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Eva, Jose Emmanuel Micael VIII, M. Final Examination Paper (Dr.


SEA 30 THX2 March 21, 2012

An Exploration of the Asian Century

By Mickey Miguel Eva VIII Many of the largest countries in the world are found in Asia. The largest populations, the largest metropolitan cities, oil resources, universities, markets and economies are all found in the largest continent. Theres one more thing thats largest in Asia: potential. Veering away from the environmental determinism lens, we can see that Asia boasts off more than its size. It has an unmatched human capital. Asians pursue becoming world leaders, the Asian work ethic and energy are second to none, cost structure is impressive and labor is limitless (Bisel 2007). The ingenuity of the Asian mind is unparalleled. Throughout the history of science and technology, the ancient Asians have been at par with their Egyptian, ancient Greeks and Mayan counterparts, being centuries beyond their time. The Asian had not only led the scientific and technological development in the ancient times, but persistent even until the modern times. With Asian brands like Sony, Samsung, LG, Mitsubishi, Toyota and the like, it remains highly competitive with its western counterparts and continues to dominate markets and the S&T development scene in the globalized world. But what is the future of Asia? The history of the Asian tiger economies has not always been robust. We have faced great challenges in the financial, political and cultural aspects. The recent trend of increasing economic domination by Asian countries may be called by many as the Rising Asia; however, looking at the facts, it is actually a re-emergence (ADB 2011). Before the West dominated the world economy, Asia accounted for more than half of the world economy. This could be correlated to the naturally large population and resource base for Asia. That was the picture of the world economy until the industrial revolution. One of the greatest achievements of the industrialized west world was the

Transatlantic Telegraph Cable, which connected Europe to North America, shortening the time needed to communicate from days to just a matter of minutes. In its first use in 1858, US President Buchanan replied to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, [may the telegraph be] an instrument destined by Divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilization, liberty, and law throughout the world. This period was a time of foreign domination. India, along with other colonized countries like the Philippines suffered from low income per person and life expectancy. China and other Asian countries as well had no true sovereignty. (Rosling 2009). Japan, however, was a sovereign country and was able to slowly catch up with the western world, but plummeted during the Second World War. And since, the West rapidly increased its shares for two centuries while Asia slowly declined from some 58% to just around 15% in the 1950s. In 1947 India finally proclaimed its independence, being free from the British rule. And in 1949, the world was surprised by the emergence of Modern China. China also recovered from the Mao Zedong rule and left Central Planning to open its doors to the world market a few years after. Asia started to regain its economic strength after 1950 (IMF World Economic Outlook 2010). This was spurred by the fast-growing Japanese economy followed by the new industrialized economies of Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. This was later furthered in 1980s by the growing economies of Malaysia and Thailand, and even by Peoples Republic of China (PRC), India, Indonesia and Viet Nam (ADB 2011). After two centuries of foreign domination, Asia is now catching up with the rest of the world. Asias share in the global output was only about 15% over half a century ago. Today, it stands at 27%. Under the assumption that this trend is sustained, Asia could regain its 58% of global output over the next half century. The optimism is there. However, like the growth of the western world, and in the case of any economy, the ongoing rise of the Asian economy will face its mega challenges. According to a research and analysis done by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), there are five hurdles to the realization of the Asian Century. First, the countries peoples are experiencing inequities in the socio-economic stratification of their nations. In some countries even there are rising inequities. This is an economic ill which can simply be defined as the rich get richer while the poor are getting poorer. This kind of condition paves the way for uprising and political instabilities within

nations. And thus, this can cause economic stagnation, or even worse, economic-political restructuring that may cause no good to a nations overall health and its citizens welfare. Second, Asian economies are at risk of experiencing the Middle Income Trap (ADB 2011). This has happened to the economic growth of Latin America, and economists fear it might happen to Asia as well. In this scenario, economic growth will be followed be economic stagnation, or possible, decline. This is caused by a weak transition from a highly resource-oriented economy to a highly productivity-oriented economy, with labor and capital as its fundamental elements. Third, with the rapid increase in production, construction, growth and development, it may be hard for Asia to fill in its great demands for natural resources. Populations are increasing, and so are the demands for the peoples needs and wants: from residences (real estate) to social service infrastructures, to commodities and even luxuries and vices. It is a given fact that continuous growth will necessitate continuous consequences, especially in the extraction of resources, which are finite. Fourth, there may be problems within countries as there may be amongst them. There is a possibility of political instability in the region especially as disparities among nations are increasing both in magnitude and in intensity. As development intensifies, resources are more and more in demand, and the lack and surplus of neighboring countries may cause uncooperativeness, and worse, it may breach political stability in the region. Fifth and last: our planet may be our great enemy. Climate change has haunted the world through the increasing weather disturbances, loss of sea ice and abnormalities in the behavior of plants and animals. It is also threatening the world of dangerous increases in sea level, intense famines and unseen rates of disease and deaths caused by increasing flooding and droughts. This will truly take a cost on Asia since it could potentially ruin the economic and political centers of Asia, which happen to be coastal or river cities such as Singapore, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong. What is unfortunate though is that we are brining this upon ourselves. According to the US Energy Information Administration, China leads in the emission of fossil fuels and Carbon Dioxide. While oddly, it is also Asia that will incur the greatest damage. In fact, by the 2070s the ten cities which have the largest populations exposed to climate change induced coastal flooding are (in order) Culcatta, Mumbai, Dhaka, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh, Shanghai, Bangkok, Rangoon, Miami and Hai Phong. (see Figure 1) All these, except for Miami, are significant Asian cities.

