Daily Beast: José Ramos-Horta on the Challenges Facing Asia

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Is the 21st the Asian Century? Former East Timor president Jose Ramos-Horta says no—the continent is being dragged down by ethnic tensions, environmental degradation, and an aging population.

Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel laureate and former president of East Timor, says that this isn’t the Asian Century, that the United States remains unchallenged on the world stage, and that aging populations will destabilize China and Japan.

There’s been a lot written in the last few years about how we’re now in the “Asian Century.” How do you see the state of Asia today?

I hold a view contrary to many scholars, who are in my view overly optimistic about the so-called Rising Asia. I believe that the Asia region—although very promising, and [which] has grown in terms of economics, development, with hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty in the last four decades—remains the most dangerous and unstable region of the world by the mere fact that it is the most nuclearized region in terms of the number of countries possessing weapons: India, Pakistan, North Korea, China, not to mention those that could quickly acquire nuclear weapons if they were forced to. Asia also has some of the most intractable border disputes over which many countries in the area have gone to war in the past. We also have some of the most intractable ethnic and religious tensions that time and again flare up, with thousands killed in a matter of days when they flare up. Not to mention the challenges of an overcrowded region that has put enormous pressure on resources. We have one of the most environmentally degraded regions in the world by sheer pressure of human activities.

So in view of all of this, I’m surprised, perplexed, at how some are talking about how the 21st century is the Asian Century.

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