Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Mar 07, 2019, 10.08 AM
Anpanman is a Japanese cartoon character whose head is made of red bean bread. The superhero, who shares parts of his bean bread face (in Japanese ‘pan’ is bread and ‘anko’ is red bean paste) with people in need is ‘Anpanman’, the world’s weakest superhero.
Lacking all the superpowers associated with American superhero characters like Superman or Spiderman, he hovers nearby ready to help.
The significance of the arrival of Anpanman, as the alternative Asian superhero, which resulted from the publicity received from the song ‘Anpanman’ sung by the iconic Korean Pop (K Pop) group BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan) goes beyond the globalisation of a Japanese comic book character.
It heralds what Parag Khanna in his recent book, The Future is Asian calls ‘the Asianisation of the world’. In music for instance, BTS, an Asian pop group, represents one of the most significant departures in global pop culture of the 21st century. As a venture, BTS began with exploring neighbouring Asian markets in Taiwan, Japan and China and finally captured American audiences with the album Love Yourself in 2018.
‘Why Asia Matters’, has been the topic of discussion for some years now, not just because of the projection of the 21st century as the Asian Century, but also because of China’s emerging role in the global arena, the resilience of Asian economies in the face of a global downturn, its growing and young population, its advent as both the largest producer and consumer of goods and a plethora of other factors that would follow these developments.
It is today also space where new strategic geographies, that challenge traditional geopolitical divisions, are being imagined and where alternative economic institutions that predict a transition of the centre of global economics eastward are being framed.
This transition is emerging in the background of a deep sense of dissatisfaction with globalisation, fear of immigrants and emergence of populist politics, exemplified by a growing divide between cosmopolitan and non-cosmopolitan populations, deepening cultural differences between rural and urban populations and widening opinion among those favouring an open society that is welcoming to immigrants and other supporting closed borders.
The ‘new world order’ is in flux and Asia seems to be at its centre.
In recent years fundamental assumptions underlying the global world order have been politically, economically, socially and culturally challenged.
Typically stable territorial formations (nation-states, ideological blocks, global markets) have devolved into chaos while typically unstable extraterritorial flows (communication networks, trade arrangements, cultural codes or capital reserves) are evolving into consistent cohesions prompting the argument that globally there are shifts that are moving towards de-territorialisation and re-territorialisation at the same time.
The ‘new normal’, in economic terms, on the other hand, is a position that is likely to disrupt openness to trade on the part of the world that was its most vocal proponent and its support from states like China, which is stepping into the role of ‘globalisation’s biggest supporter’.
This was reflected in President Trump’s pullout from the 12-nation mega trade deal (the Trans-Pacific Partnership TPP) and increasing numbers of states opting to join the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Begun as a free trade agreement between the ten member states of the ASEAN and the six states with which the ASEAN has existing free trade agreement, RCEP will in all probability be expanded with the inclusion of states like Peru and Chile bringing into question the spatial aspect of the ‘regional’ economic partnership.
As trade flows compete with military power for influence, geopolitics becomes an extension of geo-economics and infrastructural developments and institutions assume increasing significance logistical connects will move towards creating new frontiers of governance and new peripheries on the outskirts of logistical connects.
It is assumed that this will eventually create a space where the distinction between the economic and the institutional, the public and the private, the national and the supranational, and the local and the global will blur or even vanish. It would also probably herald the arrival of an Asianised future reflected hopefully in the lines ‘Waiting for you, Anpanman!’
The author is Director, Asia in Global Affairs, Kolkata
‘Why Asia Matters’, has been the topic of discussion for some years now, not just because of the projection of the 21st century as the Asian Century, but also because of China’s emerging role in the global arena