For decades, the vocabulary used to describe Asia’s torrid economic growth has been plucked from a dictionary of the divine or the language of myth. The region’s success over the past 50 years in lifting so many people out of such dire poverty in so short a time has been often described as a “miracle” of Asian “tigers” and “dragons” and “elephants.” Even the inconvenient truth of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 did little to stop the course of Asia’s economic rise.
But what a difference a color can make. Asia’s growth, for the most part, has been decidedly “brown,” not “green.” What appeared made in heaven has been bad for the earth. Asia is home, for example, to a host of the world’s most polluted cities. At current rates of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the region could easily tip the world into catastrophic climate change in the years ahead. The time for a switch to green growth is now. But as December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen made abundantly clear, the path from “brown growth” to “green growth” will be difficult and fraught with contention.
In the cover story of this issue of Global Asia, we look at the difficult challenges ahead for Asia as it seeks a path to green growth. We are especially pleased that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak accepted our invitation to write a piece on his government’s green growth strategy. No other government in the world is investing as much on green growth as South Korea — 2 percent of its gross domestic product. We have also assembled a series of experts to look at a range of issues related to green growth in Asia.
Elsewhere in this issue of Global Asia, we feature a debate on what the Copenhagen conference really achieved; essays on what the recent victory of the Democratic Party of Japan, after almost 60 years of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, will mean both domestically and internationally; whether the rise of China will lead inevitably to a conflict with the US; why it’s important for the administration of US President Barack Obama to engage North Korea; and how an increasing web of public-private partnerships is fostering a new kind of regionalism in Asia. Finally, we offer a fascinating review of the Tianxia system of Chinese philosopher Zhao Tingyang, a potent reminder of the importance of following debates within China about its emerging role in the world. We also believe it is important to make available to an English-speaking audience significant writings in Asia that might not yet be available in English translations, as is the case with Zhao’s two books.
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