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MetaScan 4 – The Future of Asia: Implications for Canada

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The Expected Future: Commonly Held Assumptions About the Future of Asia

Commonly held assumptions about the most likely or expected future are embedded in current policies and policy dialogue. These assumptions shape current thinking. Identifying them is the first step in the Horizons Foresight Method.

The rising power and influence of Asia is widely seen as one of the defining forces of global change in the coming decades. Governments, businesses and international organizations are reorienting their strategies based on such assumptions about the most likely future development of Asia and its potential impact in the world. Some of these assumptions include:

  1. Asia’s economies will grow and become the centre of gravity and the driver of growth in the global economy. 4
  2. The further integration of Asia in the global economy will continue smoothly.5
  3. Asia will have a larger middle class than the West.6
  4. Competition from lower-cost Asian labour is likely to slow in coming decades as wages rise in Asia.7
  5. Trade liberalization will reduce barriers and expand trade flows.8
  6. Most government policy instruments will remain relevant and effective in the years ahead.9
  7. Asia’s demand for fossil fuels will continue to grow over the next 10–15 years.10
  8. Despite growing concerns over pollution, economic growth will continue to trump environmental concerns in Asia.11
  9. Intense rivalry among Asian powers will prevent significant economic or political integration in the region.12
  10. Asia’s security institutions are prepared to address security threats and emerging challenges.13
  11. A growing Asian middle class will pressure their governments to become more democratic.14
  12. As Asian societies rapidly urbanize and further integrate into the global economy, they will be torn between modern “western” values and traditional “Asian” values.15

These assumptions are neither incorrect nor guaranteed to transpire. This study explores alternative ways that the future of Asia could plausibly diverge from this expected future, and the potential implications for Canadian policy.


4 Singh, Anoop. 2010. “Asia Leading the Way.” International Monetary Fund. Finance & Development 47:2.

5 Asian Development Bank Institute. 2014. ASEAN 2030: Toward a Borderless Economic Community.
http://www.adbi.org/files/2014.07.18.book.asean.2030.borderless.economic.community.pdf(link is external)

Hope, David, and Yael Selfin. 2011. Future of World Trade: Top 25 Sea and Air Freight Routes in 2030. PWC.
http://www.pwc.de/de_DE/de/transport-und-logistik/assets/Future_of_world_trade-FINAL_160311.pdf(link is external)

6 Pezzini, Mario. “An Emerging Middle Class.” OECD Yearbook 2012: Better Policies for Better Lives. pp. 64-5. http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/3681/An_emerging_middle_class.html(link is external)

7 PWC. 2013. Global Wage Projections to 2030. September. http://www.pwc.com/hu/en/humaneroforras_(link is external)
tanacsadas/assets/Global_wage_projections_Sept2013.pdf_(web_version).pdf(link is external)

8 Dezan Shira & Associates. 2014. “Shanghai FTZ to Expand Liberalization of the Legal Services Industry in
China.” China Briefing. March 26. http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2014/03/26/shanghai-ftz-expandliberalization-legal-services-industry-china.html(link is external)

Asia Development Bank. 2006. “Regionalism and Multilateralism in Central Asia.” Central Asia: Increasing
Gains from Trade Through Regional Cooperation in Trade Policy, Transport, and Customs Transit.
http://are.berkeley.edu/~dwrh/Docs/ADB_CA_Chapter_4.pdf(link is external)

Tumbarello, Patrizia. 2007. “‘Noodle Bowl’ Risk of Trade Pact Overlap,” International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Survey Magazine. June 25. https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2007/CAR0625A.htm.(link is external)

KPMG International. 2013. Future State 2030: The Global Megatrends Shaping Governments. pp. 26-29.

9 Braconier, Henrik, Guiseppe Nicoletti, and Ben Westmore. 2014. Policy Challenges for the Next
50 Years. OECD Economic Policy Paper. July. No. 9. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/economics/(link is external)
policy-challenges-for-the-next-50-years_5jz18gs5fckf-en;jsessionid=9tur4s6jo88il.x-oecd-live-02(link is external)

10 International Energy Agency. 2014. World Energy Outlook 2014. International Energy Agency: France.
p.95; p.98-100.

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 2014. World Oil Outlook. OPEC: Vienna, Austria. p.73.
BP. 2015. Energy Outlook 2035. p. 31.

ExxonMobil. 2015. The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040. ExxonMobil: Texas, United States. p. 16.

