By: Dr. Sandeep Tripathi
Europe was the centre of power in the nineteenth century, the twentieth century was Americanized. Now, Asia’s rise has been swift. Over the past few decades, the Centre of power has shifted from West to East. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s remarks on the “Asian century” triggered the discourse on how normalcy matters between New Delhi and Beijing in shaping the “Asian Century” which was itself coined by the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1988.
Addressing the future of India-China relations at Chulalongkorn University, he described it as an extremely difficult phase. It is, however, worthwhile to quote the former U.S. Senator and American diplomat, “There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, just permanent interests.” In response, Beijing backs that ‘we have far more common interests than differences’. This piece provides three reasons to substantiate the notion of an Asian century and further highlight that organizations like BRICS and SCO may diffuse the existing deep hostilities and suspicions within the Asian region. Under this backdrop, let us examine how New Delhi and Beijing can shape the Asian Century.
Firstly, Asia is the home for fast-growing Emerging Markets. Asia currently hosts two fast-growing economies that are in the top 10 by GDP PPP. For example, in 2021 China was in the second place on the list (only the United States remained ahead), whereas India ranked sixth, and this Asian country was ahead of such mature economies as Canada, Italy, France, and Australia. Both countries aim to ensure economic growth, and they are the largest consumers of natural and mineral resources in the world that to provide the industries with ‘’combustible materials’’. In 2020, China was the world’s biggest importer of crude oil ($150 billion), iron ore ($99 billion), petroleum gas ($36.6 billion) and copper ore ($33.9 billion).
As of 2021, China remained the largest importer of crude oil, ahead of the USA. China accounted for 22.3% of global crude oil imports. At the same time, India imported 10.4% of global crude oil imports. And the country ranked third with this indicator. Coal is another raw material that could provide rapid growth for China and India economies and to decrease the poverty of its population. In 2021, China and India were among the top five countries that were world leaders in coal imports. In terms of coal imports, India ranked first. China was in third place behind Japan. It is interesting to note that Asian countries accounted for the highest dollar worth of imported coal in 2021 with purchases amounting to $120.5 billion or 80.9% of the worldwide total.
Currently, the geopolitical situation is beneficial for these Asian countries and probably it will help to bring the Asian century much closer. Russia is one of the largest oil and coal exporters in the world. Western countries have imposed a ban to buy Russian hydrocarbons. That is the reason India and China increased Russian oil and coal imports. Actually, in the July 2022 India’s coal import raised 10% on-month to 2.03 million tons from Russia. On the other hand, in June 2022, China increased coal imports from Russia by 22%compared to the previous month, to 6.12 million tons.
Secondly, Asia is the venue for Demographic Giants. The problem of ensuring growth for the two Asian economies is directly related to the urgency to reduce poverty and to improve living standards for the population. India and China are two demographic giants. These are the most populated countries in the world. In 2022, China ranked first in the world, and India ranked second. Both countries have populations over a billion. The BRICS countries (the group also includes Brazil, Russia, and South Africa) are regarded as the five major emerging economies expected to dominate in the 21st century, are all in the top ten most populous countries (South Africa is exception), indicating how important the size of their populations are to their economic expansion. Currently, the main source of economic growth is human capital. The quality of human capital affects the creativity and innovativeness of the country’s economy. Unlike mature economies of developed nations, India and China are the largest reservoir of human capital that will ensure economic growth over the long term. In another words, demographic dividend of India and China is one of the main pillar of Asian century.
Thirdly, BRICS is the Frame for Asian Century. India and China are the members of BRICS. The organization is informal, but it is a platform for direct interaction between the countries. This fact allows coordinating actions in different areas (humanitarian sphere, academic and research cooperation, trade, military interactions, etc.). BRICS makes it possible to establish and maintain direct contacts at the highest level. Any organization needs time to develop mutually beneficial mechanisms of interaction. However, it is India and China that can turn the BRICS into a reliable framework for building Asian century. These countries have the great potential because of their demographic, industrial, intellectual and creative resources. The Asian region forms the current agenda that developed countries have to reckon with.
For a long time, the Asian region was in the shadow of European and American powers. The need to cope with numerous problems and overcome countless disputes did not allow the countries of the region to form a system that would transform their immense potential into a world of prosperity and progress. The Asian century is not about seizing resources and imposing one’s power on other peoples and countries. The Asian century will reveal the full diversity of cultures and civilizations of the region, which are capable of providing prosperity and happiness to billions of people on the planet. To ensure the Asian century, two countries that form its basis are of great importance. India and China are able to anchor in the global world to overcome various contradictions and build a system with permanent friends for mutual economic and social prosperity. Billions of people with their everyday hard work and desire for a better life deserve the advent of the Asian century, which will show that cultural, political, language, and ethnical differences are no longer obstacles for true human happiness.
Dr. Sandeep Tripathi is a Founder President of Forum for Global Studies, New Delhi and Assistant Professor at Sharda University, Greater Noida.
Dr. Kirill Sablin is an Associate Professor at Department of Economics and Public Administration, Kemerovo State University, Russia.
(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of Global Kashmir. Nor does Global Kashmir endorse the views of the writer.)-WION