Mahbubani at the World Economic Forum
annual meeting, 2011
24 October 1948 |
|Alma mater||University of Singapore
|Known for||President of the U.N. Security Council
Former ambassador to the United Nations
(1984 – 1989, then 1998 – 2004)
Kishore Mahbubani (born 24 October 1948, Singapore) is a notable academic and former Singaporean diplomat. He is currently Professor in the Practice of Public Policy and Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.
From 1971 to 2004 he served in the Singaporean Foreign Services, becoming Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In that role he served as President of the United Nations Security Council in January 2001 and May 2002.
Early life and education
Mahbubani's parents fled to Singapore from Sindh, due to the partition of India, that left Sindh annexed entirely to the newly found state of Pakistan, leaving Sindhi Hindus stateless. His mother gave birth to him in Singapore, in the year of 1948. For the first twenty six years of his life, he lived with his parents and three sisters in a one bedroom house until his family moved to a flat in Marine Terrace. During his school life, Mahbubani often read after school in the Joo Chiat public library instead of hanging out with his friends. Educated at Tanjong Katong Secondary School and St Andrew's Junior College (then St. Andrew's School), Mahbubani was awarded the President's Scholarship in 1967 and graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Philosophy from the University of Singapore (now the National University of Singapore) in 1971. He received a Master's degree in Philosophy in 1976 and an Honorary Doctorate in 1995 from Dalhousie University in Canada.
After his graduation in 1971 he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, and his earlier postings included Cambodia (where he served during the war in 1973–74), Malaysia and Washington, DC. He was appointed the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Ministry from 1993 to 1998. Later, he became Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In that role he served as President of the United Nations Security Council in January 2001 and May 2002.
His academic career began when he was appointed as the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He is also a Professor in the Practice of Public Policy. In addition, he was a fellow at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University in 1991–92.
Mahbubani is best known outside Singapore for his books Can Asians Think? (published and translated in Singapore, Canada, US, Mexico, India, China Myanmar, Turkey and Malaysia), Beyond The Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust between America and the World (published and translated in the US and China), and The New Asian Hemisphere: the irresistible shift of global power to the East (published and translated in the US, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Egypt, China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Italy, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia). His articles have appeared in several leading journals and newspapers outside of Singapore, such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Washington Quarterly, Survival, American Interest, the National Interest, Time, Newsweek, the Financial Times and New York Times.
His latest book is entitled 'Can Singapore Survive?' launched on 16 March, 2015. In 'The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World (Public Affairs), he describes how the world has seen more positive change in the past 30 years than the past 300 years. By prescribing pragmatic solutions for improving the global order – including a 7-7-7 formula that may finally break the logjam in the UN Security Council – Mahbubani maps a road away from the geopolitical contours of the nineteenth century. The book was widely reviewed, including in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. The Great Convergence was selected as one of the Financial Times books of 2013 and longlisted for the 2014 Lionel Gelber Prize.
Mahbubani also writes regularly for Singapore's The Straits Times. In the lead up to Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence, he began a series on "big ideas" that he hoped would help Singapore succeed in the following half-century.
The New Hemisphere
As a former member of the United Nations security council, and the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew's Public Policy department, Mahbubani has been a keen observer of the changing tide in Asian and Western politics. The book "New Asian Hemisphere: the irresistible shift of global power" shows some of his main ideas and opinions about such observations. It is basically criticising the West and insisting that their practice of the value they are pressing on to the rest of the world such as democracy, the rule of law and social justice is corrupted in many ways. He states in his book that the system of global politics and international institutions such as the United Nations and IMF are created to benefit the West. He believes that these institutions should make rule for rising Asian powers and claims that though the West may be fearful of Asia's rise, it should accept them and co-operate. Furthermore he is largely supportive of China and their method of globalisation and implies that they are doing everything right to become an even more powerful nation.
Boards and honours
He continues to serve in Boards and Councils of several institutions in Singapore, Europe and North America, including the Yale President's Council on International Activities (PCIA), Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, Indian Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council, University of Bocconi International Advisory Committee, World Economic Forum – Global Agenda Council on China and Chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize Nominating Committee.
He was conferred the Public Administration Medal (Gold) by the Singapore Government in 1998. The Foreign Policy Association Medal was awarded to him in New York in June 2004 with the following opening words in the citation: “A gifted diplomat, a student of history and philosophy, a provocative writer and an intuitive thinker”. Prof Mahbubani was also listed as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines in September 2005, and included in the March 2009 Financial Times list of Top 50 individuals (including Barack Obama, Wen Jiabao and Nicolas Sarkozy) who would shape the debate on the future of capitalism. Mahbubani was selected as one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2010 and 2011  and one of Prospect's top 50 world thinkers in 2014.
When Mahbubani first met his wife, Anne, she was part of the U.S commodities Future Trading Commission and he was serving as the deputy chief of the Singaporean mission in Washington. The couple married and they now have two sons and one daughter. Their oldest son, Richard Mahbubani graduated from Carnegie Mellon and their daughter Shelagh and son Jay both graduated from Yale.
Mahbubani said in an interview that he enjoys jogging as a way of relaxing and easing his mind. He also has a habit of writing while listening to the music of Mohammed Rafi which his mother often put on the radio when he was a child.
- Can Asians Think? Understanding the Divide Between East and West., Steerforth, 2001, ISBN 978-1-58642-033-8; Times Editions; 3rd edition, 2004, ISBN 978-981-232-789-5
- Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust Between America and the World, Perseus Books Group, 2005, ISBN 978-1-58648-268-8
- The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East, PublicAffairs, 2008, ISBN 978-1-58648-466-8
- The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World, PublicAffairs, 2013, ISBN 978-1610390330
- "Kishore Mahbubani – Singapore's former Ambassador to the United Nations". theglobalist.com. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- "Kishore Mahbubani, Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy, MA, Dalhousie University". spp.nus.edu.sg. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- Jonas Patrick "Kashore Mabhubani, Mr. International", Asiaone
- "How (and why) should United States should help to build ASEAN economic community" (PDF). theglobalist.com. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- "How America Can Cope with the Rise of Asia". UCLA. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- "East-West Dialogue, How (and Why) the United States Should Help to Build the ASEAN Economic Community". Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- "Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2013.". The Wall Street Journal.
- Mann, James (22 February 2013). "Washington Post, February 22, 2013.". The Washington Post.
- "Straits Times, 13 June 2014.". Kishore Mahbubani's Big Ideas.
- Top 100 Global thinkers
- Kishore Mahbubani's Official Website – (English)
- Kishore Mahbubani's Official Website – (simplified Chinese)
- Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
- Podcast of Kishore Mahbubani discussing “the Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East” at the Shanghai International Literary Festival
- Transcript of interview on VPRO's Tegenlicht (Dutch Television)