TOKYO – If a space alien landed in East Asia today, it would find a region shaped by rapid economic transformation, complex geopolitical dynamics, and deep historical animosities. Perhaps viewing the region from such a perspective is exactly what Asia’s leaders need to do to ensure that its positive trends continue – and to halt the dangerous ones.
Our alien guest would most likely land in East Asia’s largest country, China, where three decades of phenomenal economic growth have lifted millions out of poverty and transformed Chinese society. Yet China retains its traditional Sino-centric worldview, which it seems keen to impose on its neighbors. Indeed, as China expands its military resources, it is taking increasingly bold steps to assert its dominance over sea-lanes in all directions – provoking both anxiety and ire among its regional neighbors.