The Asian Century


It is left to India and China, who have in the past, frittered away their most creative energies in wars and conflicts to rise above their tangles and claim the economic leadership that Bush is fast abandoning. 

Perhaps it is because we have just reached critical mass in America, some 2 million strong. Or perhaps it is only because we only just began taking a second look. Whatever it is, there can be no denying that Indian Americans are making quite a splash.

Whether it is the Mars probe to research and investigations of 9/11, the heated controversies over outsourcing to the passionate debate over American foreign policy and Iraq, reality TV to the unreal come-from-behind victory of John Kerry in the Iowa caucuses, Indians are sprouting up in the unlikeliest of places.

To be sure, Indian Americans have long been major players in the motel industry, where they control almost half the industry; they are by far the largest foreign physician group in the country, and they were the engines behind the dot com boom — and bust. But suddenly, it seems, they are everywhere, to the point that they now rank only behind Mexicans as the largest source of immigrants and among the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, and they have overtaken China as the largest group of foreign students in the country.

Something is definitely afoot here and just as we have so often done in the past, Little India peers ahead of the curve in identifying and tracking this trend.

But these are small strokes on an even larger canvas. A five-day World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January spotlighted a rising Asian century, powered by economic growth in China and India. David Rothkopf of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, predicted that long-term U.S. economic dominance is “a figment of the overheated imaginations of the post Cold-War period… Whether it’s 10 years or 20 years or 40 years hence, we see a new class of rising major powers in the world.”

A Chinese representative projected that China would become the world’s second largest economy by 2020. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was even more upbeat, projecting China’s GDP to surpass the United States in 20 years. India, which has one of the fastest growing economies in the world presently, is equally bullish, projecting economic growth rates as high as 10 percent over the next two decades.

The key to the ascendancy of the Asian economies is recent economic and political stability, which is unusual for the region. In the case of India, that means harnessing the economies of the subcontinent and managing, if not resolving, its intractable dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. Ironically, the drag on the American economy is Bush’s reckless and beligerent foreign policy of preemptive wars and interminable global conflicts, which are costing the nation billions of dollars and sapping its economic growth. Bush lied to the American public about Iraq in rushing the country into war. He was simply spoiling for a fight that was easy to win and which politically helped in burnishing his tainted election victory.

During the second half of the 20th century, America enjoyed tremendous prosperity as it harnassed and channeled the world’s creative energies into economic development through open trade and immigration laws that attracted the world’s best and brightest to its shores. The success of Indian Americans is its tribute and legacy.

America is now squandering its creative genius chasing shadow enemies in a cocky Texas-style, shoot-from-the-hip strategy personified by its smirking, outlaw president, as it turns insular, closing it shores to immigrants and turning its back on free trade, as evidenced by the rising backlash against outsourcing.

It is left to India and China, who have in the past, frittered away their most creative energies in wars and conflicts to rise above their tangles and claim the economic leadership that Bush seems bent on abandoning.  

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