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Asia’s Hour?

NEW YORK – As Asia emerges from the global economic crisis faster than the rest of the world, it is increasingly clear that the world’s center of gravity is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is equally clear that Asian states are not yet ready to assume the more meaningful leadership in global affairs that will be necessary to ensure that this tectonic shift can make the world more stable and secure than it has been. Asian states have a tremendous opportunity to rise to this challenge.

The signs of Asia’s rise are unmistakable. Over the past five years, China’s contribution to world GDP growth has steadily increased from one-fifth to one-third, and India’s from approximately 6% to 16%. Given their growing footprints on global economics, politics, and the environment, it is now impossible to imagine any major international agreement without China, Japan, and India on board.

China, in particular, has emerged as the key counterpart to the United States in almost all major global forums, as well as international platforms for discussing critical transnational issues, from the Six-Party Talks with North Korea and the G-20 to talks about climate change. Some even call for establishing a US-China G-2.

Asia’s new clout holds tremendous promise. If Asian domestic consumption increases, for example, global economic growth will depend far less on over-consumption by debt-laden Americans. This would help all economies. If Asian countries other than Japan commit to binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions, a global deal on climate change will be possible at this December’s Copenhagen Summit, even if developing Asia’s caps are implemented more gradually than those for the developed world.