As the most eventful century in the history of mankind moves into its eighth decade, that one-half of the world which we call Asia displays the widest conceivable range of trends. Asian states run the gamut from high levels of economic growth and political tranquility to conditions of economic stagnation or retrogression, and perennial conflict. Even within a single state, a precise balance sheet may be complex and difficult to draw with certainty. The hallmarks of the Asian scene are fragility and fluidity.
A similar situation applies to the international relations of the region. Although efforts are being made to give regional cooperation a deeper meaning via experiments like ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and potentially a Pacific Basin Community, conflict over Indochina continues to bring tragedy to millions, and relations among the major Pacific-Asian states remain deeply troubled in certain instances, with militarization rising on all sides.
Despite multiple obstacles, economic gains continue to be registered in most parts of Asia, although 1979 was not up to the performances of 1978, with few exceptions. Today, Asian states can be divided into three economic categories: the industrial and semi-industrial nations; the developing societies; and the regions of stagnation. For the first group, the 1970s were a period of spectacular growth, with advances in gross national product (GNP) averaging eight to ten percent per annum. The developing nations also achieved satisfactory growth rates for the most part, especially when compared with late-developing societies elsewhere. Yet their progress was more erratic, often affected by shifting political currents, and overall growth was slower, falling into the four to six percent range. The stagnant societies were hobbled by rigid ideologies and perennial conflict; for them, economic development had a low priority.
Asia's advanced societies are led by Japan, followed by South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. It is hardly a coincidence that each of these states partakes of the Sinic cultural tradition (Malaysia through the strength of its Chinese community), which bequeathed three legacies of
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