THE world is increasingly looking toward the East and not by chance. The impressive development achieved by the countries of the Asian continent in recent years has resulted in a greater global influence, thus allowing us to envisage that the “longed-for” power balance in the international political arena could come very soon.
If anything has been reaffirmed in 2017, it is the ability of Asian nations to dispute the supremacy enjoyed by the traditional powers for centuries.
The rapid development and good health of economies such as those of China, India, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, and Indonesia, among others, confirm that the Far East is one of the main engines of international economic growth.
A common point among most of these states is the search for ways to minimize the onslaught of continuous financial crises.
Experts also note a series of measures to manage foreign capital investments and boost their industrial development, which, while involving high social costs that are still being paid today, have made the region a key talking point in discussions on the direction in which the global balance of power could move in the near future.
In terms of each individual country, there were many events that marked the Asian continent over 2017.
The escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula was the subject of ongoing debate faced with the possible outbreak of a nuclear war.
The territory shared by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea was once again rife with Washington’s threats of an attack on Pyongyang and the mobilization of a strategic military arsenal to the region, while the DPRK responded with successive nuclear tests of a “self-defense” nature.
Since President Donald Trump entered the White House, the situation has worsened and the sanctions against the DPRK have not ceased. Trump insists on maintaining pressure against the Asian nation, first by again including the territory on the State Department list of countries sponsoring terrorism, and then with the introduction of new punitive measures.
Pyongyang, meanwhile, has reiterated the self-defensive nature of its nuclear program that would seek to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in case of an attack.
The international community has called on both sides to resolve their conflicts peacefully and through dialogue, in order to avoid a situation that would be catastrophic for all humanity.
Very close by, in Beijing, the state of affairs was very different and leaders of some twenty countries met in the first edition of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, with the purpose of sharing China’s development opportunities and aspiring to combined growth.
This was the highest profile event since China launched this initiative to build a new economic belt connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe.
In the spirit of “peace, cooperation, openness, transparency, inclusiveness, equality, mutual learning, mutual benefit, and mutual respect,” which characterized the ancient trade routes by which silk and other goods traveled from East to West, the more than one hundred countries and institutions participating in this project committed to consolidate this road to economic interconnection, which is expected to cover more than 60% of the world’s population and a third of global production.
While promoting investments in infrastructure to facilitate connections is the prime vision of this initiative, today the nations surrounding the Silk Road Economic Belt are already committing to greater challenges, and seeking to implement a new type of cooperation led by high technologies and the production of high added value.
The Chinese capital was also host this year to one of the most important events of this second world power, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The event, the most important of the political life of the Asian giant, held every five years, represented the beginning of a new stage in which China will seek to materialize its goal of building a modern and modestly well-off society and a strong socialist power.
During the Congress, amendments were made to the CPC statutes, to adapt to current times, and the thought of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the organization and President of the country, on socialism with Chinese characteristics of the new era, was included in the Party Constitution, as a guide for action alongside Marxism-Leninism.
The new vision, backed by more than 2,300 delegates, aims to guide the Chinese people toward their goals of political, economic, and social development, while continuing the path of Marxism, communism, and essential socialist values.
However, 2017 was not only full of successes in this part of the world. A series of strong weather events overshadowed the region, which suffered the loss of some 1,300 lives due to floods alone, leaving almost 41 million homeless.
Nations such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan faced the damage left by strong typhoons and tropical storms.
Vietnam, for example, was hit by 16 typhoons this year, resulting in 375 dead, 636 injured, and material losses of 2.3 billion dollars.
- The Asia-Pacific region saw 5% economic growth in 2017
- Total GDP: 22.48 trillion dollars
- Total population: 4.462 billion inhabitants
- The region contributes 50% of global trade