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Is Asia The New Epicenter of Global Power? This Author Believes So.

In May of 2017, Asian, European, and African leaders from sixty-eight countries gathered in Beijing for the inaugural Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit. It signaled the launch of a groundbreaking infrastructure investment plan in that area, one that promises to reshape the global economic landscape.

Together, the governments in attendance pledged trillions of dollars over the coming decade to fuel a new Silk Road era — one that fuses together the world’s largest population centers into hubs of commerce and cultural exchange.

I first learned about this project in The Economist which I’m a proud subscriber of. As a close observer of Asia’s meteoric rise both economically and socially, it has been fascinating to stay abreast what’s happening in this part of the world.

A little background about Asia if you are unfamiliar with the region: It is the earth’s largest and most populous continent on the planet replete with dense population settlements as well vast barely unpopulated landscapes. It has an estimated 4,522,036,285 people, which registers in at 60% of the world’s population. That’s ten times as many people in Europe and twelve times that of North America.

Asia has several of the world’s largest economies, the majority of the world’s foreign exchange reserves, some of the largest banks and companies, and many of the world’s largest armies.

Amid all of this, there’s now talk of the new “Asian Century” where a merging of economic, strategic and governance models in this region will reshape the trajectory of business across the world, tied to investment and trade.

These prognostications come at a time when U.S. President Trump is touting “America First” rhetoric by, among other things, initiating a trade war with China. This has led to the belief in some circles that Asia will unravel as China’s economy falls into decline or implodes under nationalistic sentiments.

There’s one expert who believes that these views about Asia are a bit misguided. His name is Dr. Parag Khanna, whose book Connectography I had the pleasure of reading last year. Khanna now has a new book entitled The Future is Asian which is scheduled for release in February of 2019. It delivers an ocean of compelling information about the unprecedented growth taking place in Asia. Filled with deep analysis, data maps, and information captured largely through on-the-ground reporting, this book promises to be a seminal guide on the future of global economies, societies, and governance.

I have been corresponding with Dr. Khanna and find him to be a person of impressive chops. He has a vast encyclopedic knowledge of Asian history and geopolitical trends which he has expertly weaved into this most recent book. World business leaders will find The Future Is Asian particularly insightful as they seek to make strategic pivots around Asia’s massive array of commercial opportunities.

Dr. Khanna asserts that Western populist politics from Brexit to Trump are likely to have little effect on Asia given its focus on inclusive growth and social cohesion. He says that President Trump’s binary approach to trade in China runs counter to some basic realities and complexities around Asian trade, investment, and supply chains.

According to Dr. Khanna, Asian countries are far more likely to benefit from Trump’s trade wars with China. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy will likely be impacted as China seeks other trading partners for goods and services the U.S. has henceforth been providing.

Says Khanna: “ America First” cannot succeed when the world economy and global supply no longer bow to the U.S.”

Asked about what led him to this book, Dr. Khanna had this to say:

“I wanted to capture the re-emergence of an integrated Asia, something that hasn’t existed for 500 years since colonialism! Moreover, I felt it was important to correct the narrative around exclusively focusing on China, which is part of Asia but does not fully dominate it. In fact, there are 3.5 billion Asians who are not Chinese. So I wanted readers to get to know the full Asian picture.”

In terms of living in Singapore and how it has it informed his broader thoughts and perspective about Asia, Dr. Khanna offered this assessment:

“Singapore has long been what I call the “capital of Asia,” the neutral convener and commercial capital that sets the gold standard for rule of law, ease of doing business, effective government, low corruption, public safety and law and order.”

“It also champions many other virtues like the world’s best educational system and seamless connectivity to every city in a region that represents more than four billion people. We moved here from London to experience what having four billion neighbors is like while living in a safe city of only 5 million people. I can’t imagine being able to provide the insights I did in my books Connectography or The Future is Asian were it not for everything I’ve learned in the past five years of living here.”

In terms of the trade wars with America, Dr. Khanna believes China will seek to replace its U.S. suppliers with European and Asian ones. In fact, Asian countries and Europe are already China’s two largest sets of trading partners, he says, far larger than the US. He believes this will be bad for US exporters to China, a fact that we’re already seeing when it comes to cars, food, and other sectors.

In terms of the biggest takeaway, he hopes to convey to readers in The Future Is Asian, Khanna concludes: “I want people to understand that walls and borders and protectionism are not the global reality. In fact, Asia is bringing down barriers to integration and embracing globalization. These forces will shape the future of our world much more than Trump’s protectionism.”

Michael Scott is an Independent Journalist with a passion for Great Books and Great Minds . He can be reached at michael@nextchaptermichael.com