Monday’s Mtg: Is This the “Asian Century?”

People all over the world have long anticipated that the 21st century will be “Asia’s century.” According to this point of view, long-term demographic and economic trends already have begun to shift the dynamic center of the global economy from the West to the East. China will keep rising and become Asia’s main hegemon, perhaps challenged by India and other emerging Asian powers. The West will slowly (or maybe rapidly) decline, at least in relative terms, and a new global order will emerge that is anchored in the East, not in Europe or in North America.

CivCon member Aaron (The Younger) asks an important question: Is it all true, or is it just the latest wave of Western declinism? China’s government and people sure believe it, spurred along by the global but U.S.-based 2008-09 financial crisis, from which China was basically immune. President Obama believes it, or at least he has attempted to “re-pivot” American foreign policy towards East Asia and away from our endless preoccupation with the Middle East and a declining Russia.

I have a few questions of my own, as shown below. Here are some of them, and some links on the basic idea of an Asian-centered 21st Century, obstacles to it, and different ways the United States might respond.

With Donald Trump still forming his administration – and his recent bizarre, disturbing phone calls to world leaders, some in direct contravention of longstanding U.S. policy – it’s hard to guess what U.S. policy might be the next four years. Still, global politics tends to follow its own internal logic, plus (the main point of this topic, IMO) is that many things lie beyond U.S. control. So, all of these questions will stay relevant pretty much no matter how badly our foreign relations are screwed up in the near future.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –

  1. Which major trends presage an emerging Asian century?
  2. What evidence of a shift to the East have we seen so far: Economic/financial activity? Political and diplomatic? “Hard power” military and alliance shifts?
  3. What could Asian powers do to screw it up for themselves?
  4. Specific Countries:
    1. New/old leaders: China? India/South Asia? Japan? SE Asia?
    2. Bad actors: Russia? North Korea?  Iran?
  5. How would a huge shift to Asia harm the USA? Could it benefit us?
  6. How should we and the West react: Bilaterally? Alliances? Militarily? Reforming global institutions?

SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –  

Have we jumped the gun?

China and India –

Trump and Asia –

Asian-Americans and our future –

Next Week (Nov 28):  What future does the news media have?

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4 responses

  1. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    If it is to be an Asian century–surely China will be the leader of it. Now Donald Trump has infuriated China gratuitously by talking first to the President of Taiwan, a country (actually, not even a country) with which we have no relations, and have not since 1979.
    A major diplomatic blunder–a dramatic reversal of policy–shades of the China Lobby of the 1950s–and he’s not even in office yet!
    It does not augur well.

  2. I prefer the term Pacific Rim. It encompasses the other side of the Pacific as well to include Canada, the US (California for us), Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. These Pacific ports of trade, such as Long Beach, Veracruz, Valparaiso, are some of the busiest in the world. There used to be or may still exist a UCSD PHD program called the International Relations and Pacific Rim Studies Program.

  3. And for future reference, here is a short Brookings paper on China’s rise and potential for an Asia-dominant century: http://i.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/Kurlantzick_AsianCentury_CH.pdf

  4. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    An article in the Washington Post today suggests that the phone call was not an accident, but part of a long-planned policy. Two-China policy?

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