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Is It too early to Claim an Asian Century?

With the United States' decreased influence in the international scene, a power vacuum has emerged in consequence. While usually there have been ups and downs in terms of US influence in the world, president Trump's "America First" philosophy doesn't look to attempt to regain US dominance, in fact, at times it seems as if president Trump isn't really focused on the impact that his policies will have on the international scene, and whether or not he should be is a discussion for another time.
As an example, Trump's decision to leave the Paris climate Accord has left a huge leadership gap, one that China-with its 'aggressive' plan to fight carbon emission- would be very keen to fill.
In recent years, there has been a transfer of wealth and power from the 'old world order'- dominated by the United States and Europe- to non-western states. It is without a doubt the end of the 'American Century' but perhaps it may be imprudent to claim an 'Asian Century'. 
During my research I encountered three published papers that, I felt, discussed in detail the reasons as to why Asian counties have not established themselves as dominant powers in the global order; ‘Asia’ has differing geographical boundaries, there are conflicts within Asia that prevent it from coming together as a unit and creating a shared geopolitical identity, as well as the economic- even though there has been a significant increase in their economic power, Asia still remains poorer than their western counterparts- political, and environmental challenges.

In his paper, Inkenberry believes that while the position of the United States is changing, the liberal international system is still in place and will continue to be. He believes that the emerging non-western powers do not want to change the international system; rather, they just want to gain more authority within it. Inkenberry argues that joining the international order is an opportunity for growth as it gives rising nations access to other nations for trade, investment, and sharing of ideas. China, for example, could be drawn further into the international order due to its desire to have their currency- the Yuan- rivalling the U.S Dollar, that desire will make the Chinese loosen its currency controls, further strengthening the international market. Furthermore, Inkenberry argues that it is not an American decline but rather, other states are catching up and becoming just as powerful, and that this balance in power was what the liberal international order was hoping to achieve. He concludes by stating that the struggle will not be between the West versus the non-West, but instead it will be between those who want to maintain the current multilateral governance and those who seek a more independent form of governance. These struggles will keep the US in the elite, as states will seek their help to maintain order, “In this new age of international order, the United States will not be able to rule. But it can still lead.”
Kurlantzick, in his paper, argues that while the decline in US influence is clear, Asia will still face economic, political and environmental challenges before it can become the Successor of the United States. Economically, densely populated countries such as, China, India and Japan, have an advantage due to their highly competitive labour force, however as the population ages, the elderly will be relying on their children to support them financially, weakening that advantage. In addition, inequality, corruption and ecological disasters will also hinder the Asian economies.  Politically, the problems are much more severe, democracy is not established in some of these countries and dictators are usually ill-equipped to deal with domestic crises. In addition, large scale projects, like China’s Three Gorges Dam-that led to the relocation of millions of Chinese citizens- are put into motion without consultation of any sort, leaving behind a bad image for generations. Furthermore, despite efforts at regional integration, Asia remains a highly divided area; in fact, China, India and Japan could potentially go to war against each other. Combined with the fact that most Asian nations- Singapore being one of the few exceptions- are antithetic towards immigration, further hinder their potential for growth, both, domestically and internationally. Kurlantzick concludes with what this might mean for America; he argues that even though their influence is declining, the world still trusts the US, more than any other power and that only the United States has the desire and interest to work towards common interests; international security, human rights, and liberal trading system. "For all its economic might, Asia remains, overall, so much poorer than the United States that the region will take decades to catch up - if it catches up at all."
It is unclear to the international community, and perhaps even to themselves, as to what the region of Asia really covers, as it varies largely in definition. Asia is internally multipartite, as seen by the UN classification that divides Asia into six sub regions; Eastern, Western, Southern, South-eastern, Northern, and Central Asia. This makes it difficult for the region to be thought of as one entity, and thus makes it a lot harder to establish an Asian geopolitical identity. Furthermore, as strong as this region is becoming, it’s still dependent on the Western nations and shows very few signs of wanting to establish a Pan-Asian international organisation in order to rely less on the west for the management of Asian matters. Both Kim and Jeffery, in their paper, believe that while Asia does have the potential to rise as a superpower, it also has the possibility of many disasters. They argue that this is not a case of East versus West, and that for Asia to become influential in the international order and in turn claim the ‘Asian Century’, they must first discover the meaning of what is Asia geographically and geopolitically.
The conclusion that can be drawn from these 3 papers, is that it is indeed too soon to call it an Asian century, it is made clear that the US is losing its influence in the international stage, not because it is weaker, but because other nations are catching up to the US. Asia is growing in power, but it still has its own political and economic problems to deal with. The US will still remain an influential actor in the International stage as its legacy of pursuing common global goals will ensure that other nations continue to seek its help; perhaps not as a ruler, but as a leader.

Ikenberry, G. J. "The Future of the Liberal World Order: Internationalism After America." Foreign Affairs 90, no. 3 (May, 2011): 56-68.
Jefferey, Horace and Kim, Myongsob. “ Is the 21st Century an “Asian Century”? Raising More Reservations than Hopes”. Pacific Focus 25, No.3 (August, 2010): 161-180
Kurlantzick, Joshua. "The Asian Century? Not quite Yet." Current History 110, no. 732 (01, 2011): 26-31.


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