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The First Steps of The Asian Century

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What Is the Asian Century?

The Asian Century refers to the dominant role that Asia is expected to play in the 21st century due to its rapid growth in economy and demographic trends.

Understanding the Asian Century

Powered by the Industrial Revolution, the western economies stepped up as the major driving force of the world’s economy in the 19th century, leaving Asia at the bench.

The talk of Asia stepping back on its stage becoming the engine of global economic growth has gained momentum in the last few decades. Economists are expecting that the 21st century is destined to become the “Asian Century.”

Today, Asian economies are on track to become larger than the rest of the world combined in 2020, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. With half the world’s population, Asia is soon set to house half of the world’s middle class, which will be the key to Asia’s dominance.

The Others in the Band

China and India are substantial considerations when anyone talks about the Asian Century.

In PPP terms, China is now a bigger economy than the U.S., accounting for 19 percent of global output in 2019. China is also widely expected to overthrow the U.S. in gross domestic product (GDP) terms over the course of the next decade; And India is now the world’s third-largest economy, with a GDP about double the size of either Germany which had economy larger than India’s on a PPP basis in 2000.

Let us not forget other countries that have expanded rapidly: Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bangladesh. Indonesia in particular, is predicted to become the world’s sixth-largest economy in PPP terms by 2023; and Vietnam, one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, has overtaken 17 countries in a ranking of economies in PPP terms since 2000.

The 10 Billion Population By the End of the Century

The current world population of 7.7 billion is estimated to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, according to The UN’s World Population Prospects 2019. However, the West only represents 12% of the world’s population. 88% live outside the West. And on the whole, their living conditions have never been better.

Asia is home to more than half the world’s population. According to UN data of the world’s 30 largest cities, 21 are in Asia.

Since 2007, Asians have been buying more cars and trucks than people in any other region — by about 2030 they will be buying as many vehicles as the rest of the world combined, according to LMC Automotive. 

The Asian Creditor

The U.S. debt to China is $1.11 trillion as of May 2019. That’s 27% of the $4.1 trillion in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds held by foreign countries. The rest of the $22 trillion national debt is owned by either the American people or by the U.S. government itself.

China’s overseas lending, was about $500 billion in 2000. Today, it stands at around $5 trillion. Indeed, they are now the world’s largest creditor, being twice as large as both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, combined.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

If this is to be the Asian century, it will be built by Asians working closer together in their own continent.

In May 2017, sixty-eight countries representing two-thirds of the world’s population and half its GDP gathered in Beijing for the first Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit. This gathering of Asian, European, and African leaders symbolized the launch of the largest coordinated infrastructure investment plan in human history. Collectively, the assembled governments pledged to spend trillions of dollars in the coming decade to connect the world’s largest population centres.

Source: Bloomberg

So when we look back from 2100 at the date on which the cornerstone of an Asian-led world order began, it will likely be 2017— the new Silk Road era.

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