The Rise of Asia: Part 2

Wilfred Hahn

The Modern Asian Phenomenon
We continue our series of “Ripening Times—Discerning Trends of Significance.” We proceed with our explanation of why the sudden rise of Asia qualifies as one such trend.

A significant impulse that has rocked the world in recent decades is the rapid emergence of a group of Asian economic dynamos. Large countries with huge populations, such as India and China, seem to have awoken rather suddenly. After years of slumbering, this cocooned region began its butterfly transformation only some 60 to 70 years ago. Today, as some of these nations have muscled onto the world stage as economic titans, they are projecting a wide wake—one that has washed up on the shores of all the high-income countries around the world, particularly North America and Europe. In the process, these Asian nations have become more influential geopolitically.

It would be instructive to get a sense of the epic nature of the Asian phenomenon of the past half-century. It is yet a rapid trend that has direct linkages to economic, financial and geopolitical developments. Even more significant, the rise of Asia finds Scriptural alignments. We must ask: How does Satan benefit from these sudden developments?

Small Beginnings with Big Consequences
It wasn’t that long ago—not much more than 50 years past—that the Western world still looked upon the Far East with a certain aloofness. It was and remains a diverse part of the world, comprising roughly 40% of the world’s landmass and approximately 60% of the earth’s population. To illustrate, the countries of China and India evoked belittling visions of rice paddies and countryside peasants; or, respectively, teeming Hindus living in the stifling suburbs of Calcutta, between their wandering, sacred cows. Westerners would donate their nickels and dimes to alleviate the hungry and homeless in this region … perhaps, the lepers in India.

The Mao uniforms that were worn in the Middle Kingdom (China)—unisex brown khakis for everyone—were also a familiar picture. These Asian peoples, different as they were, seemed a world away—certainly far out of harm’s way and of no fathomable threat to America or any other high-income country.

We considered them less fortunate, backward and undeveloped—beneath the enlightened ways of the West’s so-called Hellenistic and progressive cultures. Their customs and religions were strange. This is what Westerners thought.

It then began with a whimper. In mid-century, the world witnessed the first beginnings of Asia’s economic miracles in a select number of smaller countries.

Japan was the first Asian nation in the post-war period to enter take-off into rapid economic development.

While it had been a force to be reckoned with during World War II, Japan economically was seen as diminutive and non-threatening in the post-war period. Its economy in 1960 represented only 3% of world economic output. Its population accounted for a similar proportion.

Then, suddenly, beginning in the late 1950s, Japan’s economy was sparked to grow more than two to three times as fast as those of America and Europe during this early growth phase. Japan began a hyperactive period of economic growth and development, rapidly rising from its relatively poor status to eventually become the world’s second largest economic powerhouse.

South Korea was next. It seemed even less significant, its economy in 1960 amounting to less than 1/3 of 1% of world output and possessing less than 1% of the world’s population.

Beginning in the early 1960s, this Asian competitor to Japan began its journey to eventually become one of the high-income nations of the world. Only 25 years later, in 1996,1 it would become one of the 30 members of the Organization of Economic Development (OECD)—the rich country club of the world.

The Awakening Spreads to China?
As a world-traveling investment executive, this writer had only come to fully grasp the significance of China’s economic awakening somewhat late. I remember the very day that my awareness was alerted. On a research trip to Asia in 1992, I visited with the Chief Investment Officer of a major family fortune (with Mainland connections) in Hong Kong. This man, who was Chinese and educated in Australia, was more than forthcoming about what was happening in China.

His message was this: Western corporate executives were so greedy they were willing to supply all their technology free to China—and significant investment capital to boot—if they could have an opportunity to access China’s domestic consumer market. He was chuckling as he said it.

He was amused with the transparent gullibility and greed of the wai lo—literally meaning “foreign devils.” It was the Chinese version of a capitalist “monkey trap.” That conversation took place already a full decade after the “economic opening” to the rest of the world, which was begun by Premier Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s.

Communist China had woken up and realized that a large and growing economy was the equivalent of power and might. And indeed, many Western multinational corporations were very eager to build factories in China. At one point, as much as 50% of China’s goods exports were the output of American- and European-owned companies in China. Western companies made huge profits by “off-shoring” their products to China and its Asian manufacturing hub.

China and Asia Continue to Advance
While the advances of Japan and South Korea were monumentally fast, it is the economic awakening of China that attracts the most emphasis in this review. Firstly, it is crucial to realize that the Chinese have an inordinately large influence on the entire Asian region. Not only is China the largest trade partner with many other Asian countries, but also a large percentage of major businesses in southeast Asia are owned or controlled by Chinese families.

Though a minority ethnic group in Asia (outside of China), they are its main business people. The Chinese diasporas, triggered by political unrest and wars of the late 19th century and the middle 20th (the time of the Great Revolution and victory of Mao Zedong), spread a Chinese business network across the entire region from Malaysia to Indonesia. These large business empires have directed much investment to China in recent decades, and have made a large contribution to the economic rise of China.

Secondly, China, either individually or in concert with other Asian countries, believes they will eventually challenge America and other Western countries. China itself may have less inhibitions in destabilizing the current world order, as it is much more than “a big country, inhabited by many Chinese,” as the French President Charles de Gaulle once opined.

Its agendas find deep motivations. China’s deportment is heavily influenced by the fact that it has existed as a country, millennia before the US and other high-income countries of today. After all, China was the world’s largest economy for 18 of the last 20 centuries.

Finally, China is not militarily reliant upon the West as was Japan when it entered its fast-growth phase. This affords a measure of autonomy. It can choose to align itself against the West. In conclusion, China is no one’s lap dog. It is an independent and proud player on the world scene. Foreign pressure (gaiatsu) is not likely to be effective. Can anyone stop China from pursuing its own interest?

Our opinion: Yes and no, as we will explain.

Is a Dominant Asia Inevitable?
Though it may today appear that the economic advance of China and other Asian nations is unstoppable, this is not necessarily a valid conclusion. In fact, it is not at all likely that Far-East Asian nations will come to dominate the world anytime soon, if ever. To the contrary.

While competitive pressures and conflicts with the Western world (Roman world) are surely to heighten, Bible prophecy as well as other developments observable today suggest otherwise.

It is a strange twist of fate that Asia as a region possesses so little resources and energy reserves in comparison to other parts of the world. The vast abundance of the world’s resources—certainly so when measured on a per capita basis—is found elsewhere. This is a structural reality of the world.

It means that an awakening Asia, as it seeks to attain the prosperity levels of the US, Canada and Europe, is sure to test the limitations of commodity supplies. This has already been the case over the last several decades.

Another hurdle stems from the fact that birth rates have fallen dramatically over the past several decades in China (and also Asia generally). At some point this will cause economic difficulties, as there will be insufficient young people entering the workforce. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that China’s ascendancy cannot continue indefinitely.

However, there is one further indication that Asian countries will not take over or lead the world. The reason is revealed in Bible prophecy.

In the final part of this series about the rise of Asia, we examine what the Bible has to say about the futures of both Asia and China.

ENDNOTE
1 OECD Website. “Korea signed the Convention founding the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on 12 December 1996, thereby pledged its full dedication to achieving the Organization’s fundamental aims.”

Midnight Call - 12/2019

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