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The Asian Century? Not Quite Yet

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia
January 2011
Current History


This past summer China's leaders, taking a far more assertive posture toward America than they had in recent memory, publicly warned the United States to stay out of any disputes regarding the South China Sea, over which the People's Republic in 2010 claimed sovereignty. Chinese officials also temporarily froze militaryto- military ties with the Americans, and refused a visit to the country by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. “This is the most aggressive, the most openly promoting its power, that I've seen from China,” said one longtime US official focusing on Asia.

Predictably, some observers have interpreted Chinese officials' recent attitude as signaling a broader geopolitical shift. They declare that not just China but Asia in general is ready to dominate global business and international security. Asia, after all, boasts the global economy's new powerhouses, including India and China, as well as fast-growing countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia. It contains the majority of the world's people. Its leading powers are building militaries to match their economic might. India's defense spending, for example, is rising by double digits annually, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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