Asia as the next super-power by Ahmad Ridhuan Alauddin

Asia will be a future super-power, the shift in the balance of power from the west to east is not improbable. History has shown us how empires from Asia once dominated the world. From the mighty Mongolian empire (1206-1368) to the Gunpowder Empire of the Ottomans (1299-1922), the importance of Asia in the world history is undeniable. The last big upheaval of Asia the world have seen comes from the land of rising sun, Japan (1860’s)

The era of western domination has run its course bringing both good and harm to human history. Many still believe that the West still maintains superiority over Asia. Kishore Mahbubani in his book The New Asian Hemisphere presents us with a possibility that the world is entering a turbulent era of “de-Westernization”. This paper will argue that in the near to medium term future, Asian countries are very much likely to be more important as the power shifts begins from West to East. Asia will be the new axis of power. Power in this paper will be narrowed down to mean the control of economy, politics and social. This paper will explain how Asian countries are gaining more power in global economy and politics indicating a power shift.

Politics, economy and social advancement as basis of success

Any region which can control global politics and economy while at the same time maintaining its social will have the advantage in global decision making processes. This paper argues that Asian countries will be more important in the near future from an economic perspective as the region economy keeps growing despite global economic downturn. I will look at the emerging economy of India and China that if these economies continue at the same rate of growth they are projected to surpass even the most powerful western economy, the United States of America. This will put into perspective the idea that due to the ability of Asian countries to develop their economy successfully the region will in the future be the new powerhouse. Besides getting an upper hand in economic growth, social advancement is another important aspect of global power because it will ensure stable growth, in terms of materials also intellectualism. Asian culture and Western cultures are known to have fundamental differences. To explain how social aspects can be a form of advantage in global decision making process, this paper will look at how the emergence of soft power from Asian countries are creating waves that are certainly breaking the domination of Western culture. We will also look at the current political climate. With Asian countries’ increasing economic influence, the international political landscape has certainly changed with the Asian region getting a more significant role in the worlds’ political arena. Finally, we will look at the Black Swan theory to see why all consensus agreement can be wrong by looking at current developments. We will look at how the unexpected global economic downturn have left Dubai from one of the fastest growing city to a ghost town to explain how an unprecedented event could change everything. In conclusion, this paper will show how, by using hard power and soft power, Asian countries will likely to shift global power from the West to East.

Asia’s rise as regional economic hub

Current development sees the global economic crisis that hit the world has left many countries struggling to recover. The western countries especially USA has been hit severely stunting its economic growth. Amazingly, China has emerged out of the crisis fairly well. China's growth will be underpinned by a rapid expansion in emerging market economies, which will account for about 70% of global GDP growth in the coming decade, Deutsche Bank's Chief Economist for Greater China, Jun Ma, told an investment conference in Hong Kong. From this projection it can be expected that if China keeps growing at its current rate, in the near future and medium term future, it could definitely be one of the dominant economical force breaking the western domination of the world economy.

As the US (the current economic super-power from the West) main trading partner China is undeniably very important to US. In the near future China’s progress would definitely be followed closely by the West as it will determine their future too. We can see how economic growth has made Asian countries more important and at current rate the continuity of Asian economic growth in the near future is extremely important in determining the global economic condition. To further affirm the shift from west to east it is important to acknowledge that China is not the only emerging economy from Asia. This paper will only look at India as the other emerging economic force from the East. However since Asia is a big continent consisting many different nations, different parts of Asia for instance, South Korea, Japan and the South East-Asian region at the same time are emerging to become strong economic forces on their own pace.

India economic reform beginning on the early 1990’s has transformed its economy making it grow at a higher pace. In the next ten years India’s economic growth is very likely to become one of the fastest growing economies. The recent acceleration in real GDP growth reflects both faster input growth as well as rising total factor productivity. It is no wonder Malaysian former premier; Dr. Mahathir identified China and India as the countries that would lead the Asian charge. If the rapid growth continues at the same rate for these countries, it is very much possible for them to replace the likes of western economies. However if these countries fail to live up to their potential, the shifts will not happen as we can see from Dubai. The collapse of the global economy has left Dubai struggling. Foreign companies are starting to withdraw from Dubai as investments stunt. Therefore the current economic growth in Asian countries needs to be maintain, and then only these countries can ensure they remain as economic powerhouse.
In arguing the point that economic might will provide an advantage in global decision making process, we will see how economy can be used as a tool to get extra influence. One way is by increasing military strength. US the current biggest economy has got the highest military expenditure followed by China Military might is a form of advantage especially in global politics. Military force can be used as a tool to get respect from other countries thus providing a form of authority. As the economic dominance shifts from west to east, military dominance might also shift. This will definitely make Asian countries more important.

