Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Is the 21st Century an "Asian Century"?

I received word today that an article by my friend Myongsob Kim and me, "Is the 21st Century an 'Asian Century'? Raising More Reservations than Hopes," has just appeared in the August 2010 issue of Pacific Focus: Inha Journal of International Studies, Volume 25, Issue 2 (pages 161-180). Here's the abstract:
Many are today arguing that the 21st century will be "the Asian Century," and much ink has been spilled over the splendid achievements of Asia as evidence of such arguments. However, this paper suggests some reservations regarding that argument, though also some distant hopes. First of all, we do not know yet what Asia really is, as there are too many geographical Asias. More effort should be made to conceptualize the geographical, or geopolitical, boundaries of Asia, which are both too blurred and too intertwined among sub-identities within Asia, and without. Second, Asia still has a lot of matters that need to be resolved by Asians themselves before the optimistic and audacious expression "Asian Century" can be legitimately used. In resolving those matters by themselves through international cooperation, the conceptual boundary of Asia could become clearer and a shared Asian geopolitical identity would have more possibility of emerging.
The article itself is not especially analytical, nor does it say anything particularly surprising. We devote several paragraphs to the Ancient and Medieval concepts of Asia. The latter of the two eras actually privileged Asia as the source of Christian truth. We thus express in passing a degree of skepticism toward Edward Said's famous orientalism thesis. We go on from there and attempt to define the boundaries of Asia, which was somehow pleasing to work through if perhaps less compelling to read, though necessary to do if one intends to talk about "Asia." We then get down to business, looking at Asia's strengths and weaknesses, none of which are surprising but all of which need pointing out, I suppose.

For those readers interested in an overview on the putative "Asian Century," this article might serve that purpose, for it has the virtues of clarity and comprehensiveness, though it cannot go into great depth or significant detail.

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