Nowadays, however, this familiar order is shifting like the Earth’s tectonic plates. US President Trump is withdrawing from international treaties and embroiling the country in trade disputes. Britain wants to go back to being an island, and populists are testing the limits of our democracy. In the slipstream of the West’s self-absorption, Asia is developing tremendous economic momentum. China has been the world’s leading commercial power since 2010 and has had the world’s second-largest economy since 2012. The country is forging new strategic alliances and making huge, ambitious investments in projects such as the New Silk Road.
Is this the end of the American age and the dawn of a century of Asian greatness?
The European Age (early modern times) and the age of Americanization are now being succeeded by the 21st century Asian Age. This has been confirmed by experts from Karl Pilny to Parag Khanna. What can the Asians do that we can’t?
When we think of Asia, the first country that springs to mind is China. Yet the Asian region extends from the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey in the West to Japan and New Zealand in the East, Russia in the North, and Australia in the South. In other words, three and a half billion of the almost five billion people in Asia are not Chinese.
The Asian countries are linked by commercial, financial and infrastructural networks and account for around 50 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. This is equivalent to almost two thirds of global economic growth. In concrete terms, this means that between 2015 and 2030, only USD 1 billion of the USD 30 million in economic growth brought about by middle- class consumption is expected to come from today’s Western economies.
ASIA IS ASIA IS ASIA IS ASIA IS ...?
By no means, because aside from their geopolitical affiliations, the individual nations differ considerably in terms of their values. Parag Khanna, the Indian-American political scientist, publicist and founder of “FutureMap”, has stressed time and again how different the individual regions are in terms of technology, politics, market economy, freedom and society.
ASIA – PROGRESS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
Asia is the platform on which technological history is written. Within just 20 years of the end of World War II, Japan had become the world’s second strongest economic power. This also inspired “ti ger economies” such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Several decades and reforms later, the Middle Kingdom decided to follow Japan’s lead and learn from American technological innovation. Nowadays, China is a source of inspiration for technological and even environmental progress, as can be seen from the example of electromobility.
China already has more than 50 percent of the world’s charging stations and 75 percent of its lithium ion batteries. In 2018, the global number of licensed e-vehicles exceeded the two million mark, and the People’s Republic has 60 percent of these. Over the next few years, almost 30 of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers plan to invest USD 300 billion; this too is a consequence of China’s prescribed licensing quotas for e-cars.
AT HOME IN THE DIGITAL WORLD
800 million of the approximately 1.4 billion Chinese people use the internet on a regular basis. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are the Chinese counterparts of Google, Amazon and Facebook. WeChat isn’t just a kind of Chinese WhatsApp, but an app for practically everything: social networking, e-commerce, taxis, dining, chatting, making payments. Artificial intelligence is used in every part of life. Over the next three years, 35 percent of all research funding for artificial intelligence will come from China. In fact, PricewaterhouseCoopers recently predicted that the use of AI would contribute USD 15.7 billion to the world’s gross domestic product by 2030. China alone accounts for USD 7 billion, which makes the North American share of USD 3.7 billion pale into insignificance. It therefore comes as no surprise that China is the land of digital natives.
CHINA’S MILLENNIALS ARE OVERTAKING THE USA
Under 30, upper middle-class, well-educated, high earners, tech-savvy – millennials are hot property on the labor market. In China, this most popular of all target groups is as large as the entire population of the USA. What’s more, unlike US millennials, they will be wealthier than their parents. Their enormous purchasing power and enthusiasm for technology is driving consumption and innovation.
Enthusiasm about China’s development is naturally dampened by the control exercised by the one-party state. Censorship, espionage and propaganda are rife, both online and offline. One example of this is the social points system to be implemented by 2020, which will divide the Chinese into good or bad citizens depending on how faithful they are to the party line – rewards and punishments included.
Asia is on the way up. Perhaps we should bid farewell to the old friend/enemy formula, remain alert and catch on to the multi-polar world. The future of our planet also depends on Asia.
The Asia-Pacific region is responsible for 50 percent of global CO2 emissions. North America and Europe produce 37 percent, while the rest of the world accounts for 13 percent. The figures for other critical environmental factors are similar. This is why it was so important that China and India helped bring about the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015. On the other hand, the framework conditions for responsible economic activity in the East and West are deteriorating. The latest corruption report from Transparency International shows that the USA is dropping in the rankings; trust in European institutions is also declining, and the Asia-Pacific region is still well behind the West.
The far-reaching Chinese government program “Made in China 2025” could by all means also be labelled “Futuremovers 2025”. China is doing everything to boost future-oriented sectors and steadily expand its expertise in hi-tech industries. Megatrends such as robot technology, aerospace, new materials, electrical mobility, biopharmaceuticals and renewable energies are right at the top of the list. The country is making skilful use of its planned economy and financial power to build up leading international companies that are well able to compete with Western technology giants. Even though the West might not like it, the future movers of the East are advancing.