Figure 1 Map showing the Top 20 cities for exposed population under the future of climate change and socioeconomic change scenario. (Source: Nicholls et al (2007), OECD, Paris)

These challenges sure are scary and very much threatening to Asias aspiration for global dominance. However, it is an imperative that our nations seize the opportunity of a rising Asia. The greatest instrument for the Asian Century to become a reality is in the practice of responsible economics (Hossain 2012). This must be pushed for together with a healthy political atmosphere and improving socio-cultural conditions for the people. These would enable Asia to reach its goal and own the 21st century. Responsible economics entails cooperation. Being the largest, the continent as normally is divided into compartmentalized regions: Northeast, Southeast, South, Central and West Asia. Although there are existing efforts to unite the entire continent, the greatest cooperative efforts are those of the said compartmentalized regions. The ASEAN nations for example would give greater attention to its ASEAN efforts at cooperation than they would for say, the Middle East. The Asian nations started catching up with the rest of the world in the 20th century when it opened its doors to the global market whilst being sovereign countries. Industrialization, which is seen as the way to development, is largely sustained by trade and commerce among cities and even countries. The key is to aid it as if it were a machine: with human and natural capital as the fuel and trade-supportive policies and decisions as the oil.

Another key to attain the Asian Century setting is by creating a significant amount of influence on the global configuration of power (Yang 2012). Asian nations should not be satisfied with just following the Western models of development, be content with being at the lower-end of the world economy and being treated as sources of raw materials. Rather, Asia should push for a greater voice in the international political and economic scene. Third enabler for the Asian Century is by capitalizing on our original ideas and world thinking. To be able to lead, it is necessary to introduce new things and, more importantly, new ways of doing things. This can be seen in the efforts to concretize The ASEAN Way from Southeast Asia, or the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence for China, India and Burma. The economic prowess of the US wont go anytime soon, but the 21st century will most likely be the Asian Century (Bandow 2009). However, given the uncertainty of the global political and economic scene, it is incumbent upon the Asian nations to secure its dominance as a true global economic center. Problems and issues arise when they are uncalled for the Global Economic Crisis, the Asian Financial Crisis, etc. But Asia should not be shaken and left at a complacent and stagnant condition. A role model for this is Japan with its dark past under the World War II experience, it gave itself a complete turn-around. It gave a new meaning to Asian economic strength. And this is possible not only for Japan, but for the rest of its Asian neighbors. The Asian way of doing things is defined by how we were taught to strive for success and harmony over individual, self-centered gratification. With this mindset, the only problem left is to keep it working. Its working will yield an Asia that answers to the problems of climate change, pursues positive governmental and institutional reforms, maintains and intensifies regional cooperation, ensures equity and peoples welfare, and one that is persistently innovative, transformative, integrative, inclusive and competitive. Ergo, an Asian Century is not just a century of Asias economic domination. It is also a renaissance for Asia. It will and must also uplift the individual Asian along with its institutions. A truly Asian Century is not one that is just indicated by excessive urbanization and high-rise towers or impressive patents and high technology. It is more importantly indicated by the socio-economic condition of every Asian: every Asians accessibility to basic needs such as clean drinking water, decent homes, food, communications, and technology; every Asians ability to explore, express, and grow in his desired field or passion; and every

Asians capability to influence the society and partake in fighting for the rights and welfare of every citizen, and empowering the citizen. Only when these things are guaranteed to our fellow Asians can we call a century ours. The way to realize this century is not mere capital accumulation, or increasing efficiency. Rather it heavily relies of holistic development that trickles down to every Asian human being.

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