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An Arms Race Gets Into Gear and Other Predictions for Asia in 2014

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia
January 6, 2014


Just like 2013, the new year promises to be one of enormous dynamism and change in Asia. The region is not only the biggest engine of global growth but also the center of multilateral free-trade negotiations, the real heart of a democracy "spring" in developing nations—and the home of the rawest, most dangerous power politics in the world. After all, only in Asia do great powers with great stocks of nuclear weapons still face each other down, Cold War-style.

Here, then, are seven events to watch out for in 2014 across Asia:

1. China Plays Nice Again (to a Point) …
Over the past four years, China has increasingly alienated most of its neighbors in South, Southeast, and Northeast Asia. After embarking upon a strategy of soothing engagement with the rest of Asia in the early and mid-2000s, a strategy that helped China sign new free-trade deals and build partnerships with many countries, in the early 2010s the country has mostly flushed away the points it won. Its vast claims in the disputed waters of the South China Sea and East China Sea and its nationalist rhetoric have fostered a reaction in the region that's exactly the opposite of what the government desired. Countries from the Philippines to South Korea to Myanmar have welcomed greater U.S. military and diplomatic involvement in Asia, largely as a counterweight to a rising China.

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