15 January 2001.


India and Indonesia have signed a military protocol.  It is aimed to contain Chinese expansionism.  The Russians are reportedly cosying up with the Chinese.   The Indians are also talking to the Koreans & the Vietnamese.  Eastern China (Taiwan) appears to be making overtures to mainland China.  The Japanese play their cards close.  Everyone watches Bush.  Are we seeing a new power alignment?

Indonesia has massive internal problems.  President Wahid is attempting to establish the legal accountability of the Suharto brood for past crimes.  Hopefully Vice President Megawati is standing by his side.  Together they might overcome the counter-revolution being orchestrated, and once again get the third largest democracy on the path to economic prosperity.

India has the equal (with Germany) fourth largest economy (PPP) in the world (after USA, China, Japan).   Incredibly, the largest democracy (over one billion) seems to be finding direction by consensus, seemingly without a unifying figurehead.   By not having a strong leader the confidence of the Indian people in the making of their own democratic decisions is strengthened.

Western China has the world's largest population (1,200 million) and second largest GDP (at $4.5 trillion).  It has absorbed Hong Kong, has bellicosely indicated it wants to absorb Eastern China, and now, it seems, believes that a liberal economy can be cultivated in an unlibertarian state, something like flowers in a garden (rather than, as in the USA, weeds in a jungle).   The mandarins appear to be riding a tiger.  Since they used a whip the tiger seems to doubt their altruism.  More and fiercer whips may soon be needed.   Western European culture has a limerick:

There was a young lady of Riga
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They returned from the ride,
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
Eastern China  has a population 22 million, and a GDP of $350 billion.  With a real growth rate of 5.5% (that exceeds Australia's best by more than 1%), East China will overtake Australia (population 20 million, GDP $415 billion) within a decade.

Korea is a still divided power.  The South has a smaller area, but nearly 50 million industrious people.  The North has slightly over 20 million people, more irrigated land, an iron dictatorship.  If a formula for unity can be forged, Korea might well rival Germany in productivity within a decade.

Unified Vietnam with a population of 70 million is, like North Korea, failing under a totalitarian system.

Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore & the Phillipines are all power players in the region.  Malaysia under the virtual dictatorship of Matahir is marking time, Singapore is demonstrating the power of liberal democracy in a small nation, Thailand has serious health problems & the Phillipines still suffers the hangover of the virtual dictatorship of Marcos, embodied in Estrados..

In Timor, Australia should give up claim to the hydrocarbons in the Timor gap.  That resource was never Australia's.   It was a shameful bribe when Mad Mal took it.  The sooner that Gusmao can wean Timor from the foreign aid teat the happier should be the Australian people.  (What chutzpah that Prime Minister Johnny should attempt to retain that bribe on the grounds that Australia helped Timor to independence, and further that Australia would use that income to provide Timor with foreign aid.)

NOTE Where GDP is quoted above, it is PPP (Purchasing Power Parity, as supplied by CIA) which takes account of the cost structure for food and accommodation in a nation.  GDP calculated in this way does not readily translate into industrial/economic power, and relies on self reporting.   The Economist screensaver (1996) bases GDP on productivity and exchange rates.   GDP calculated in that manner is prone to distortion when assessing nations with managed trade or exchange rates.  The Economist calculated that  South Korea had a GDP of $483 billion ($625 billion ppp), India had $358 billion ($1,800 billion ppp) , Western China $906 billion, (4,500 billion ppp), Eastern China $273 billion, (350 billion ppp) while Australia had a GDP of $368 billion ($415 billion ppp )


email here