Asian wave

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/18 20:38:40

Expert urges synergy between West and Asia for world to reap benefits

Editor's Note:

In the 19th century, the world was Europeanized. In the 20th century, it was Amercianized. Now, in the 21st century, the world is being "Asianized." In Dr. Parag Khanna's (Khanna) new book The Future is Asian, he depicts a world where Asia is reshaping the old world. What does the rise of Asia mean to the US and the EU? Will current tensions in Asia affect its further integration? Global Times (GT) reporter Xie Wenting talked to Khanna, managing partner of FutureMap, a data-driven scenario-planning and strategic advisory firm that works with some of the world's most innovative governments, cities and companies. 

Parag Khanna, managing partner of FutureMap. Photo: Li Hao/GT

GT: How did you reach the conclusion that the future is Asian?

Khanna: To be honest, we already live in an Asian world. We have more than 50 percent of the world population living in Asia. Economically, the world is Asian. In terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), more than 50 percent of the world economy is in Asia. Asians trade more with each other than with the rest of the world. 

If the present is Asian, the future will also be Asian. The problem is not the facts. The problem is the psychology. And I just think that we live in our minds according to mental models that we inherit from the past. And we have to update and modernize those models. That's why I write this book. I do not write about predictions. I examine the positive scenarios and the negative scenarios. Actually, in either scenario Asia is still the center. 

GT: What motivated you to write this book? 

Khanna: First of all, the book is a continuation of my previous books. My previous books have been about geopolitics, geoeconomics, technology, supply chains, trade and connectivity. I wrote this book also because Asia is misunderstood in the West. In the West, when people look at Asia, they used to only see Japan in the 1980s. Now when they look at Asia, they only see China. So I wanted to tell them the correct story about a collective Asia. 

Another reason I wrote the book is to let Asians understand Asia. For 500 years, Asia has been divided because of colonialism and the Cold War. The past 30 years is when Asia has been rediscovering itself. We are rediscovering each other, but we don't really know about each other. So I wanted Asians to relearn about each other. Here in China, when you wake up in the morning and think about global issues, you think about America and Europe, but you should be thinking about India, South Korea and Japan. These are your true neighbors and true partners. 

GT: Do you think there will be one or several countries playing a dominant role in Asia in the future, just like Germany and France in the EU? 

Yes and no. I do not like European analogies because they're not helpful, as Europe is small and Asia is big. Europe is homogeneous, while Asia is heterogeneous. 

In Europe, everyone gets involved when there is a big war. In Asia, we do not operate in keeping with the Western experience. We have our own history and experience. So we should not use European examples.

The future of Asia will be a lot like its past. In the past 4,000 years, Asia has had multiple civilizations and powers, and in the future it will have multiple civilizations and powers. China is important, but it is not the only power. This is a very important nuance and not a trivial one. It's extremely important that Westerners understand that Asia is bigger than China and bigger than Japan. And it's also extremely important that Asians understand that their past is very spread out and not centralized. 

GT: How did Asia rise to its current status? Will its rise reshape the world economy? 

Khanna: The No.1 winner from globalization is Asia. Collectively as a region, it has benefited at different speeds in different times. 

Japanese were part of the first wave of winners in Asia. The second wave of winners was actually South Korea and Singapore. And then China became the third major wave of Asian winners from globalization. Now there's a fourth wave of winners in Asia which includes India, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand. That's 2.5 billion people, and they are now the winners from globalization. 

China has benefited from the first and second wave of growth. When China was a poor country, Japan and Singapore invested in China. Today, who is helping India become a great economy? Who is helping Southeast Asia become a much larger economy? China is. Japan is. South Korea is and Singapore is. 

So the story of Asia's rise is the story of one wave helping the second wave. And the second wave helped the third wave. The third wave helped the fourth wave. Rich countries invest in poor countries, helping poor countries. Japan became rich and invested in poorer countries. Now China has become rich and it invests in poor countries. That's what is happening. 

I think many people do not understand economics very well. They look at the world map and they see this is the China bloc, the Japan bloc, the India bloc, and the America bloc. And we compete. But as a student of globalization, I see the whole process, the big picture. When you look at the world in that way, you do not see only blocs, but see the web.

All of us are in the web. China is not bigger than the web. America is not bigger than the web. A spider creates a web, but the web is bigger than the spider. So again, I think that America must understand this and learn the facts. 

GT: How do you evaluate the integration process of Asia? To what extent do you think current tensions will affect this process? 

Khanna: We have already seen a lot of Asian integration, a lot of Asian convergence in the past 30 years. 

After the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, Asia has had massive economic integration. Obviously, the fact that there is tension between Asians does not mean that they cannot have integration. You can have tension and integration at the same time, and we have much more integration in Asia. This is what has happened for 30 years. Now, what happens for the next ten years? I don't know, but I can make a prediction. I think that obviously, all Asian governments are being pragmatic. 

Right now, they manage the tension. In my work, I argue that we should resolve the tensions. Europe resolves its conflicts through war. Can Asia be smarter than the West? I hope so. Asia can do it in a mature way, in a technocratic way. 

I think you should have experts to resolve the conflict. I wrote in an essay about this last year and I called it the technocratic peace theory. Technocratic peace means the leadership by experts. For example, you could have experts from Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan get together and talk to resolve the conflict. 

GT: If the future is Asian, what does this mean for the EU and the US? Does it mean the decline of the EU and the US? 

Khanna: No. So there is a mental model, and it says there must be a number one. But that model is wrong today. Today in the 21st century, America is very powerful. Europe is very powerful, China is very powerful, and other Asian countries like India are becoming more powerful. So we have a multipolar world. That's the reality. That's the correct model. So the rise of Asia does not mean the decline of Europe and America.

I believe that the rise of Asia means that if Europe wants to remain relevant, if America wants to remain relevant, they must be more connected to Asia, not to compete with Asia and decline. 

They should embrace Asia and be connected to Asia, trade with Asia, invest in Asia, teach Asia and learn from Asia. So when Asia is winning, the rest of the world does not have to lose. The rest of the world can win if it is more connected to Asia. 

GT: In terms of the global influence, is the Asian system equal to the Western system? 

Khanna: The Asian system now is more influential than that of the West because it has most of the world's people. Most of the people of the world are Asian people in the Asian system with Asian rules and Asian trade. So Asia is more influential in the world than the West, because the world is mostly in Asian world.


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