An ‘Asia for Asians’ vision is nothing like America’s Monroe Doctrine
- ‘Asia for Asians’ is a collective vision, a statement by a rising region that wants to determine its own fate, in pursuit of peace, security and economic prosperity – with no hegemonic ambitions
That statement marked the beginning of a long journey that led to today’s vision of an Asia of Asians, by Asians and for Asians. With 60 per cent of the world’s population, Asia is the world’s largest continental economy by nominal gross domestic product and purchasing power parity – there is no reason to think of Asia other than by the “Asia by Asians” vision, or the visions put forth at the Think Asia Forum held last week in Singapore.
Next year will be the 100th anniversary of US president James Monroe’s 1823 speech to Congress in which he warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western hemisphere. It is clear the Monroe Doctrine was rooted in a fight among world powers at the time over colonial territories in the Western hemisphere.
Colonialism, as represented by its history of sugar plantations, coffee plantations, slave trade and the genocide of the indigenous peoples of North America, is the very reason Sukarno organised the Bandung conference.
Unlike the Monroe Doctrine, which emanates from the capital of a single country, “Asia by Asians” is a collective statement from Asian peoples, representing a diversity of histories, cultures, religious beliefs, and political and social systems. It is a multilateral initiative, not serving the national interest of one country, but the common interest of all Asian countries.
Unlike the Monroe Doctrine, our vision is not set against the backdrop of the rise of a single superpower, but is about the rise of the entire region, including the rise of China, Japan and South Korea, the rise of India and Pakistan, the rise of the Gulf states, the rise of the Indochina region, and the rise of the entire Southeast Asia.
Europe and Asia diverged, however, as Europe overcame premodern growth constraints to pull ahead, with the industrial revolution in Britain as its climax, while Asia stagnated and fell behind.
Today, the great divergence is reversing into what I call the “Great Convergence”. The world’s economic epicentre is shifting back to Asia. From the robotised factories in China’s coastal cities to the desert oilfields in Saudi Arabia, from the artificial intelligence research labs in Japan and South Korea to the medical centres in Singapore, from the temperate grasslands in the Eurasian heartland to the rice paddies in Thailand and Philippines, Asia is coming back. It is time to Think Asia.
Dr John Gong is a professor at the University of International Business and Economics and a China Forum expert