The region’s greatest challenge will be how to manage China
When the history of the 2020s is written, this past year may be regarded as marking the end of what has been loosely called the post-colonial era in Asia. The defining measures of this transition are the definitive shift in economic power from the former colonial powers in the West, toward the former colonies of the East, and an accompanying erosion of western geopolitical and moral influence.
Not only have the United States and Europe lost economic ground to Asia, in terms of volumes of trade, investment and growth, but the capacity to guide and influence political developments, serve as a moral yardstick and ultimately use military power to influence events has been severely eroded.
In 2019 China exported more than $2.6 trillion in goods and services, slightly ahead of the U.S. figure of $ 2.5 trillion. The U.S. may still have an edge on China in terms of military spending and capability, but experts warn that China is catching up fast and that a conflict in the Asian region is not a sure win for the U.S.
In 2020, these trends were accelerated by a pair of huge black swans: the COVID-19 pandemic and the political meltdown in the U.S.