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Asian Century on Youtube
Monday, 02 July 2012 15:02

If you want to get a quick idea of what the Asian Century is all about, have a look at the Centennial Group's 12 minute video on Youtube -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtPXQ-ab9Sg.  It's based on the "Asia 2050" report they wrote for the Asian Development Bank.

Here are some of the key points:

Asia has half the world's population, but only 27 per cent of the world's GDP.  It is a very diverse region with different levels of development, different philosophies and different political systems. It comprises different types of economies -- some are high income, some are fast-growing converging to global best practices, and some are not converging to global best practices.

If Asia's high-income and fast-growing economies maintain their momentum, by 2050 Asia could account for half the world's GDP, not much less than its 60 per cent share before the Industrial Revolution.

This is what the "Asian Century" is all about.  It would be driven by seven economies, which account for 85 per cent of Asia's GDP, namely, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand.

But to achieve this Asian Century, Asia must confront mega-challenges like inequities, overcoming the middle-income trap, disparities between countries which threaten peace and stability, competition for resources, climate change and water crises, and natural disasters.

The biggest challenge to overcome is the recent deterioration in governance in many countries.

Addressing these challenges will require actions at three levels:

-- At the national level, actions must address inclusiveness and inequities, urbanization, resource efficiency, entrepreneurship/innovation/technology, financial systems, governance/institutions, and moving from growth to well-being.

-- At the regional level, issues include development cooperation, connectivity, maritime security, disaster preparedness, infectious diseases, human trafficking and drugs.

-- At the global level, priorities include the open trading system, stable financial system, and peace and security.

We have commented on this before, but I believe the key very difficult issues are:

-- avoiding the middle income trap -- this has even proved difficult for Japan, which has been in a deep funk for two decades and has never made the transition to a domestic demand- and innovation-driven economy.

-- building trusting relations between the region's big players, namely China, India and Japan. China's authoritarian capitalism makes it difficult for it to have open, cooperative relations with other countries.  Lingering historical animosity towards Japan, limits its ability to have constructive relations with mny of its Asian neighbours.  For historical and cultural reasons, India can never be a real ally of any other country.  And the role of the US in the region means that we are in a situation of balance of power politics between US, China and India, with Japan being in a subordinate position to the US.

One major issue not addressed in this film nor in the Asian Development Report is whether Asia could rule the world in the 21 century, like America did in the 20th century or like Britain did in the 19th century.

For many of the reasons mentioned in the above paragraph, it seems unlikely that Asia could become the world's leading political power in the 21st century.  For much of the second half of the 20th century, Japan had the world's second biggest economy, but struggled to transform economic weight into political power.  China now has the world's second biggest economy, but is more concerned with maintaining internal stability than projecting international power.  And as mentioned above, the leading powers of Asia have great trouble in cooperating together.  Europe has shown that even a group of like-minded countries can struggle to generate political power as a group.

The most likely scenario is that the 21st century could be no-one's century, with no country leading.  This does not augur well for global peace and stability.


Hans Rosling: Asia's rise -- how and when

Hans Rosling was a young guest student in India when he first realized that Asia had all the capacities to reclaim its place as the world's dominant economic force. At TEDIndia, he graphs global economic growth since 1858 and predicts the exact date that India and China will outstrip the US.

In Hans Rosling’s hands, data sings. Global trends in health and economics come to vivid life. And the big picture of global development—with some surprisingly good news—snaps into sharp focus. 

Rosling says "What I’m really worried about is war. Will the former rich countries really accept a completely changed world economy, and a shift of power away from where it has been the last 50 to 100 to 150 years, back to Asia, and will Asia be able to handle that new position of being in charge of the world?”

That doesn't stop Rosling from predicting that the GDP per capita of China and India will reach that of the West on 27 July 2048!!



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