The Best of Asia
the Crisis, the Best Thing That Happened to Asia in the last 25
years is still the region's economic ascendancy
Leng Tay for Asiaweek Pictures.
By RICARDO SALUDO
Which is most important money in the bank, power to the people,
all the latest gadgets, or peace on earth? In some fashion over
the past quarter-century, each of these blessings has come to Asia,
enriching lives, ending strife and giving the region's inhabitants
a profound sense of security, achievement, self-possession and identity.
Millions of people have been touched, from the commuter taking the
mass transit train to work, and the executive downloading e-mail
on her cellphone, to the diplomat fresh from a summit between long-hostile
countries, and the activist sizing up a newly established government
of the people, by the people and for the people. Despite the ravages
of the Asian Economic Crisis and the current ethnic conflicts rending
the region, Asia has come a long way forward.
In this special issue, Asiaweek ponders its quarter-century of existence
and highlights the events and forces that have brought so much good
to the continent. We have also selected achievers and achievements,
in politics, business, society and the arts, which have contributed
immensely to progress in the past 25 years, from the Best Enterprise
(it's a four-letter brand) and the Best Democrat (a Korean named
Kim), to the Best Film and the Best Architecture (both Chinese inspirations).
And after weighing the best of the past, we look at the top people,
places and things of the present (the past 12 months, to be exact)
"in all spheres of human activity," as the magazine's mission statement
So why Asia's Best, all 60-odd pages of it? Chest-thumping vanity,
many may be tempted to reply. After the Crisis deflated its collective
ego, Asia needed to be reminded that it has in its vast lands and
long history a lot of personages and moments of good, even brilliance.
There has to be a bit of that, admittedly, but the quest for the
Best goes far beyond making a Crisis-hit region feel better about
itself. No, the greater import of seeking out and recognizing the
Best in Asian advancement is to give impetus, inspiration and instruction
for more of the same. Deng Xiaoping opened up China to market forces
and global business after nearly three decades of Maoist socialism.
Why? Because he saw how trade and enterprise helped Japan and the
Tiger economies build world-beating products and the region's highest
living standards. If they can do it, the old geezer reasoned, so
can China. And so it has.
Similar trains of thought and action will hopefully be starting
across the region, thanks to this inaugural Asia's Best double issue.
The quest for achievement should shun no field of human endeavor,
as the broad sweep of themes and categories aims to avoid. The Governance
section recognizes achievers both in and out of government; the
Business categories include a staff-cutting CEO and a boss-beating
advocate of shareholder rights. Pop Culture honors a top-rated TV
show and a short film that won kudos at Cannes, but is likely to
set no box-office records. The best, in case the point is fuzzy,
is found everywhere there is human inspiration, perspiration and
daring. And that's all across Asia, as this opening essay on the
Best Thing That Happened to Asia in the last 25 years aims to recount.
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