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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story


Ending repression was easy; now we must defend freedom

By Fidel V. Ramos

asia in the new millennium
Mapping the Future The future wealth and size of Asian nations

The 21st Century By Arthur C. Clarke

Asia Trends 2000 The promises and perils of one wired world

The Microchip Silicon will get into everything
The Power As the region prospers, chances for conflict may become greater
Essay by Fidel Ramos Ending repression was easy; now we must defend freedom
The Dynasty It's here to stay
The Classes Many more Asians may escape poverty
The People Democracy in Asia will become increasingly deep-rooted
Essay by Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo Shifts to new paradigms may include the "common good" and spirituality
The Mind Classrooms of the future will be virtually unrecognizable
Essay by Stan Shih The challenge of creating markets in a competitive world
The Body Science will soon deliver miracle cures, designer babies and new dilemmas
The Soul Asia seeks a new cultural identity
Essay by the Dalai Lama Balancing material progress with inner development to achieve true success
The Food Are the pushers of genetically modified edibles out to lunch?
The Vacation Inner and outer space are the destinations of the future
The Design Asia still has a place in the shape of things to come
The Metropolis Sweeping global changes are reshaping urban destinies
The Earth Environmental awareness is growing
The Jobs New and reinvented careers will fire the imagination
The Money The cashless society is on the way
The Investor Globalization and the Net will empower future shareholders and savers
The Sexes Democracy, capitalism and the Internet can lift women to the top
Essay by Marina Mahathir In Malaysia, we should change the way society looks at their roles
The Family The family promises to be much different than it is today
The Economy New ways of working call for new ways of thinking
Essay by Donald Tsang Financial well-being is a responsibility for each nation and the world
The Network The connection will go much deeper

The Asiaweek Round Table on ASEAN in 2020

Celebrations Asia is gearing up

Celebrities How some of the region's most visible personalities intend to welcome the New Year

Millenium Dictionary From pop anthems to dawn sites and midnight nuptials, a guide to 2000

OVER THE NEXT 20 years, Asia's weight in the world will increase as its economies emerge from financial crisis and its political systems become more people-empowered. In 1992 the World Bank had projected that by 2020, six Asian economies would be among the 10 largest in the world. Just now, this expectation seems hopelessly optimistic. Yet, Asia's fundamentals remain sound, and I, for one, believe it is likely to become a power- house of economic vigor once again.

Meanwhile, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand have shed generations of military rule. Indonesia has just held its first free election in 44 years. Even in China, the "softening" of totalitarianism seems well along. In Beijing and the provinces, distinct power centers are emerging whose interplay impinge more and more on the making of public policy. A greater diversity of political interests seems unavoidable in China's future - and its rulers realize it. That is why they are suppressing individual dissent so firmly.

Replacing authoritarian regimes with representative systems was relatively easy. But the rule of the people does not necessarily mean good government. While democracy's trappings - elections, parliaments, free newspapers, independent judiciaries - are easy to assemble, making them work properly for common people requires a long learning process. In a society of "big people" and "small people," the common folk often have extravagant expectations of government. Thus, a 1993 survey found 85% of Filipino respondents saying it is government's obligation to provide jobs for everyone; and 84% saying it is the state's task to provide a decent income for all.

It appears that democracy develops best where it develops incrementally - with gradual but consistent reforms in the political and civic landscape instigated by economic change. In the West, electorates were enfranchised gradually. It took the British almost 150 years to develop a middle-class Parliament. By contrast, the advent of democracy in the Third World has been telescoped. In relative terms, Asian politics is still where Britain was when rotten boroughs were bought and sold. Consider how complicated just counting and validating the returns for last June's parliamentary elections has proved to be in Indonesia.

I see making democracy work for the benefit of ordinary people as Asia's biggest challenge over the next 20 years. Fortunately, democracy has become part of the spirit of the new millennium. Even authoritarian regimes claim they are acting on behalf of their captive peoples. And, even more fortunately, there are outside forces to shore up Asian democracy where it falters. Foremost among these is the market system, which has changed East Asia dramatically over the last two decades. Open markets have not merely brought faster and more sustained growth to Asia; they have also been a liberating force. Just as early capitalism subverted feudalism in Western Europe, so has economic competition eroded authoritarianism in East Asia.

In the era of globalization, even foreign investments can have a democratizing influence. Consider how Beijing is being compelled to respect and exercise the rule of law as the basis for foreigners doing business in China and to assure the sanctity of contracts as part of its efforts to attract outside capital and technology. Much of this imported technology, particularly that in the information and communications industries, makes more difficult the state's control of people's minds and directions. Indeed, the whole post-industrial era - whose key resource is intellectual capital - requires for its evolution in any given country a drastic expansion of individual freedom.

To give democracy the time it needs to mature throughout Asia, our statesmen must - in concert - create the environment that stimulates socio-economic development and the rise of civil society. We must never forget that peace and development are two sides of the same coin; one cannot progress without the other. I see as the key to enduring peace in the new century the accommodation of the legitimate ambitions of the rising powers - China foremost among them - for influence in regional affairs. Finding a practical way of making this happen will not be easy. Providentially, none of the powers faces an immediate threat, and rivalry among them has lost its ideological edge.

We must cool down the periodic crises in Kashmir, the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait. The conflicting claims over the Spratlys must be put into a more cooperative framework because the South China Sea is at the strategic crossroads of Southeast Asia. Specific efforts in this direction by the great powers, the ASEAN Regional Forum, APEC and the region's security community will be bolstered by fast-growing inter-regional trade, investment and tourism. Economic interdependence may not guarantee peace and stability, but it does create a powerful incentive for avoiding violent conflicts through the promise of a bountiful harvest of shared benefits.

Fidel Ramos was President of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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