Why Study Asia? Asia\’s great civilizations: like those of India, China and Japan, have made great contributions to the world civilization. Asia is also the home of several major religions in the world, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintoism. Asians are an increasingly important segment of American society. Immigrants from Asian countries are the fastest growing group in the US today. Asia has about 60 percent of the world\’s population with different historical traditions, cultures and religions. Three of the four most populated countries of the world are in Asia: China, India, and Indonesia. U. S. trade with Asia was twice that with Europe in 1996. During the 19th century, the world economy\’s center shifted westward from Europe to North America. During the 20th century, the world economy\’s center has gradually moved from North America to the Asia-Pacific. A huge number of U. S. corporations conduct business in Asia today. During the past four decades, most of the Asian economies have grown more rapidly and more consistently than any other group of economies in the world.
According to Mahbubani (1998), it took the British 58 years (from 1780) and the United States 47 years (from 1839) to double their economic output. But in Asia, it took Japan 33 years (from the 1880s), Indonesia 17 years, South Korea 11 years and China 10 years to double their economic output. As a result, Asia\’s share of the World Gross National Product increased from 4% in 1960, to 25% in 1990, and to 33% in 2000. The rapid economic and social development in Asia is important to the United States. For example, in 1984, U. S. trade across the Pacific surpassed U. S. trade across the Atlantic. In 1994, One-third of U. S. exports were to East Asia. U. S. merchandise trade to APEC countries constituted 60% of total U. S. exports. More than 80% of the $154 billion U. S. global trade deficit was with APEC countries, mostly Japan and China.
In 1996, the United States\’ overall trade with Asia stood at $570 billion which is more than twice of the $270 billion trade with Europe. In the 21st century, the importance of Asia is likely to increase continuously and their economies are likely to continue outperforming any other economies in the world. Currently, the second and the third biggest economies are in Asia. There are three important nuclear weapon states in Asia (India, Pakistan, and China). Three of the major wars of the 20th century in which the United States was involved were in Asia: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Today, a new war on terrorism in Afghanistan is not complete yet. When economies developed rapidly, Asian societies have also changed fundamentally in the past half a century. These fundamental changes included rapid democratization in politics, substantial improvements in living standards, revitalization of the traditional Asian culture, and increased cooperation among the Asian nations.
The rapid change and development in Asia and its close relationship with the United States, pose new challenges as well as opportunities for the younger generation of Americans. Many corporations will need more and more employees who understand Asia and Asian development. Asia formerly considered a production market, has now become a primary market for U. S. products and services. By the year 2005, Asia will become the economic powerhouse of the world trade. There are over 2. 5 billion people in Asia, more than half under the age of 30, constituting a phenomenal buying power. More than 95 percent of the world population located outside of the United States and about 60 percent are in Asia. When the world becomes globalized, we need to understand people outside of the United States and in Asia.
The following essay was written by Mr. Janus Isaac V. Nolasco, University Researcher at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines.
It was published on 24 June in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. P It is probably no great leap to say that many Filipinos lack knowledge of and appreciation for Asian societies, save perhaps their own. More knowledgeable about and oriented toward the United States and Europe, they arguably find the French Revolution more familiar than, say, the Meiji Restoration. Filipinos probably feel more at home with Zeus, Hera and the other occupants of Mount Olympus than with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. I wish that a lot more Filipinos know and appreciate Asia. But I am not just speaking here of loving Japanese animation, listening to Korean pop music and watching Korean movies, or traveling to other Asean countries during long weekends. Studying Asia is not just about entertainment, tourism, or memorizing facts, dates and the details of famous personalities in school. More importantly, it is also about moral education and nation-building.