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ASIAN INNOVATION PAGE 1: golf, nationalism, economic zones and air conditioning | 2: toyota, people power, anime and 'asian values' | 3: huaqiao, rice, textiles and calculators | 4: opium, radio, air travel and rubber | 5: neon, karaoke, communism and the fax machine

Ideas with Impact
A time and a place are defined by more than great people. Ideas, institutions, products, fads - many things grand and mundane make up the mosaic that is 20th-century Asia. Here are 20 concepts that defined the region over the past 100 years

Asiaweek Pictures
EASY SWING Golf, a Singaporean diplomat once said, is the key to maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Asia. "Most sensitive issues are discussed on the golf course," echoed Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon. Who knows how many business deals are thrashed out on the links before being signed in boardrooms? More than that, whacking a small white ball across a verdant landscape, or dreaming of doing so while in a three-story driving range, is a passion for an estimated 25 million Asians.

Asia's connection to golf runs deep. The first course outside Britain was at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, founded in 1829. Legend also has it that around 1848, a Scottish professor received a statue of the Hindu god Vishnu wrapped in gutta-percha, a tough latex made from the sap of Southeast Asian trees. His son used the scraps to make golf balls, which were cheaper and flew further than the feather-stuffed leather balls they had been using. The gutta-percha ball helped turn the hobby of a few into a sport for the masses.

Still, it remained the preserve of expatriates and rich eccentrics in Asia until the post-war economic miracle took hold, first in Japan and later southward. Today, more than 4,000 courses dot the region. The Crisis put a dent in golf's growth. But for Asian golfers from junior executives to national leaders, such worries are only a bit of rough.

By Jonathan Sprague


Introduction: From among the five who topped their respective categories, we picked the one we considered the most outstanding - the Asian of the Century. And the winners are...

  Deng Xiaoping
  Morita Akio
  Kurosawa Akira
  Charles K. Kao
  Mohandas K. Gandhi

Contenders: As they say in film production, many great scenes from our history were left on the cutting room floor

20 Icons of the Century: Here are 20 concepts that defined the region over the past 100 years

Poll: Have your say on who you think is the Asian of the Century

PATRIOT'S PRIDE At the end of the 19th century, every country in Southeast Asia except Thailand (then Siam) was under foreign domination. So were India and parts of China. But by the time Indonesia gained independence in 1949, colonialism had all but vanished from the region - thanks largely to Asian nationalism. It altered the face of the continent.

Modern Asian nationalism is intertwined with history, whether real or mythical. Indonesian nationalists spoke of the medieval Javanese kingdom of Majapahit, which supposedly spread from the East Indies to the Malay peninsula. The claim's lack of solid historical proof never lessened its power as a nationalist rallying cry.

Anti-foreign sentiment has been the other driving force behind Asian nationalism. The powerful sense of Chinese identity unleashed by the anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion culminated in the Communist revolution half a century later. Nationalist leaders, like Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh and Burma's Aung San, who fought Western imperialists became icons in their countries.

The West was not the only butt of anti-foreign feeling. Asia has also been plagued by intra-regional hostility. Age-old Chinese and Japanese nationalist movements collided in the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45, aiding the rise of militarists in Japan and the creation of a new post-war China. The challenge for Asian nations now is to forget old hostilities and build a future together.

By Ajay Singh

INSTANT INDUSTRY How can a country build industry out of nothing? Set aside an area free of normal regulations, grant tax breaks on profits and duty-free imports of capital goods, ease immigration requirements and offer cheap infrastructure. Then watch investment pour into the export processing zone (EPZ) - or tax free zone, or special economic zone. Whatever it's called, it gives host nations a ladder to economic growth.

Post-colonial Asian economies depended on raw materials and commodity exports. They didn't have the foreign exchange income to import new technology or better quality goods. But EPZs let them quickly acquire the skills and technology needed to compete in the world economy. They also offered foreign investors cheap labor while eliminating the hassles of setting up in a third-world country.

The idea of EPZs actually started in Ireland in the early 1960s, but Asian economies like Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan quickly picked it up. Today there are some 230 EPZs in Asia with more on the drawing board. The key to using them well is to keep moving up the value chain - the way Singapore has shifted tax breaks from labor-intensive factories to high-tech industries over the past decade - and to link them with local manufacturers.

A computer disk drive bearing a U.S. firm's label might be designed in Singapore, assembled in a Malaysian EPZ with components from a Thai EPZ and put into a PC in a Taiwan EPZ. The globalization of industry is a by-product of EPZs, which have linked Asia to the world manufacturing grid.

By Assif Shameen

34 °C? NO SWEAT Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew tries to be cool. Once, before a television interview, he had an aide ensure the atmosphere was a precise, 18.33C before he would enter the studio. For him, productivity is not measured solely by inputs and investments, but by degrees below room temperature. And that makes air conditioning one of the most important inputs of all.

"The humble air conditioner has changed the lives of people in the tropical regions," Lee once said. Before "air-con," productivity dropped as the mercury rose. Then came electricity, and Patent #808897 - "An Apparatus for Treating Air" - granted in 1906 to young U.S. engineer and inventor Willis Haviland Carrier. Demand for industrial applications of Carrier's invention exploded. A silk mill in Yokohama, Japan, in 1907, became the first foreign purchaser of a Carrier cooling system. "Advanced civilizations have flourished in the cooler climates," says Lee. "Now civilizations in the tropical zones need no longer lag behind." Today, air conditioning is crucial for microchip "clean rooms" and pharmaceutical labs among dozens of industries.

It has become a domestic fixture as well. What middle-class Asian can imagine life outside the temperate cocoon? Futurists imagine a day when entire cities will be glass-encased and climate-controlled. Singapore, which likes being first, is a prime candidate. Lee would like that.

By Jose Manuel Tesoro

ASIAN INNOVATION PAGE 1: golf, nationalism, economic zones and air conditioning | 2: toyota, people power, anime and 'asian values' | 3: huaqiao, rice, textiles and calculators | 4: opium, radio, air travel and rubber | 5: neon, karaoke, communism and the fax machine

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