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GP Comprehension Paper – Politics & Asian Thinking

General Paper Comprehension Sample Question Paper & Answers (Paper 2)

GP Comprehension Question Paper – Politics & Asian Thinking


(Note that 15 marks out of 50 will be awarded for your language, namely, for the quality and accuracy of your use of English throughout this paper)

Note: When a question asks for an answer IN YOUR OWN WORDS AS FAR AS POSSIBLE (IYOWAFAP) and you select the appropriate material from the passage for your answer, you still must use your own words to express it. Little credit (out of the remaining 15 marks) can be given to answers, which only copy words or phrases from the passage.


1. What does the word ‘dizzying’ imply about Asia’s rise? (1)

It implies that Asia has reached great heights in its speedy development.


2. Why do you think the author puts “Asian values” (line 12) in inverted commas? UYOWAFAP. (2m)

He is skeptical / cynical / doubtful / does not agree…

-about whether there is such a coherent set of beliefs /characteristic of Asia;
he thinks that these values are just an excuse for governments to continue being authoritarian;
OR about the validity / credibility of such beliefs

some kind of distinctive philosophy about whether there is such a coherent set of self-serving attempt to justify


3. Why is questioning the established order usually “frowned upon” (line 19) in Asia UYOWAFAP. (3m)

Respect for submission to / compliance with the establishment is ingrained / inherent in their nature.

There is unwillingness to embarrass / shame / humiliate others.

Challenging the status quo might also make others think that one is driven by a desire for influence

instead of a desire to benefit others.

Instinctive deference to paternalism, authority

reluctance to cause others to lose face

arouse suspicions that they are motivated by ambition for power … rather than for better outcomes

Examiners’ comments
For point (a), the focus is not on Asia’s preference for paternalism, but on its culture of “deference” – i.e. respect for those in power.



4. According to the author, how has Asia’s approach of avoiding direct confrontation “paid off handsomely” (line 25)? (2)

Private firms are able to turn impediments / hindrances into favourable circumstances.

Countries are able to engage in economic cooperation.

This has contributed to economic growth / huge profits / vibrancy.

Businesses’ flair for turning obstacles into opportunities

…circumvent roadblocks, not bulldoze them.

…pragmatism by governments in the region has enabled economic
integration to advance

…is the key to much of the region’s dynamism


5. The author mentions a number of disadvantages that might result from “acquiescence in
the status quo” (line 29). What are two of these disadvantages? UYOWAFAP. (2m)

It does not bring about intellectual curiosity / creativity / originality of thought.

It could bring about corruption.

The quality of decision-making by public officials could become poorer.

Problems could continue to worsen without being discovered.

Solutions (to problems) are overlooked.


It does not foster the vigorous spirit of inquiry needed to spark the innovation that many emerging Asian economies are eager to encourage.

The willingness of business to rub along with political power can easily degenerate into cronyism and cosy collusion against the public interest

Policymaking also suffers if governments are not urged to think the unthinkable and held regularly to account by external scrutiny

Looming problems can go undetected until it is too late

…while alternatives for tackling them are ignored

Any 2 of the above 5 points will do.



Questions on Passage 2:

7. What does Surin Pitsuwan mean when he says that “We’ is bigger than I in Asia (line 97) (1m)

The collective mentality is more dominant than the individualistic one.
The group’s interests are more important than the individual’s.
Going along with the group is more important than going against it.


8. Explain the phrase “whoever pays the piper calls the tune” (l.12-13) and its relevance to think tanks. (2)

Just as a musician-for-hire is obliged to perform a particular piece of music requested by whoever pays him money

…so a think-tank is obliged to do research on areas that their government pays them to focus on.


“they study what government wants”




9. Why is the phrase “war of ideas” (Iine 19) an appropriate one for describing the way in which Western think-tanks operate? .(1)

Western think-tanks are used to being pitted against each other intense argument.

