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Asia

Asia's rise need not mean the West's decline

How does Asia's rise re-shape the world? This was the topic of a symposium held by the foundation of the German newspaper 'Die Zeit' in Hamburg on Wednesday.

Fireworks light up the Shanghai skyline during the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Expo

Fireworks light up the Shanghai skyline during the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Expo

A remarkable economic rise has been witnessed for the last two decades in large parts of Asia - with the notable exceptions of Myanmar and North Korea. Germany's former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is very optimistic about Asia's future.

"It is foreseeable that within the next decade, China and India will become the world's second and fourth largest economies," Schmidt said. "And within the next decades, the renminbi or yuan is going to be one of three globally decisive currencies."

Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is confident about Asia's future

Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is confident about Asia's future

Helmut Schmidt believes that the economic and political development of Asia will continue over the next decades. Despite the unsolved problems of Taiwan or Kashmir, and despite North Korea's nuclear ambitions, he does not expect any large military conflicts in Asia, because in his eyes both China and India act very cautiously and responsibly on global affairs.

The center of prosperity keeps moving

The gravity of power is shifting to Asia. In Hamburg, Professor Paul Kennedy, author of the famous book The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, remembered a conversation with a Japanese scholar. He spoke about how the center of civilization was in Asia for a long time. Then it moved over the centuries to the Mediterranean, and later on across the Alps to northwest Europe. By the late 19th and early 20th century it moved across the Atlantic to the East Coast of the US. After World War II, it then shifted to the West Coast of the US, and in the 1970s arrived from California in Tokyo. "It seems simply to be going around the world," the Japanese scholar said, and asked Paul Kennedy how to keep the center of prosperity in Japan. "What makes you think it's going to stop in Tokyo forever?," Kennedy answered. "Why should it not move on to somewhere else - like Shanghai?"

Paul Kennedy teaches at Yale University

Paul Kennedy teaches at Yale University

Not necessarily a zero-sum game

The rise of Asia puts an end to the 500-year epoch in which first Europe, then America dominated the world, says Theo Sommer, Editor-at-Large of Die Zeit. So a question comes up: does Asia's rise have to mean the West's decline? But Parag Khanna from the Global Governance Initiative resists this kind of zero-sum thinking that someone's gains have to be someone else's loss.

"We don't know for sure that 21st century geopolitics has to follow the same patterns that the last 400 years of European-centric geopolitics have," said Khanna. "It could instead be a very different world. Just look at the European Union itself. It's becoming a whole, greater than some of its parts. That really has not existed in the modern memory. There is a lesson there, potentially applicable on a global scale."

Khanna believes that irrespective of who is rising and who is declining, the world should focus more on a common agenda, global issues such as climate change, poverty and energy security.

Author: Miao Tian (Hamburg)
Editor: Disha Uppal

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