BERLIN amp#45;amp#45; Asia’s rise as an economic and political player exemplifies what globalization is all about. By the decade’s end, China’s economy will be larger than Germany’s. By 2040 three of the world’s five largest economies – China, India, and Japan – will be in Asia.
That is one side of the Asian picture. The other side is persistent poverty, lack of development, massive environmental degradation, a widespread rural-urban divide, demographic problems, and troubled banking systems. The picture is further complicated by security risks such as nuclear arms proliferation, fundamentalism, and weak or failing governance.
The sweeping changes underway in Asia are not just economic, but have also created new political realities that cannot be ignored. Asian countries now act with much greater self-assurance than in the past. Their military budgets are expanding, and there are regional rivalries. Thus, along with tremendous opportunities implied by globalization, political risks must also be addressed.
German and European policymakers must make clear what Europe has to offer Asia, and can do so at this month’s EU/ASEAN and EU/China summits. The “soft power” of Europe’s political and social model is well known. As an Asian leader once told me, Europeans have what many Asian societies aspire to: democratic government, advanced infrastructure, civil rights, world-class companies, high educational and social standards, and a rich cultural heritage. This gives us considerable standing.