Every two weeks, scholars, analysts, FES partners and guest contributors from across Asia will put a spotlight on the many faces of the region. In conversations with leading experts, we will explore the existing and emerging economic, political, and geostrategic trends throughout the Asia-Pacific region in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the world thereafter.
#DisruptedAsia brings you insights from the ground, offers food for thought and tackles some of the most pressing questions, including the changing regional and global order, digitalization in the Asian cyber space, the future of work, and social justice. Our podcast will bring distinguished speakers and fresh perspectives to your morning commute, evening walk or whenever you enjoy listening.
The “Asian Century”
Our inaugural episode discusses the notion that we are living in an “Asian Century”. In an interview with the international bestselling author Dr Parag Khanna, we unpack its meaning, prospects and implications, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parag Khanna is the author of the highly acclaimed book The Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict and Culture in the 21st Century, as well as other much-noticed publications, including a trilogy on the future world order. He is the founder and managing partner of FutureMap, a data and scenario based strategic advisory firm. Based in Singapore, he is a jet-setter, who has travelled to more than 150 countries.
The term Asian Century gained prominence in the 1980s. It posits the idea of Asia emerging as the pre-eminent region in the global order in the 21st century, where the centre of global political and economic gravity will be firmly located.
For many, including Khanna, a firm advocate of the Asian Century, that time has already come. “The present is Asian. We live in an Asian world. It is really not a debatable fact”, he argues in this episode. There are many compelling reasons to believe so. Asia is home to more than half of the global population. Some of the largest militaries are in Asia. It also accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the global GDP, and global consumption, and nearly one-third of the global trade.
Importantly, he also points out that “Asia is becoming a system. Asian countries trade more with other Asian countries than they do with the rest of the world. They invest more in Asian countries than they do in the rest of the world. And the rest of the world is also becoming asianised”.
Asia pre- and post-COVID
However, not everyone is convinced. The modest economic growth over the past few years coupled with widening social equality are likely to be accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The socio-economic fault lines remain deep throughout Asia even in some of the advanced economies. The rising geopolitical tensions, territorial disputes and military posturing in the region also threaten the region's rise and cohesion.
Khanna firmly believes that “Asia will resurrect” in a post-COVID world and will emerge as a more integrated region. Lauding the management by Asian countries of the pandemic, he argues that “the big winners from COVID-19 are Asia’s democracies”.
He also remains optimistic that tensions among Asian countries will not derail the Asian Century. If anything, it strengthens Asia as a “system” even if the rise of Asian countries does not necessarily mean a peaceful Asia in the short-term.
The full podcast where Parag Khanna explores these and other topics can be heard here.
Stay tuned as we explore more regional topics and major trends in the coming episodes, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the Indo-Pacific, global supply chains and social justice amid the COVID-19 crisis!
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