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Is the Asian Century Really Here?

Asia is already a major global power, and some regard the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as a tipping point that will accelerate the region’s resurgence. But the twenty-first century will really belong to Asia only if it can develop unified, collective leadership.

SEOUL – The COVID-19 pandemic has not been the West’s finest hour. Most Western governments failed to contain the deadly outbreak and the resulting economic damage effectively. And by pursuing inward-looking and protectionist policies, they have contributed relatively little to an effective international response to the coronavirus.

Against this background, some regard the current crisis as a tipping point that will accelerate Asia’s global resurgence. They point out that Asian countries managed the pandemic better than the West did, and argue that the region’s robust and resilient economic performance over the past half-century demonstrates the superiority of its governance systems.

In fact, the twenty-first century will belong to Asia only if the region can develop unified, collective leadership. Asia is already a major global power, accounting for 60% of the world’s population and about 40% of global GDP in purchasing-power-parity terms. And with eight of the world’s 15 most populous countries (China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam), Asia is more than just China.

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