“confrontational”, “belligerent”



H1 JC GP Passages – Article Sources for Politics & Asian Thinking:

JC H1 GP Tuition (Syllabus Code: 8807)
Source of GP Texts:
The missing think in Asia’s tanks by Guy de Jonquieres, Lexean 2007
Tanks for nothing? by Sumana Rajaethnam, Lexean 2007


Q6. Vocabulary Question (5 marks)

Word 1 Mark  1/2 Mark
pedestrian (adj) (l.7) average; uninspired, run-of-the-mill, mundane; ordinary.
mediocre, common, banal, trite, hackneyed; superficial, unoriginal

No mark: direct, straightforward, basic, simple, layman, uninteresting, boring, simplistic, trivial, insignificant, substandard, slip-shod, peripheral


rigorously (adv) (l.11)

meticulously; thoroughly, accurately, intensively, with care
and exactness, with great care; very carefully, assiduously, in great detail


arduously, with a lot of effort; carefully, in detail.

No mark: vigorously: intensely, doggedly. fervently, with determination; relentlessly critically, actively


comparable (adj) (l.17)

similar, on par with, analogous, parallel; corresponding, equal;


acquiescence (n) (l.29)

acceptance; compliance; submission, agreement; adherence, obedience,


No mark: subservience, giving in to, satisfaction, contentment, remaining, consensus.
advocating (v) (l.43) championing; pushing for, supporting, promoting, espousing
arguing for, calling for, lobbying
suggesting, proposing

No mark: encouraging; in favour of, expressing, approving, advising, demanding, campaigning, promulgating



Reminder: Do not try to give a string of answers. Credit is most often be awarded to the first word, and the rest are disregarded.


Q10. Summary Question (SMQ) (8 marks)

Using material from paragraphs 1 and 4-8, summarise the author’s reasons for the dominance of the Western think-tanks and their limitations.
Write your summary in no more than 120 words, not counting words which are printed below. UYOWAFAP. (8m]

One reason why Westem think-tanks are dominant is…


Lifted from the GP Text
Paraphrase / Re-Expressions

Reasons for dominance (R)
Limitation (L)

Western societies industrialised and became rich earlier (I. 2)

Affluent citizens are less willing to accept risks in the policy arena (1.3)

They thus look to experts, creating a demand for think-tank output. (I. 3-4)

Also, the West has long been more comfortable with a confrontational society (l. 4-5)

Their longer democratic tradition is one where power is inherently not to be trusted, one where power must be constantly questioned. (L. 5-6)


R: They became developed wealthy sooner

R: …thus they are less Inclined to take chances in government decisions

R: and have a greater need for first rate professional advice

R: Moreover, they have a history of impassioned discussion / debate in the West

R: …and suspicion of authority



-even the top US think-tanks have an ideological bent. (I. 15)

…motive and power of lobby groups (I. 23)

…think-tanks… launch ideologically loaded policy ammunition across partisan trenches. (I. 19-21)


 However, think-tanks political leanings

L… and the vested interests of influential groups

L (Inferred) have resulted in highly prejudiced/biased findings.

-when faced with antitrust lawsuits, for instance, Microsoft funded the Independent Institute which ran full-page ads signed by over 200 academics, with scholarly evidence of why the US government was
giving Microsoft a harder time than they deserved (l23-26)

…market dominance…, the top US think-tanks… little movement in the ranking of the top think tanks. disproportionate share of media citations (l. 27-33)

The top US think-tanks… are respected for their rigorous research (I. 28-29)

and well-known for hiring top academics (l.29)


L Moreover, a few think-tanks monopolise the scene and this results in a lack of variety of ideas.

R: Nevertheless, they are recognised for their thoroughness of inquiry analysis

R and have a creditable reputation for enlisting the best minds

L However, it’s always the same popular economists who hog the limelight and this has resulted in a lack of variety of ideas.

-..the “celebrity economist” Want to be seen in the media and contribute to the forceful debate? Hire a top economist. (34-38)

With all the international bureaucracies that are situated in Washington DC and in Brussels
(l. 39-40)

it is no surprise that the demand for think-tank output is greater (l.39-40)

There is thus a surplus of academically qualified staff in the West to meet this demand (l.40-41)


R: Yet, it is also for this reason – the means to employ popular economists – that they are

R: Also, the concentration of world organisations in the West (1]

R:…means there is a more pressing need for think-tanks OR
there is an excess supply of intellectuals.