Benefiting from Soft power

Power as we know does not only come from military might. It is true economic growth can be used to increase a country’s military force but it is not necessary. There are also other forms of tool that can make countries politically influential. Decision making process in the 21st century has become increasingly based on diplomacy rather that military. Therefore it can be deduced that there are alternative options other than military and economic force to be influential globally.
Soft power, as labeled by Joseph Nye, are other forms of power such as the ability to persuade other states to go according to your states direction and follow your states style of administration is how this paper would describe the ‘other’ aspect of power. The key word here is persuasion not by means of aggression. In supporting the idea of how Asia can use soft power to their advantage Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia explains how Asian Renaissance can mean ‘the revival of the arts and sciences under the influence of classical models based on strong moral and religious foundations; cultural resurgence dominated by a flowering of arts and literature, architecture and music and advancement in science and technology’.

Unlike hard power (economic and military might) soft power is very hard to define but in order for it to be useful it needs to provide significant impact. However, the impacts can sometimes be too discrete that its impacts are debatable. In analysing Dr. Gerry Groots argument in his writing “Soft power in the Asia Pacific Pacific Post 9/11: The case of Japan,China and India”, Japan theoretically is a super soft power as well as economic power but it couldn’t use its strength to get outcomes it wants. It is undeniable that Japanese culture has been very famous especially in popular culture. Japanese have been importing its popular culture such as sushi and anime (animated cartoons) all over the world. It is very famous that we can see Japanese culture anywhere in the world. Such popularity however did not obtain Japan any extra political mileage. Looking at Japan’s failure to be included in the UN security council despite its huge soft power, I would to a certain extend agree that soft power might help in assimilation of different cultures in the world’s society but evidently, it still could not match the influence a state gets from hard power.

In order to gain political advantage from soft power, Asian countries needs to make the advantage they get from soft power provide them with extra power and influence. India for example has the opportunity to do this. Not only their technological developments are moving very fast, India could use its rich religion and cultural tradition to build up their soft power and make full use of so that the soft power can provide them with extra influence. The use of Bolywood films to bridge Muslim-Hindu divide is one example how India can use its movies to promote peace. From one perspective with such impact, this type of soft power can be a tool of diplomacy. This capacity could give an indication that India can play an important role especially engaging the differences between East and West. If India could live up to this expectation, it is possible that it could emerge as one of the front runners from the east. If western domination failed to bring together east and west, maybe eastern domination could unite these two regions.

Black Swan theory

“There are known knowns. There are things we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.” This was the statement made by former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on regards to the unstable situation in post-invasion Afghanistan. These words in simple term reflect the Black Swan theory, the impact of the highly improbable. There are many possibilities but we often disregard the improbable. Relating to our topic the Black Swan logic makes what you don’t know far more relevant than what you know. This is because it is easy to speculate what would happen in the future, how important can Asian countries be in the near or medium term future can be concluded in many ways however till the time comes the possibility of the improbable is still there.

Therefore based on this the black swan theory I state the limitation of this paper, which it is a mere projection based on current events and data’s. This paper has shown that with increasing economic strength and political influence, Asian countries will likely be very important in global politics and decision-making process. However, according to the Black Swan theory, there are possibilities that it might not happen. It is very hard to determine the future especially when certain events could change everything in a glance. The case of Dubai will be a very good example. Dubai’s economy was sky rocketing just over the last few years foreign aids were pouring in. Everyone expected that Dubai will be the super power of Middle East economy. The global economic downturn has left Dubai a ghost town. Foreign investment soured with many projects from oversees cancelled. This could happen to India or even China. Never ignore the improbable because there are possibilities that things might change against expectations. Any planning and decision making processes needs to be carefully planned so that countries are well prepared in facing any possibilities.

Asia could be the new axis of power. The increase in soft and hard power at a very high pace rate can certainly prove that this is not merely wishful thinking. However the important thing is that the development needs to maintain. Asian countries such as China and India needs to take affirmative action to further strengthen their economic development. It is also important to find a way for soft power to be used as an advantage particularly in international politics. The failure of Japan to use its soft power must be a lesson that if soft power will not mean anything if it can’t give any advantages. The Black Swan theory can be a reason for Asian countries to be more careful in decision making processes. Any decisions need to be considered from various perspectives before being finalised. In conclusion, based on current development it is very likely that global power will shift to the east but the future can be unpredictable.

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