APAC—Top 10 Stories of Decade

By: The Diplomat

The Diplomat looks back over the past decade in the Asia-Pacific and selects the 10 events most critical to the region’s future.

War, terrorism, emerging power powers, natural disasters and blockbuster movies…..the Asia-Pacific created more than its share of headlines over the decade and bolstered the argument that we are living in the Asia-Pacific Century. The Diplomat takes a look back at some of the biggest stories of the past ten years and what they could mean for the decade to come.

1. The Rise of ChinaJanuary 1, 2000 –

image: Dennis Tan

After a miserable century, this was China’s decade. Overcoming viruses, earthquakes and myriad internal tensions, China enjoyed an astonishing economic boom–its GDP more than tripled over the ten years to 2009–and surged into global consciousness as a major power. With its shock-and-awe opening ceremony, the 2008 Beijing Olympics was an appropriate international coming out party. But it was the global financial and economic meltdown that soon followed that underscored China’s new place in the world order.

Conventional wisdom in 2009 is that China is ascendant and on its way to eclipsing a United States in relative decline. We’re sceptical. For one thing, as any Lehman Brothers shareholder will tell you, extrapolating past trends isn’t always a good predictor of future performance. For another, we’ve heard it before: remember the hype surrounding Japan Inc. 20 years ago? China’s economy in 2009 shows signs of the same industrial overcapacity and incipient bad debt that has hobbled Japan for much of the past two decades. And it has troubles all of its own–from corruption through pollution to a clutch of border disputes. Still, China’s growing strength–economic and military–is undeniable, and it’s a safe bet that all eyes will be on how it wields its growing power over the next 10 years. Will Beijing be a responsible member of the international community, or will it throw its weight around, ratcheting tensions up to excruciating levels in flashpoints around the region? And with unpaid workers rioting in late 2008, what happens when China’s growth slows? One sleeper issue: China’s interests in resource-rich Siberia.

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