Note: Time management is important for success in the summary question!
Reminder: it is a good practice to state the number of words used. (do NOT exceed the allowable word count)



Q11 Application Question

Questions on Passage 1 and Passage 2

Guy de Jonquieres argues that Asian thinkers do not dare to be critical, while Sumana Rajarethinam argues that Asian thinkers are critical but they also see the importance of conformity.

Based on the two passages as well as your own knowledge of Asians in general, give your views on whether Asians tend to be critical or conformist in thought (8)


Sample answer to this AQ of the GP Comprehension Paper:

Passage 1: Asian thinkers do not dare to be critical

Reference to GP Text  Paraphrasing / IYOW
Para 1
…much of the most intimidating research into its affairs, whether economics, business, social policy or international relations, it
originated elsewhere, mainly in the west. 


Para 2
most produce pedestrian work that often fails to grapple with – much less answer -the hard questions a lot of tank, but not much think.

Possibly baggage from our colonial days

Kishore Mahbubani claims that the most painful thing that happened to Asia was the mental colonization. Many Asians began to believe that Asians were inferior beings to the Europeans. Only this could explain how a few thousand British could control a few hundred million people in South Asia. Also, I would (controversially) add that this mental colonization has not been completely eradicated in Asia, and many Asian societies are still struggling to break free from it. It is truly astonishing that even today as we stand on the eve of the twenty-first century and five hundred years on from the arrival of the first Portuguese colonizers in Asia, only one – I repeat, only one – Asian society has reached, in a comprehensive sense, the level of development that prevails generally in Europe and North America today.

The Japanese mind was the first to be awakened in Asia, beginning with the Meiji Restoration in the 1860s. Japan was first considered developed and more or less accepted as an equal by 1902, when it signed the Anglo- Japanese alliance.” (note. West’s view that Japan was able to develop so fast only because it emulated the west.)

Evidence: Top think-tanks in the world come from the West Consider the number of think-tanks in Asia as compared to the number of think-tanks in the West Singapore, China, Malaysia – 10 or less each, UK – abt 34; US – about 70.

It is no surprise that many think-tanks that specialize in Asia were founded by Western organizations figures. Eg the prominent Asia Society was founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd

Small number of celebrity’ academics from Asia whose opinions matter (eg. Amartya Sen)


Para 3
Asia has no such marketplace for ideas. When “Asian values were hawked around the region a decade or so ago as some kind of distinctive philosophy, they turned out to be just a self serving attempt to justify autocracies

A summary list of “Asian Values would include a distinctively ‘Asian approach loosely based on Confucianism

– predisposition towards strong and stable leadership rather than political pluralism,

-respect for social harmony and an inclination towards consensus as opposed to a tendency towards dissent or confrontation;

-acceptance of broad and penetrating state and bureaucratic intervention in social and economic affairs

-concern with socio-economic well-being instead of civil liberties and human rights, and

-preference for the welfare and collective well-being of the community over individual rights.

-Vocal proponents of Asian Values include Dr M and Lee Kuan Yew (who has defended ‘authoritarian arrangements on the ground of their alleged effectiveness in promoting economic success)

-Criticism: “Asian values” are most promoted by the elites who benefit from authoritarian rule, rather than the wider populace of their nation. Repackaging authoritarian practices as ‘Asian Values’ makes it easier for the people to accept such practices

-Buddhism, which originated in Asia, allows much room for volition and free choice, yet certain Asian leaders conveniently focus only on certain Confucian values which promote allegiance to the state. In fact, Asian govts’ interpretation of Confucianism has drawn flak for doing less than justice to Confucius’s own teachings. For eg, did Confucius recommend blind allegiance to the state? there is certainly good reason to question the monolithic image of an authoritarian Confucius that is championed by the contemporary advocates of Asian values.” (Amartya Sen)


Para 4
questioning the established order is frowned upon – even where autocratic regimes do not suppress it. Instinctive
deference to paternalism, authority and reluctance to
cause others to lose face inhibit overt challenge and criticism….heterodox opinions also tend to arouse suspicions that they are motivated by ambition for power, rather than
for better outcomes.

