The Asian Century has been predicted for decades and is here now. Cities, regions and entire nations from West to East Asia are rapidly modernizing. Hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested in infrastructure, AI and other tech, renewable energy, healthcare, jobs and education. And it's not just replacing the old but upgrading to world standards. Many of these investments have become drivers of inclusive growth as well as regional and global integration.
The Asian development model of fast, export-driven industrialization was pioneered by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan before being adopted and expanded by China, now the world’s second superpower. Meanwhile Singapore and Hong Kong established themselves as Asia’s principal financial centers. India regularly achieved annual growth between 6-7% for a decade. Malaysia has become known for its highly diversified economy and early adoption of cutting-edge technology for manufacturing. And let’s not forget the smaller nations. The UAE for example is completely focused on forecasting the future and has emerged as a regional and global hub for innovation in everything from tourism and trade to professional services and events.
Being home to 61% of the world's population the trajectory seemed clear: the future is Asian. But then came Covid19 and the rise in tensions between the U.S. and China. This appears to have convinced some observers that Asia’s rise may have peaked. But the resurgence of this continent of 4.7 billion people is in fact accelerating, creating new spheres of influence and greater connectivity. That is because the underlying economic and demographic factors of Asia’s rise haven’t changed. And the world economies are so deeply entwined that any attempt of real decoupling would be a non-starter.
In late 2020, fifteen Asian-Pacific nations formed the world's largest trading bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), covering nearly one third of the global economy. RCEP is on track to become the world's largest export supplier and second-largest import destination. That spells opportunity for an accelerated global economic recovery and deepened ties. Even India, which is not part of RCEP is projected to expand by 9.9% and according to the OECD will become the fastest-growing G20 economy in 2021.
For anyone doing business in and with Asia, and for Asian entities with vested interests overseas, now is the time to revisit long held beliefs and assumptions. Communicators have a special role to play as audiences are better connected than ever.