Economics has always played an essential role in the development of the world. It has been a major tool that has shifted powers across the entire world from one country or region to another one. There is no doubt that economics is a driving force for obtaining political power in any geographical region or the whole world.
The Cold War was won by the United States with the help of Marshall Plan, a strategic economic tool that the country was using against the Soviet Union. Directing considerable amounts of resources to rebuilding of national economies and infrastructures all over Europe, the United States gained stable and economically competing partners. Jointly with Japanese and Asian rapid economic development, economic sustainability was also largely supported with the military forces that had secured safe and stable growth, unlike the ones in the Soviet Union.
However, the rapid rise of the Asian countries at the end of the twentieth century had gradually turned to consistently large growth rate of Asian national economies in the beginning of the 21st century. The pace of economic growth of already developed European countries and the United States of America do not catch up with the speed of development of the Asian emerging economies. Therefore, it is not surprising that the countries of the Asian Pacific region have the possibility to attract political, religious, cultural powers with the help of their strong economic potential, and turn the 21st century into the Asian century.
After decades and centuries of the American and European dominance in the world geopolitics, it has become obvious that the twenty first century is going to be the one with Asia being a major dominant power. There is an extensive evidence in what ways the 21st century can be considered as a century of Asia. The economic miracle of Japan, rise of South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia, rising economic power of China are among the few examples of Asian power in the modern world.
Economic Miracle of Japan
In the course of the world history, Japan has reached the top of the world power in geopolitics twice, first at the end of the nineteenth century, and then in the middle of the twentieth century. However, a major reason of its geopolitical dominance was collapse of its neighbours.
Starting from the early 2000’s, Japan has experienced recovery and rise in its economic power. Japanese industries achieved considerable growth and improvement of their competitiveness on the global market, including car manufacturing, consumer electronics, as well as computer gaming industry.
Achieving the 10 percent annual growth rate of the national economy, Japan transformed the Asian region and changed the way in which the emerging powers appear by putting economics on front of the military and territorial enlargement at the centre of national strategies of the Asian countries.
Regional Leadership of China
Modern China differs a lot from the old one. Current Chinese leaders originally come from different social and cultural backgrounds, including those that are from urban areas, unideological, highly educated and focused on economic development. They have transformed the country drastically and delivered geopolitical power to China in the region and the world. Chinese society has become open to the world community, its education turned to be competitive on the international arena.
At the beginning of the twenty first century the leadership style and governance has considerably changed in the country. China’s centralization of governance was substituted by the delivery of power to regions, changing the political and economic situation in the country. New and modern pension systems, social security programmes and health insurance have replaced old and ineffective social safety net.
The global financial crisis didn’t affect the shape of geopolitics in the Asian region. Moreover, it has facilitated the rise of the regional power in the world in the twenty first century, particularly the increasing role of China in the region.
Rise of South Korea
Another ‘measure’ of Asian potential geopolitical dominance in the twenty first century is the rising power of South Korea. In the middle of the twentieth century an attempt was made to concentrate all financial resources in the country on the development of military forces of South Korea. This strategy seemed to be more promising given the economic and political stability, as well as more powerful military forces of North Korea. However, this plan was abandoned and changed to the focus on the economic development of the country. With that purpose General Park Chung-hee decided to reduce public expenses on military as much as possible, and transfer all resources to the economic development programs. As a result of the new strategy of economic development, modern economy of South Korea has exceeded the one of North Korea in many aspects. After learning the lesson of the military’s influence on the country’s power in the region, the strategy of the economic development proved to be more successful in obtaining geopolitical power by the country.
India and South Asia
Indian society has maintained its impact and power in the world and region throughout centuries; however, the strength of its impact varied across time under the influence of numerous economic, political and social factors.
Numerous challenges that India faces originate from its long established imperfect social structure. India has managed to increase its power in the region by implementing numerous social reforms, including enabling education and governance being accessible for all social classes. Even though India came as ‘the latest Asian miracle’ it has maintained 3% growth rate of GDP.
India has also focused its financial resources on the development of infrastructure. Moreover, in the twenty first century India has turned to be the centre of the ‘health tourism’ by attracting a large number of people to the country in order to get good quality health care services.
Yet, the most important feature of the India’s development is that it has not fulfilled its total potential and it can be expected that the country will be maintaining its growth for a long time.
Political power has been constantly shifting from one region to another throughout centuries. Countries have been devoting a lot of efforts to the development of military forces in order to gain regional or world political power. However, it has turned out that focusing on the economic growth is the most effective strategy.
After decades and centuries of the American and European rule, a lot of signs and patterns indicate that the twenty first century is going to be a century of Asian region. A lot of strong national economies have emerged at the end of the 20th – at the beginning of the 21st century, and they continue growing. Japan and China are currently considered to be the largest powers in the Asian region. However, fast economic growth of South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and other countries of the region also indicates the rising power of Asia on the global scene.
Therefore, sustainably large economic growth of the region, increase in the population across Asian countries, as well as spread and popularization of the Asian culture and religion across the region and the world community indicate the shift of powers in the twenty first century towards the Asian region. Finally, unlike other highly developed countries, Asian region has not fulfilled its total potential and is expected to keep its growth rate throughout the coming decades.