Asia’s next chapter and storylines are unfolding in bold and novel ways. I see ten key themes emerging in Asia that will shape the future. Being part of the next chapter of the story of Asia means that we can influence, support and drive the incredible changes ahead.
There is a common identity emerging in Asia. East Asia has met West Asia, and North Asia has met South Asia without cultural hegemony. Finally, Asia is becoming one.
Development models across the region are placing economic prosperity at their centre. Social progress is seen as an end and not a means towards development progress while intra-regional investment drives economic growth and change. The enormous regional market will provide significant investment opportunities for decades to come.
Internal trade diversity
Cultural, geographic and resource diversity means that increasingly the biggest trade linkages will be from ‘within’ region and not from outside the region. As the aid and trade dependence from outside decline, the West will align as equal trading partners with Asia. Trade is likely to be more balanced, and early entry into new specialisations that have regional appeal will create niche markets that will further pull disadvantaged populations out of poverty.
The four growth poles – China, South-East Asia, India and the Middle East – will make multi-polarity the norm. Within Asia’s next chapter, these four poles will continue to compete for power, but will also seamlessly integrate – there will not be hard boundaries. Japan, South Korea and Australia will integrate, but only after internal identity shifts that will allow them to accept new realities and move beyond the binary.
No country in Asia wants war – the price is too high. Unless a war is brought on from an external source, political stability will be maintained so that the economic agenda can drive employment creation and investments in social welfare. Investments in military capability will be for deterrence, and public statements about potential conflict will be for election appeal rather than rule.
Within Asia’s next chapter, democracy will be ‘managed’ or will give way to public expectations for ‘good autocrats’. This will be uncomfortable for the more liberal West. Asian governance models will also influence changes in the West, Africa and Pacific.
The ambition and technological savviness of youth will drive business growth – they will be more open and global. Their ‘post-modern’ ambition will be less centered around western values and tastes, and instead be based more on values from within the region.
Social acceptance of differences, and creating opportunities for the vulnerable and disadvantaged will be seen as part of an enhanced wave of social change. Civil society will spearhead the creation of a balanced, diverse and responsible social fabric.
Climate adaptation and green energy
As Asia’s next chapter unfolds, public advocacy efforts towards governments will be focused climate adaptation and green energy. Climate change, population pressures and increased demand for economic growth will mean that decisions on energy sit at the heart of balanced progress.
The region will not be immune to natural disasters and health and technological risks. Indeed, the impact of disasters will be significant given the large populations. But the region will remain at the heart of global resilience.
Tetra Tech looks forward to engaging in dialogue about these emerging trends across the diverse landscape, as Asia’s story unfolds.
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