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Harmonizing emerging complexities for Asia's future growth

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

03-22-2016 15:12 BJT

By Mathew Maavak, a doctoral researcher in security foresight at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)

The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) will be held on March 22-25 in its birth town of Boao in Hainan province, south China. Themed "Asia's New Future: New Dynamics, New Vision", the annual conference brings together leaders from regional governments, industries, businesses and academia to exchange ideas on ways to boost economic cooperation.

 

The BFA is a vital mode in China's growing New Silk Road web that includes similar platforms such as the China-ASEAN Expo, China-Eurasia Expo, Euro-Asia Economic Forum, China International Fair for Investment and Trade, China-South Asia Expo, China-Arab States Expo, Western China International Fair, China-Russia Expo, and the Qianhai Cooperation Forum. 

These forums, while being relatively inconspicuous, are quietly dovetailing the various building blocks of the "Asian Century."

New realities

The "new dynamics, new visions" theme of this year's BFA conference carries the underlying emergence of "new realities" at the current juncture of Asia's growth trajectory. Systemic brakes are being applied to the global economy; one that necessitates the Asian growth engine to rapidly shift its gears from "speed" and "surplus" to "stability" and "sustainability." Much like the time-tested regenerative brakes used from bicycles to trains, Asian policy planners should treat economic jolts as an opportunity to tap, store and channel new energy for future growth.

A great degree of realism and discipline will be needed to brace national economies for the inevitable layoffs, shutdowns and austerity measures ahead. Asian policy planners should avoid surreal Western neologisms that hint of "growth" or "business as usual" and instead employ the language and strategies of urgent economic retooling.

In any case, strategies needed to retool the Greater Eurasian economy will greatly differ in size and scope from those of the West. The United States alone is being weighed down by student loans worth an unsustainable $1 trillion – equivalent to 1/16 of its GDP – along with similar debt bubbles in its housing, automotive and industrial (e.g. shale oil) sectors. Yet, despite massive investments in the education sector, the US is expected to produce only 8% of global science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates by 2030. The RIC nations (Russia, India and China) alone, with a combined total GDP of less than $12 trillion, will produce a majority of global STEM graduates in just 14 years.

It is not just STEM data; all key developmental indicators reveal that Greater Eurasia is witnessing overall growth while the West maintains its systemic contraction. Asia is where future markets will be matched to future talent for future growth.

New dynamics

With the Greater Eurasia region morphing into a vast autarchic expanse, what constitutes the new dynamics? Should grating "free market" competition and crude supply and demand calculus guide nations and their economies? Or should the future be guided by sustainable synergy between nations? There is indeed a clear imperative to factor in the complexities of emerging industries into national policy planning. The industries of tomorrow will hardly be linear in scope and function. Take for instance the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) process that takes advantage of temperature gradients between seawater depths to produce electricity. It is a complex project with complex possibilities.

OTEC's primary value lies in its capacity to merge energy generation with simultaneous industrial undertakings in aquaculture, cosmetics and refrigeration. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)'s OTEC centre (UTM-OTEC) is exploring the integration of such diverse industries. OTEC symbolizes the autarchic potentials of Asia as it will enable organic farming of salmon and lobsters that are indigenous to colder climes.

Here is where a renewable energy project may impact seafood industries in ways that were once unthinkable.

New visions

The future is becoming more intertwined, complex and yet symbiotic. The exchange of timely information would be critical to Asian economies. Forums, such as the BFA, should therefore look into the possibility of meshing into a larger, network-centric source of competitive intelligence for Greater Eurasian stakeholders, beginning with China and East Asia. Towards this end, the forecasting undertakings of the BFA's Research and Training Institute could be streamlined with similar pan-regional undertakings. This will ensure that national policies and scenario planning are cross-checked against rising industrial and economic challenges while avoiding missteps, wastages and futile competition down the road.

The region requires more cooperation and fewer rat races to build the industries of tomorrow.

 

 Mathew Maavak, a doctoral researcher in security foresight at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

 

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