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Bright Future Awaits Southeast Asia
World Economy

Bright Future Awaits Southeast Asia

In an insightful and captivating lecture, famous academic Prof. Wang Gungwu shares his findings and predictions on China and Southeast Asia. A bright and promising future is in store for Southeast Asia with global economic shifts to China and India, the internationally renowned historian and specialist on East Asian and Asean affairs said.

Prof Wang, chairman of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, made this bold prediction in a recent public lecture: “Southeast Asia will become more central if the economic power moves from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific”, The Star online reported.

“The centrality of Southeast Asia, by being located between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, means that more and more countries will pay attention to this region. Its position will become very, very different indeed,” he said.

Maritime trade will be the main force driving the shifts, added the respected academic in his 90-minute evening talk on “Great Powers in Southeast Asia and the Fall and Rise of China” organized by the Institute of China Studies of Universiti Malaya and sponsored by Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd.

Wang said the great powers laying their hands off Southeast Asia with decolonization was a great help to China. “It takes away the major neighboring threat (of the West) from the coast,” he said.

The whole of Asia has to be economically transformed, with the rise of China and India’s recent economic emergence, coupled with the tremendous economic power of Japan. “That means the center of economic dominance is shifting from the Atlantic (which dominated the world for 200 to 300 years) to the Indo-Pacific. I stress on Indo-Pacific rather than Asia Pacific because I want to emphasize the maritime nature of a global open market economy. For China, its whole economic development depends on being able to at least kick the sea open for itself.”

Due to its centrality, Southeast Asia is going to be important and strategic for everybody, not just China, he declared. Hence, there is greater pressure on the 10 member states to make Asean really work. “If the 10 can really work together, think as one and speak as one, it will benefit everyone,” he said.

He observed that while Asean is one of the most successful regional institutions of today, it is still very much a “talk shop” and “has a long way to go” as it lacks a single common purpose.

Asean, with 600 million people that account for 9% of the world’s population, has a combined GDP of about $2.5 trillion.

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