Most of the speculation as to a future Asian century is based on population growth and economic growth forecasts, as well as the growth that has already occurred in much of Asia. While much emphasis is focused on the growing power of China and India, the term Asian Century generally refers to all growth in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Russia may also be considered a rising economy in Asia, but it is usually not being referred to in the use of this term.
Further information: World population
Population growth in Asia is expected to continue through at least the first half of the 21st century. Nearing 4 billion persons in the beginning of the 21st century, the Asian population is predicted to grow to more than 5 billion by 2050 . While its percent of world population is not expected to greatly change, North American and European shares of the global population are expected to decline . This is significant since larger populations invariably increase military, economic, and political clout in the world. .
Further information: Economy of Asia
One major reason for the belief in a coming Asian Century is the remarkable economic growth in Asia, and the continuing growth rates. Since China's economic reforms in the late 1970s (in farm privatization) and early 1990s (in most cities), the Chinese economy has enjoyed two and half decades of economic growth rates between 8 and 10%. The Indian economy began a similar ascent at the end of 1980s and early 1990s, and has averaged around 4% during this period, though growing slightly over 8% in 2005, and hitting 9.2% in 2006.
Both of these developments involved policy of a degree of managed liberalisation of the economy as well as a turning outwards of the economy towards globalization (both exports and attracting inward investment). The magnitude of this liberalisation and globalisation is still subject to debate. They were part of conscious decisions by key political leaders, especially in India and the PRC.
Also, the populations of the two countries offer a potential market of over two and a quarter billion. The development of the internal consumer market in these two countries has been a major basis for economic development. This has enabled much higher national growth rates for mainland China and India in comparison to Japan, the EU and even the USA. The international cost advantage on goods and services, based on cheaper labor costs, has enabled these two countries to exert a global competitive pressure.
The trend for greater Asian economic dominance has also been based on the extrapolations of recent historic economic trends. Goldman Sachs, in its BRIC economic forecast, highlighted the trend towards mainland China becoming the largest and India the 2nd largest economies by the year 2050 in terms of GDP. The report also predicted the type of industry that each nation would dominate, leading some to deem mainland China 'the industrial workshop of the world' and India 'one of the great service societies'.
Further information: Culture of Asia
Culturally, the Asian century is symbolised by Hong Kong genre films, Bollywood, and more recently, the Korean wave. The awareness of the different Asian cultures may be a part of a much more culturally aware world, as proposed in the Clash of Civilizations thesis. Equally, the affirmation of Asian cultures has an impact on the identity politics of Asians in Asia and outside in the Asian diasporas.
Though the use of English continues to spread, Asian languages are also becoming more popular to teach and study outside of the continent. The study of Chinese has recently gained greater attention in the United States, owing to a growing belief in the economic advantages of knowing it. It is also being encouraged through PRC's support of Confucius Institutes, which have opened in numerous nations to teach the Chinese language and culture .
The global political position of China and India has risen in international bodies and amongst the world powers, leading the USA and EU to become more active in the process of engagement with these two countries. People's Republic of China is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Although India is not a permanent member, it is possible that it will become one or at the least gain a more influential position . Japan is also attempting to become a permanent member , though the attempts of both are opposed by other Asian countries (such as Pakistan for India, and China and South Korea for Japan).
An Asian regional bloc may be further developed in 21st century around ASEAN and other bodies on the basis of free trade agreements . However, there is some political concern amongst the national leaderships of different Asian countries about PRC's hegemonic ambitions in the region. Another new organization, the East Asian Summit, could also possibly create an EU like trade zone .
The Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov encouraged the idea of a triple alliance between Russia, the PRC and India first formulated by Indian strategist Madhav Das Nalapat in 1983 , and supported the idea of a multipolar world . WIth the November 2006 visit of Hu Jintao to India, the idea seems to be gaining some momentum.
The political future in Asia, whether more united or more polarized, is unclear. Yet most if not all forecasts predict the PRC and India to be amongst the major powers if not super powers of the 21st century.
Despite forecasts that predict the rising economic and political strength of Asia, the idea of an Asian Century has faced criticism. This has included the possibility that the continuing high rate of growth could lead to political upheavals, economic slumps, and environmental problems, especially in mainland China . Others point out that the 21st century will be multipolar, and no one country or continent will have such a concentration of influence. Even in the "American" 20th century there was still a balance of power with the British and other European colonial empires from 1900 until 1945, and with the Soviet Union from 1945 until 1991.