Hong Kong: Explosive growth in economic and political power ensured that the past 10 years set the foundations for what many analysts predict will be the Asian Century as the world tilts firmly eastwards. Many dangers lie ahead, but observers say the world’s two most populous countries—China and India—appear on course to define the decades to come after the American Century and the British Century before that.
“I think this decade demonstrates the real promise of Asia,” said Alan Dupont, director of the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney. “It has really focused everybody on the fact that China has now arrived and India is not that far behind, and power really has shifted to the East and away from Europe and North America.”
Robert Broadfoot, managing director of the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, agreed that the past decade belonged to Asia. “There is a shift of the assets and, with that, political power towards China in particular and Asia in general.”
The statistics speak for themselves—blistering economic growth rates of in excess of 8.0% in China—while Western countries slumped into recession. India also achieved growth rates of more than 7.0%. The political power that goes hand-in-hand with economic power means that no global agreements can be viable without the approval of China and India.
The path to Asian dominance is strewn with obstacles, however, with weaknesses in democratic and social institutions and widening wealth gaps seen as potentially dangerous roadblocks.
Minxin Pei of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace writes in the Foreign Policy magazine, “Although Asia today may have the world’s most dynamic economies, it does not seem to play an equally inspiring role as a thought leader.”