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Are we heading towards an Asian Century or an Asian war?

If Asian war comes before Asian century, the Asian century will never come. Photograph: (Zee News Network)

Delhi, India Aug 08, 2017, 06.14 AM (IST) Mushfique Wadud

With high economic growth and increasing military capabilities of some of the Asian countries in the recent years, many are predicting that the Asian Century will come earlier than previously predicted. The discussion is a hot topic of discussion in many Asian countries. Especially, people of China and India are already preparing to lead the world. In Bangladesh, the economic and military growth of China and India are popular topics even in the remote rural areas. America’s reluctance to address global matters, such as climate change issues has made the Asian people more optimistic about a possible Asian Century. The other day, a tea stall owner was telling me that he thinks the global leadership will soon be shifted to China. He told me that he has got the idea after reading some reports on the newspapers.

The idea of an Asian Century is the first thought to come in the mid to late 1980s. It is believed that the phrase is attributed to a 1988 meeting between People's Republic of China (PRC) leader Deng Xiaoping and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In the meeting, Deng, reportedly, said "In recent years people have been saying that the next century will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, as if that were sure to be the case. I disagree with this view. If we exclude the United States, the only countries in the Asia-Pacific region that are relatively developed are Japan, the ‘four little dragons’, Australia and New Zealand, with a total population of at most 200 million. " 

With high economic growth and increasing military capabilities of some of the Asian countries in the recent years, many are predicting that the Asian Century will come earlier than previously predicted.
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But Deng's reading of the economic might of Asian powers will prove to be wrong over the years. The economic growth of some of the Asian countries is indeed impressive. In May this year, the International Monetary Fund in the Regional Economic Outlook for Asia and the Pacific estimated growth for the region to increase in 2017 to 5.5 per cent from 5.3 per cent in 2016. It also said that growth will remain strong at 5.4 per cent in 2018, as the region continues to be the leader of global growth.

Despite this high economic growth and other potentials, many fear that an Asian war might come first. The recent face off of China and India might be an indication that this notion is not baseless. It seems that things will get worse as both the countries took a hard line over the border disputes. 

The situation in the Kashmir front where India and Pakistan have long been engaged in a face-off has also been tense in the recent months. Often we read the news of exchanging fire between the border forces and there are casualties. Many fear that the two countries might go into a war over Kashmir issues in the coming years. 

There are fears that the South China Sea can turn into a battleground among major regional players in the coming years. Last month, when a US warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea, Beijing protested of “serious political and military provocation”. 

If an Asian war comes before the Asian Century, the Asian Century will never come.
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And, we have an increasingly rogue state- North Korea. On Friday, July 28, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears to have the range to hit major US cities. It seems that North Korea will not stop testing missile without any military intervention by the US. 

There many other small regional disputes in other Asian countries which can transform into a full-scale war. If there is a large scale war between China and India, this might affect the whole region. Small neighboring countries of these two nations like Bangladesh will be seriously affected. Most importantly, a large scale and prolonged war will certainly slow down the economic growth to a great extent. The worst sufferer will be the world’s half of the poor people whose home is Asia. It will take many years to recover from the effects of any possible large-scale and prolonged war in Asia. 

While Asia has potentials to lead the world in the recent future there are also fears of a possible big war in Asia. If an Asian war comes before the Asian Century, the Asian Century will never come. Asian leaders have a very important role to play. People want sensible and pragmatic leadership from the Asian leaders.  

Mushfique Wadud

Mushfique Wadud is a Dhaka-based journalist

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