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  • The Rise of China and India: A New Asian Drama
  • Manoranjan Mohanty (bio)
Lam Peng Er and Lim Tai Wei, editors. The Rise of China and India: A New Asian Drama. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company, 2009. viii, 169 pp. Hardcover $102.00, ISBN 978-981-4280-33-4.

A new Asian drama is fast unfolding whose script is in constant evolution. The only thing that is certain is that the phenomenon has a global effect. The high rate of economic growth of China and India presents the central characters to that play. [End Page 83] But there are other Asian actors on the stage who play key roles as well, shaping the course of history together with the two rising powers. It is this fulsome dynamics of the emerging strategic environment and the political-economic picture of Asia that are the subject of this important symposium volume produced by the prestigious East Asia Institute of Singapore with contributions by scholars from seven Asian countries. Indeed, Asia has moved on at great speed since Gunnar Myrdal analyzed the causes of poverty in India and the Asian region as a whole in 1968, calling it the Asian Drama where a weak state was at the center of the poor performance. Four decades later, we witness the twenty-first century being described as the Asian Century even though we know fully well that the new era is also seeing the resurgence of Latin America and Africa. However, it is unquestionably a new moment for Asian people striving to end poverty and the underdevelopment of the past two centuries and affirm autonomy and self-determination and, most important, seeking arenas of collaboration among themselves for common prosperity and security. As this volume suggests, this process is going to be a complex journey with many roadblocks from within the region and from outside, but there are enough reasons to be optimistic about the prospects of the unfolding history. Or, to put it in the Singaporean frame of discourse, there are possibilities on the part of the Asian countries and people to move together with care and optimism and steer the historical process on the path of peace and development.

The Singapore Perspective

The Singapore perspective — a view from a small city-state with a multiethnic society, surrounded by big neighbors and seeking the collective good of people who have high material and spiritual aspirations — can be both creative and challenging. It is challenging because it bears the burden of a colonial past that ties it to the West, and creative because it faces new demands from its citizens in a fast changing regional environment. This perspective has a distinct flavor, very different from the tons of publications on either the rise of China or the rise of China and India, which relish the art of scaremongering on one extreme, and condescension on the other. Two centuries of Western colonial plunder of Asia and another half century of military-economic manipulation through the Cold War and globalization created so many mental blocks that it is difficult for most Western observers to accept a new global environment of a plurality of countries, peoples, and cultures standing in dignity and equal status and demanding restructuring of the world political economy. The perspectives presented in this volume actually are not a unified platform for a new global order, but they embody strands that can constitute that argument. One line of thinking is the common assertion of open and inclusive regionalism that is represented by the gradual evolution of ASEAN and how China and India were steadily intergrated with the ASEAN process. The contributors point out how this process was hastened after the Asian financial [End Page 84] crisis of 1997. Several scholars show how the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asian Summit (EAS) have emerged as important regional platforms of strategic dialogue and economic cooperation, respectively. Another effort, a rather persuasive one, is to shift the focus of the discussion on the “China threat” to the opportunities that China’s economic growth presented to the world. Most of the contributors place China-India relations in a relatively balanced perspective, positively shaping the Asian security environment, rather...