Asia should look east to Japan, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad said during the “Look East & Beyond” symposium last week.

Mr. Mahathir, who spearheaded Malaysia’s Look East policy of economic development, praised Japan’s technology and equipment, as well as its work ethic.

“I think that this idea of copying from Japan, and from other successful eastern countries, is the way to go for most developing countries,” he said.

The former leader said that Malaysia is now at a stage where it relies on “our own assets, in terms of workers, raw materials and our system of government”.

“It’s not easy to change the character of people,” he added. “But to a certain extent, their exposure to the Japanese society changed their attitudes toward work”.

Mr. Mahathir also expressed his hopes that Japanese universities set up in Malaysia to further deepen societal and cultural exchanges.

In a panel following Mr. Mahathir’s speech, other Malaysian leaders welcomed strengthening ties with Japan in the face of  “economic shocks and volatility from outside”.