Asia is a crossroad for giants. Not only does the region have a long history of serving as a focal point for trade, it is currently dominated by China as a rising world power and the United States as the world’s most powerful nation. In addition, the likes of Russia and India are constantly redefining their roles as regional powers while less populous nations like Japan and Australia also play critical roles as regional economic powers.
Caught between the forces of these powerful nations, Asia is also home to a variety of smaller, less affluent nations. In order to prosper in such a climate, these nations must assuredly align many of their national policies to the interests of their far more affluent neighbors. If they do not, they can easily be starved of critical investment and trade while the modern military might of the US, China, Russia, and India mean these nations need powerful allies should they find themselves in a conflict with one of these giants.
That said, weaker nations risk being forced to neglect their long-term and broader interests in order to provide for their immediate interests.
Although the US has long attracted allies by helping support and strengthen underdeveloped nations, America has also angered Asians by being overly domineering when we want our Asians partners to serve our interests against their will. With the rise of China as a world power, competition will likely deter the US from acting in such a polarizing manner. In case of Australia, for example, a free trade agreement with China may open new markets and lead to greater investment, which will lead to less dependence on the US and Japan.
On the other hand, a strong GDP today does not mean prosperity for the Australian People tomorrow. The advantage of being a nation with a smaller population is that a service sector economy can provide for the needs of your People, which is why 90% of Australia’s economy is service oriented; however, providing those services to a larger country can be an issue when that wealthier countries uses that openness to built up its own service sector and buy up financial assets. In addition, China has money and needs land to feed its People, so allowing the Chinese elites to buy up Australian farmland could one day transform Australia into a virtual territory of China. If you can buy the farm, there is no need to buy the milk.
Although there are great risks to aligning oneself too heavily with any one major world power, there are also risks when trying to deal all major players of Asia. Like a boat tossed around by the waves of converging storms, the influence of Asia’s regional powers will always shape the policies and outcome of every nations in Asia. Getting caught in the middle of a conflict between India and China, for example, can easily turn a Kashmir into a war zone.
At the same time, the Arab Spring Revolutions were just a symptom of a much greater change in the world. Not only is the International Community democratizing, so are all the Peoples of the world. This means they are seeking greater freedom and independence from oppressive governments, including the influence of foreign powers. As the Peoples of the world demand their interests be met by governments, there are, of course, increased chances for major conflicts to arise.
Consequently, countries like Nepal, Myanmar, East Timor, and Sri Lanka must approach governance in a balanced, honest manner while they must plan for a world experiencing dramatic shifts in power. In order to do this, they need to cater to the interests of all their Peoples, especially if that means confronting cultural conflicts. They must also approach foreign policy with their long-term and broader interests in mind.
When an economy grows quickly due to policies that cater to the few, neglect the needs of the home economy, and fail to spur sustainable production increases, that economy, and country, is doomed to failure. If a government favors an elite segment of the population and fails to provide equal protection/consideration under the Law, that government will never function properly and create growing instability.
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