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Perhaps I’m at risk of repeating some earlier insights, but I came across the graph below at the link here. The graphic in the link has an interactive capacity not supported by wordpress.com, so I encourage you to visit the original graphic in the link.


There is a universe of possible interpretations there, including that my own country has a potentially misplaced sense of its own greatness, but to make the post coherent I will stick to just three insights in working my way from the centre out.

One is that the terms “best”, “better” and “worse” are vague. Given the near impossibility of meaningful measures on these criteria, to me the most intellectually honest position in responding would be to accept that on some measures my/any country is likely to be better than others while on other measures my/any country is likely to be worse, and seek out a middle position. Balancing this assessment with a patriotic inclination would likely lead you to the response “as good as most”. On this basis, Southeast Asian countries seem to rate themselves realistically, with the majority of those surveyed in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia all clustering the majority of their responses around this “average” self-assessment, with Singapore being a notable exception.

The second is that many Singaporeans are inclined to see themselves more favourably than most Southeast Asians, while a proportion of Vietnamese, Malaysians, Filipinos, Indonesians and Thais (in descending order) see themselves as inferior in comparison.

The third insight is to consider which Southeast Asian countries see themselves at the more extreme comparative edge. Clearly Thailand is the winner in expressing self-confidence here, with 25% of Thais surveyed holding that their country is the best in the world, while 4% and 3% of Vietnamese and Malaysians (respectively) consider their country as the worst in the world.

To me this belief of 25% of Thais is the most intriguing poll result. Could it be a surge in surge in emotional sentiment, given the poll was taken after the recent death of the Thai King? Or does it point to a deeper vein of nationalistic inclination and/or insecurity in Thailand? Of course without any access to or consideration of the underlying survey methodology, including the sample size and selection, the data and these interpretations could be meaningless, but we can only draw on what we have.

The second graph from that same link here is below (which I will call graph B), and to my mind is much less ambiguous in its interpretation.


When combined with the graph from my post here (sourced here and re-posted below) and which I will call graph C, the result is striking.

  • 1-Nx4r0bHObgsAnizHsIES_A

As graph B and graph C seen together reinforce, the countries at the top of graph B have done very well out of globalization, and the middle class in those countries (the kind of people who are asked in and respond to surveys) know it. In contrast the countries at the bottom of graph B have done very badly out of globalization, and they know it too. Both graph B and C make clear that it is the middle class from the countries at the top and bottom of graph B that have been the biggest winners and losers from globalization respectively.

And the (comparative) globalization losers? That would be the middle class of the countries at the bottom of graph B and the low income earners at the top of graph B.

And how did the middle class losers the West respond? Well, going from the bottom up, the French are poised to elect a Presidential candidate from the political far right, the US has already elected a potentially far right President and the UK has voted for what appears to be economic catastrophe on the basis of right wing nationalistic appeals. That the next western country up the list is Australia offers little comfort personally.

And how will the impoverished from Southeast Asia respond? Given the drift away from democratic ideals across the region, perhaps the Southeast Asian regional leadership is increasingly unwilling to offer the democratic opportunities to find out.

Note: The original post has been edited for clarity.