Saturday, January 08, 2000

What Happened to the Asian Century?

My article of choice this week was found at the New York Times web site and titled What Happened to the Asian Century? by Ian Buruma.

In this article, Buruma questions the ‘common knowledge’ that had only fifteen or so years ago, warned the American public that the “Asian’s were coming.” Given all the real estate buying, American auto industry domination, and even novel’s such as Michael Crighton’s Rising Sun, it was clearly apparent that the end of the century and perhaps the whole of the new century would belong to Asians, particularly the Japanese. However, given the mid-late 1990’s rupture of Japan’s bubble economy and the steep slump seen in most all Asian markets, as we head into the 21st century it seems of ‘equal common knowledge’ that America rules.

Why is the obvious question. As Buruma points out, one need only realize that the Silicon Valley drivers (which seem responsible for much of the “new” American success), come to the USA from Korea, China, India, and more. From there it’s only a short leap to understanding that if those same success drivers can create such wealth along with their American counterparts in the USA, then perhaps they can also create such success in their own home countries. So, perhaps the only holdback is the state of democracy, freedom, and diversity in those home countries.

Buruma suggests that the most talented individuals will always flock to locations that support a free democracy and a diversity of people and ideas. To that end, Buruma questions whether or not Japan, Korea, or others will be able to become the powerhouses once believed to be their near birthright. Though signs of freedom and democratic change are emerging in many areas of Asia, true support for diversity may be the success key that simply doesn’t materialize in most of Asia. Especially the lack of diversity support in such homogenous cultures.

From this argument, one could conclude that next to a free democracy, which much of the world is beginning to pursue or even emulate, it is the willingness to support a true diversity of people and ideas that will enable the real economic powerhouses of the 21st century.


Buruma, I. (1999, December 29). What happened to the Asian century? [Online].

Fatehi, Kamal. "International Management: A Cross-Cultural and Functional Perspective." Prentice Hall. 1996.

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