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The Asian juggernaut cometh

This book confirms the rumour of China, India and Japan marching to sculpt a new world order.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2006 17:58 IST

Asian juggernaut: The rise of China, India and Japan
Author: Brahma Chellaney
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 81-7223-650-6
Price: Rs 395
Pages: 348

The riddle of the Asian juggernaut - read China, India and Japan - marching inexorably to sculpt a new world order has haunted pundits and crystal ball gazers for some time. A new book confirms this prophecy and illuminates the meaning of this shift in world affairs to "a dynamic and thriving Asia".

Written by Brahma Chellaney, a strategic expert known for speaking out his mind on critical national security issues, the book analyses why Asia holds the key to the new world order and why the three emerging powers must find new ways of managing their enhanced economic and military clout to avoid confrontation in the larger interests of Asian security and prosperity.

Besides their interrelationship, competition and inherent rivalry, the relationship of the Asian trinity with the US, the world's sole superpower, will be equally crucial in shaping the contours of a new global order, argues the author.

Making a detailed comparative analysis of the three Asian giants, the author sees the rise of China as an international power and as a potential superpower of world altering significance.

"Not since Japan rose to world-class power status during the reign of the Meiji emperor has another non-Western power emerged with such potential to alter the global order as China has done today," writes Chellaney.

China has many advantages as it moves up the ladder to the world power status - an economy that's been growing at the rate of about nine percent for the last quarter century, huge investment in infrastructure, largest foreign direct investment inflow in an Asian economy, a seemingly inexhaustible supply of cheap, unskilled labour that makes it the hub of low-cost manufacturing and a modernised military powered by an impressive nuclear and missile programme.

But Beijing's ascent to great power status is not going to be easy and smooth. The widening rich-poor and the rural-urban divide has sparked massive social unrest that could inhibit its onward march.

"Unrest is growing as rapidly as China's GDP," writes the author and cites the growing number of protests, which rose to 87,000 last year, to underline the growing restlessness of the deprived and marginalised.

In comparison, India is the redoubtable knowledge powerhouse with a huge pool of English-speaking, talented, skilled manpower that makes it the hub of BPO and IT outsourcing and emerging sunrise sectors like biotechnology and nanotechnology.

India's myriad strengths, even if the hype about rising power is to be discounted, are more obvious: it is the world's largest democracy, its economy, reinforced by its world class service industry, is rapidly reforming and has notched up eight percent plus growth for the last few years and more than half a billion young make for a productive workforce.

What can come in the way of India's great power ambitions? Corruption, a bureaucracy mired in red tape, the surge in violence engineered by those who are not empowered, the lack of resolute and visionary leadership and a foreign policy that is still recovering from the hangover of doctrinaire non-alignment.

Between India and China, the author would have us believe that the dragon has more fire in its belly and in the end it's the attitude that will win.

"Prone to seduction by praise, India is a nation that yearns to be loved and feels best when its policies enjoy external affirmation. China, quite the opposite, wants to be held in respect and awe and never muffles its view when any interest is at stake," writes the author.

The China-India competition, however, is not just about growth figures but is also a battle of ideas. As the author poses the all-important question: "Can India, for example, prove that democratic politics and market economics blend nicely as a formula to make a poor country prosperous, or is the Chinese model better suited for that mission?"

As for Japan, its return as a normal player to the global stage, with increasing internal pressure for revising its US-authored pacifist constitution, is sure to give this sunrise nation a decisive say in shaping the evolving architecture of a new Asia.

This makes for a formidable three-way race for the dominance of Asia - "home to the world's fastest growing markets, fastest rising military expenditures and most serious hotspots (including the epicentre of world terrorism)."

Is there a clear winner here? Or does it make for a chessboard of rivalry and one-upmanship, especially with extant territorial and maritime disputes and historical grievances?

Instead of conjuring up gloomy prophecies, the author likes to be a resolute optimist and believes that the three Asian titans "can set a model for other states in Asia by establishing stable political relationships that put the accent on mutually beneficial cooperation".

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