On the 17th-18th of April, expert thinkers from across the region gathered at the Crawford School of Public Policy to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the Asian Century. Hosted by Peter Drysdale, the participants voiced their opinions on the rise of Asia and debated the future trajectory of the region throughout the 21st Century.
The first day consisted of four roundtable discussions in which our guests were joined by members of the Asian Century White Paper advisory council. Many of the presentations had a regional focus, dissecting Asia into smaller geographic units and explaining the economic developments which are currently taking place. Discussion was also centred upon regional architecture, trans-national institutions, climate change and the evolving strategic environment of the Asia Pacific.
The second day consisted of a public forum in which participants were able to synthesise the discussions of the roundtable and present their ideas on the Asian Century to the general population. The forum consisted of two panels, the first focusing upon economic issues, the second on security and strategic implications.
In the first session, a recurrent argument was put forth that Asia’s continued rise is far from inevitable as there remain many challenges which could curtail future economic growth. Demographic shifts, climate change and in particular, the middle income trap, were all identified as potential threats to Asia’s future prosperity. Whether these obstacles can be overcome by prudent government policies remains a critical question for Asia’s continued development.
Unsurprisingly, the rise of China as a regional power and the potential for conflict with the United States dominated the second session. While panellists had a range of views on the issue, the desire for a more cooperative approach to decision making was a recurring theme. An end to the United States’ hegemony and a greater role for collective decision making bodies such as the G20 was argued to be a fairer and more effective method of dealing with future issues in the region.
While the prospects for growth and greater cooperation between Asian nations remain promising, Thinking about the Asian Century has highlighted the numerous challenges that still remain, such as climate change, the middle income trap and the growing rivalry between China and the United States. There can be no quick fix in overcoming these significant challenges and the answers may not be immediately clear. However, this event, and the government’s White Paper to be released later this year are simply the first of many steps to ensuring sustained peace and prosperity in the Asia Pacific throughout the 21st Century.