Friday 27 Apr 2018 | 05:27 | SYDNEY
Friday 27 Apr 2018 | 05:27 | SYDNEY

What is 'The Asian Century'?


Sam Roggeveen


8 September 2008 10:43

This weekend op-ed in the Washington Post is not controversial in content — it makes the familiar argument that Asia is too divided by nationalism to make political integration likely. But the way the argument is framed struck me as a little off:

So much for the Asian century. The Thais are bickering with themselves, and when they're done doing that, they'll bicker with the Cambodians -- again. China may be Japan's biggest trading partner, but they hate each other anyway. Malaysia and Indonesia? Two countries divided by the same language.

I've spent a lot of time in Asia over the past decade, as an expat and a traveler. From where I stand, the place is a geopolitical mess. Hogtied by nationalism and narrow self-interest, the countries of the East won't be banding together to replace the West as the seat of global power -- at least not anytime soon.

I'm not sure where 'The Asian Century' came from, etymologically. But I thought I knew what it meant. I had always assumed that it was a reference to the growth of Asia, carrying with it the promise that the great history-making and world-shaping events of the future would occur in Asia. This is the first time I've seen it referred to as being premised on Asian integration.

Of course, Asia does not have to be integrated in order for 'history' to happen there. Indeed as 20th century Europe demonstrated, some of the down sides of history might be more likely to come to pass if Asia is not integrated.