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Out with Old in Asia?

Author: Evan A. Feigenbaum
January 3, 2011
Business Standard

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As Asia rings in 2011, will it ring in a new economic order too? For two generations, with India a conspicuous exception, much of Asia relied on global demand to power its growth. But as the world economy claws its way back from crisis, others are looking to Asia to step up and lead.

With the glaring exception of Japan, Asian economies are recovering earlier and stronger than nearly all others. And from Bangalore to Beijing, Asians have become a force on the global canvas — trading, building, investing, and innovating.

Asians have assumed new weight in the G20 and Bretton Woods institutions. In May, as part of a general increase in capital, rich countries agreed to give up 3.1 percentage points of voting shares in the World Bank and to give emerging economies greater voting power. Bretton Woods is hardly the only table that matters in international relations. But the agreement made India the number seven shareholder in the Bank, with greater voting power than Russia, Canada, Australia, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.

Still, Asia's major economies have not become assertive actors on the global stage. Two central questions, then, will be whether and how Asia's most successful countries leverage their economic success into global clout in 2011.

Looking back, three things strike me about 2010:

First, Asia consolidated its role as the essential player, driving global recovery. Developing Asia, including China, India and five major Asean nations, maintained or exceeded 6.5 per cent economic growth in 2008 and 2009, a stark contrast to the advanced economies' collective negative growth over the same period. Indeed, while the advanced economies are predicted to muster 2.1 per cent growth in 2010, this will be easily outstripped by developing Asia's 8.4 per cent economic growth for the year.

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