Asia aspires to lead the world. That is the chief message from the meetings of Asia-Pacific leaders that convened last weekend in Thailand. The region’s rapid emergence from the global economic downturn has confirmed the belief among its leaders that it is time for an Asian community to emerge — a group that will have a defined shape and purpose, and may even look a lot like the European Union. While those ambitions reflect rapidly growing confidence, there is also considerable anxiety. There is concern not only that Asia’s reach exceeds its grasp, but that the region’s divisions are too formidable to overcome.
Asian nations have good reason to be proud. They have been less damaged by the global recession than other nations and have been quickest to return to growth. In a speech last weekend at the summit, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh crowed: “The world’s eyes are on Asia as the region which can lead the global economic revival.”
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