Thursday 3 May 2018

By the year 2050, Asia will be host to three of the five largest economies in the world, according to a report by PwC, and home to over half of the of the world's 9.7 billion people, according the UN's Population Division. 

Going Global 2018 session What if…? Imagining the 'Asian Century' explored scenarios for Asia’s future and how it may change the way we work, learn and interact with the rest of the world. 

James Chau, Broadcaster, Writer and UN Goodwill Ambassador, China, who chaired the session, started the conversation with the fact that the continent it set to experience a dramatic increase in integration, with business and cultural exchanges rapidly expanding across borders. He asked the panel, ‘As we progress into what has been described as “the Asian Century”, how will our world be reshaped?’

Professor Xie Tao, Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean, Beijing Foreign Studies University, China, said ‘there's no way for you to ignore China’. By 2050, projections indicate a shift with India being ranked second after China in world economies. He dubbed the Asian Century as ‘the Chinese century’ because of China’s population, projected growth rate, governance capabilities, and inclusive development. 

However, he added that due to political, cultural, and geographical reasons, China and India may well divide Asia up into two 'spheres of influence', while in a worst case scenario, geopolitical divisions may destroy the Asian Century altogether. He noted that ‘China has never been an open country to foreigners, and that may be a deterrent for it to be a leader in innovation’.

Mary Kay Magistad, Creator and Host, 'Whose century is it?' Podcast, USA, was a lot less optimistic on the prospects of a ‘Chinese century’. She said: ‘As we think about the future, we need to be open minded and humble...a lot can happen. 

When it comes to innovation, she added: ‘The more people you have from all walks of lives, the more you're going to get different ideas. Urbanisation can be a driver of innovation. It's the spark that happens when people of different perspectives come together’. China could rise up on top as the leader in innovation, but possibly not in higher education if there are still restrictions to freedom of information and human rights, for instance.

Matt Durnin, Regional Head of Research and Consultancy, British Council, China thinks that change happens through openness and disruption. While he feels that online education is the next big disruption, he noted that ‘Asia seems to be the most risk-averse in adopting online education’.