Influenced by a few things so-called Asian values (see above): strong belief that the government has perfect knowledge and knows what is best for the people

concept of ‘face is important in Asia Research on cross- cultural psychology, sociology, and anthropology suggests that the influence of face on social interactions is both pervasive and powerful in Asia.

Known as high-context societies, these cultures are referred to as collectivistic, or interdependent. Very often, these high-context cultures are hierarchical and traditional societies in which the concepts of shame and honour are much more important than they are in low-context societies which strongly believe in the freedom of the individual, hence the term “individualistic societies

In high-context cultures, group harmony is of utmost importance. People in these cultures dislike direct confrontation, and for the most part avoid expressing a clear “no” Evasion and inaccuracy are preferred in order to keep appearances pleasant.

However, governments have conveniently used the concepts of cultural sensitivity and ‘saving face’ to insulate themselves from outside scrutiny “The whole notion of saving face has been pushed by the conservative elements of society It’s really just another way of saying
don’t criticise me.” (Professor Richard Robinson, Head, Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University)

in Asian Muslim societies where there is no separation of state and religion, any criticism of one is seen as a criticism of the other Inevitably when many Muslim countries won independence after the Second World War, Islam was unfortunately linked with nationalism which  meant that any criticism of Islam was seen as a betrayal of the newly independent country an unpatriotic act, an encouragement to colonialism and imperialism. Under these conditions, healthy criticism of society is not possible, since critical thinking and liberty go together.


Para 5
Asia’s approach is to circumvent roadblocks, not to bulldoze them. The approach has often paid off handsomely Businesses flair for turning obstacles into opportunities is the key to much of the region’s dynamism Similarly, pragmatism by governments in the region has enabled economic integration to advance
in spite of the deep distrust that divides them. 


Para 6
acquiescence in the status quo.does not foster the vigorous spirit of inquiry needed to spark the innovation that many emerging Asian economies are eager to encourage,

The willingness of business to rub along with political power can easily degenerate into cronyism and cosy collusion against the public interest, of which there are all too many examples in Asia.
Policymaking also suffers if governments are not urged to think the unthinkable and held regularly to account by external scrutiny Looming problems can go undetected until it is too late, while alternatives for tackling them are ignored

Para 7
region’s lack of common institutions in which to develop joint solutions makes the need for smart thinking all the greater

Regionalism in Asia, especially with the rise of India and China The 3 largest countries in Asia – China, India and Japan – are due to fully implement FTAs with ASEAN by 20102012 and 2011 respectively Australia, New Zealand and the US are actively courting ASEAN as well

Lack of enterprise in countries like Singapore is an example, There’s no need for critical thought since the government with its capable leaders can take care of everything Of course, it is quite interesting that in Asia, critical thinking is encouraged in the economic sense but not in the political sphere (e.g. China)

Many examples of corrupt Asian leaders like Estrada, Suharto Pand Marcos, recent pension scandal in Japan, etc

Consider the effectiveness of Asian institutions like ASEAN in addressing problems unique to the region (e.g. ASEAN’s stand on the junta in Myanmar)

Other points

Consider the repercussions of speaking up and criticising authority in Asia An often asked question there is freedom of speech but is there freedom after speech?

Catherine Lim’s political commentary “The PAP and the Gra Attractive Divide drew a harsh response how the government which called for Lim to take responsibility for her views and enter politics if she wished to continue airing them Ubel lawsuits and suppress political dissent. Suppression of criticism and dissent in other parts of Asia include the Tiananmen Square Massacre where the Chinese government ruthlessly cracked down on both protesters and their supporters, the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar the imprisonment of Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia etc

Asian governments fear that critical thought will weaken power and or traditional values has resulted in harsh controls of the media and strict censorship (e.g The Thai government banned access to Youtube website after it turned down a request to remove a 44-second clip
Showing graffiti-like elements painted over a slideshow of photographs of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Singapore.

There was the arrest of bloggers who posted racist comments on the Internet as well as the sacking of “Mr Brown” from the Straits Times for his critical comments of the Singapore government.)