11 International Energy Agency. 2014. World Energy Outlook 2014. International Energy Agency: Paris,
France. p.86-89.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development. 2014. “Towards Green Growth in
Southeast Asia.” http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/development/(link is external)
towards-green-growth-in-southeast-asia_9789264224100-en#page13(link is external)

Mani, Muthukumara. 2014. “’Grow Now Clean Up Later’ No Longer an Option for India.” The World Bank.
March 5. http://blogs.worldbank.org/endpovertyinsouthasia/grow-now-clean-later-no-longer-option-india(link is external)

Trivedi, Ira. 2015. “Harder to Breathe: India’s Pollution Crisis – And What To Do About It.” Foreign Affairs.
February 25. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/143177/ira-trivedi/harder-to-breathe(link is external)

Woodall, Brian and Siqi Han. 2014. “The Development of China’s Developmental State:
Environmental Challenges and Stages of Growth.’’ China Currents. China Research Center.
Volume 13, Number 1. May 29. http://www.chinacenter.net/2014/china_currents/13-1/(link is external)
the-development-of-chinas-developmental-state-environmental-challenges-and-stages-of-growth/(link is external)

12 Archarya, Amitav. 2014. “1914 and 2014: Will Europe’s Past be Asia’s Future?” Presentation delivered
to the 8th Berlin Conference on Asian Security. June 22. http://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/(link is external)
products/projekt_papiere/BCAS2014_Amitav_Acharya.pdf(link is external)

Pant, Harsh V. 2014. “India and China Slug It Out in South Asia.” The Diplomat. December 11.
http://thediplomat.com/2014/12/india-and-china-slug-it-out-in-south-asia(link is external)

Sally, Razeen. 2014. “Regional Economic Integration in Asia: The Track Record.” European Center for
International Political Economy. http://www.ecipe.org/app/uploads/2014/12/asiaregintegrationaug09.pdf(link is external)

13 Yuqun, Shao. 2014. “Intra-SCO Security Cooperation Helps Regional Stability.”China-US Focus. September. http://www.chinausfocus.com/peace-security/intra-sco-security-cooperation-helps-regional-stability/(link is external)

Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP). 2014. “Towards an Effective Regional Security
Architecture for the Asia Pacific.” Memorandum No. 26. June. http://www.cscap.org/uploads/docs/(link is external)
Memorandums/CSCAP%20Memorandum%20No.26%20-%20Towards%20an%20Effective%20Regional%20(link is external)
Security%20Architecture%20for%20the%20AP.pdf(link is external)

Kivimäki, Timo. 2010. “East Asian relative peace and the ASEAN Way.” International Relations of the Asia
Pacific. http://irap.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/1/57.full(link is external)

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. 2014. “Baird Announces New Canadian Mission
to ASEAN.” August. http://www.international.gc.ca/media/aff/news-communiques/2014/08/04a.(link is external)
aspx?lang=eng(link is external)

Feigenbaum, Evan. 2010. “US-China trade conflict is manageable, but here to stay.” East Asia Forum.
November. http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2010/11/06/u-s-china-trade-conflict-is-here-to-stay-bu/(link is external)

14 Chun, Natalie, Rana Hasan, and Mehmet Ulubasoglu. 2011. “The Role of the Middle Class in Economic
Development: What Do Cross-Country Data Show?” Asian Development Bank. Economics Working Paper
Series. No. 245, January. pp. 3-5, 25.

The Economist. 2011. “The New Middle Classes Rise up” September 3.

Inglehart, Ronald and Christian Welzel. 2009. “How Development Leads to Democracy: What we know
about Modernization.” Foreign Affairs. March/April. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/64821/(link is external)
ronald-inglehart-and-christian-welzel/how-development-leads-to-democracy(link is external)

15 Research by the World Values Survey illustrates the complexity of cultural change: World Values Survey.
http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSContents.jsp(link is external) (See Findings and Insights).

Abdollahian, Mark, Travis Coan, Hana Oh, and Birol Yesilada. 2008. “Dynamics of Cultural Change: The
Human Development Perspective.” World Values Research 1 (4): 94-119. http://www.worldvaluessurvey.(link is external)
org/WVSPublicationsPapers.jsp(link is external)

Policy Horizons | Horizons de politiques

Policy Horizons Canada, also referred to as Policy Horizons, is an organization within the federal public service that conducts strategic foresight on cross-cutting issues that informs public servants today about the possible public policy implications over the next 10-15 years.

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