he shared his journey from growing up in a poor Indian family in Singapore to becoming a global diplomat. He emphasised that, “The most just society is one that takes care of the bottom 10 percent and raises their standard of living.”


    An engaging and interactive exchange between Professor Mahbubani and the audience followed right after the presentation. Yew Chung and Yew Wah students raised thought-provoking questions that showcased their international perspectives and opinions on current global affairs. Topics ranged from how great nations can shift from competition to cooperation, to the pressing issues facing international organisations.


    When asked about the essential attributes that make a successful diplomat. Professor Mahbubani succinctly referred to the "Five Cs”: Compassion, Cunning, Mastery of Complexity, Collector of Talents, and Courage. While the first “C” is widely acknowledged as essential, Professor Mahbubani noted that the second “C” contentious. “Politics is a very dangerous and slippery game and it's the most difficult profession in the world. So if you're not cunning, you won't succeed,” he remarked.


    Professor Mahbubani explained: "Today's world is getting more and more complicated. For example, if I want to lead the world in the fight against climate change, I try to follow the scientific dimensions of climate change—very difficult, very complicated. But you got to be a master of complexity.”  He noted: “. . . You got to be a collector of talent. You must know no leader succeeds on his or her own. You must have a great team to work with you.”


    He also shared his personal experience of challenges during his time at the United Nations and emphasised the importance of being prepared for setbacks.