Passage 2: Asian thinkers are critical but they also try to confirm

Reference to GP Text Paraphrasing / IYOW
Para 1
Certainly, the marketplace for ideas is bigger and more vibrant in the West Western societies industrialised and became rich earlier. Affluent citizens are less willing to
accept risks in the policy arena. They thus look to experts, creating a demand for think tank output.


Also, the West has long been comfortable with a confrontational society Their longer democratic tradition is one where power is inherently not to be trusted, one where power must be constantly

Asia is only just catching up with the West in terms of affluence. As newly independent states in the 20th century. Asian countries were more concerned with economic progress and basic survival than lofty ideals like freedom of speech and individual liberty as was the West in the long past. With their basic needs met, surely Asia will rise up to the occasion, paying more attention to the political ideals espoused by the West.

Mahbubani claims in Can Asians Think? that “As more and more Asians lift their lives up from levels of survival, they have the
economic freedom to think, reflect, and rediscover their cultural heritage. There is a growing consciousness that their societies, like those in the West, have a rich social, cultural, and philosophical legacy that they can resuscitate and use to evolve their own modern and advanced societies

While greater affluence could encourage more critical thinking, interestingly it could also encourage just the opposite greater apathy and conformity This is especially so if people become more concerned with acquiring wealth than with political change. This if it ain’t
broke, don’t fix it mentality can be observed in Singapore, and increasingly among young upwardly-mobile people in
China as well

Asian culture and values largely resulted in our non confrontational attitudes. While this is more evident in the older generation, things are changing with the younger generation, especially with overseas education, access to Western media and the advent of the Internet which has spawned an active blogging culture

Blogging culture has exploded so much in recent months that a strong new wave of online activity is challenging China’s ever-vigilant online censors and giving flesh to the kind of free-spoken civil society whose emergence the government has long been determined to prevent, or at least tightly control (hence the Great Firewall of China). “The new bloggers are talking back to authority, but in a
humorous way,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California at Berkeley. “People have often said you can say anything you want in China around the dinner table, but not in public Now the blogs have become the dinner table, and that is new.

the People Power Revolution was a mostly nonviolent mas demonstration in the Philippines. 4 days of peaceful action by millions in Metro Manila led to the downfall of the authoritarian regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.


Para 2
In Asia, we do not have a tradition of confrontation. We approach from the common whole and the good of society We is bigger than T in Asia. You do not need to
be contrarian to deal with a policy problem. We are critical, yet we have a heritage of trying to conform.”


Para 6-8
Strong lobby groups dominance of top think-tanks and celebrity economist(s), having the means to hire top economists


See point above on high-context societies

This is an approach that is meant to address problems in society without causing great instability in society While we increasingly see more people questioning authority, it is often done while keeping of markers in mind.

This is one reason why Asia is not experiencing the scale and depth of social and economic problems afflicting western societies (breakdown of the family as an institution, drug addiction, etc ) because of focus on social stability.

One example of Asians regard for collective benefit is ASEAN’s insistence on the ASEAN way” which eschews confrontation. This can be seen in ASEAN’s welcoming of communist Vietnam into its ranks in spite of ideological differences, its support of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, and more recently. its reluctance to confront Myanmar over its human rights violations – all in the name of
mutual economic benefit.

These possibly have unduly taken attention away from Asian academics and think-tanks. Brain drain of great minds from Asia to the West.

Meteoric rise of Asian economies in a short period of time is evidence of Asia’s intelligence and hard work.

This is further boosted by the numerous studies that now demonstrate their impressive academic performance, both in leading Western universities and at home Today, many of the top students produced by American universities areof Asian origin, Educational excellence is an essential prerequisite for cultural confidence. (Mahbubani)

Increasingly many Asians are coming up with unique solutions to their unique problems instead of simply emulating the West There’s a reason why Western-style democracy has yet to work in Iraq “Until a few decades ago, Western societies beckoned as beacons on the hill, living models of the most successful form of human societies economically prosperous, politically stable, socially just and harmonious, ethically clean, and, all in all providing the best possible conditions for the citizens to
grow and thrive as individuals. (Mahbubani)



Our GP tuition teachers will share the actual Exam Marking Criteria for Paper 2’s AQ, during the lessons.



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