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Globalization: The Promises and The Perils, U.S. and Asian Responses

Informatics Creative Commons photo-patchwork. (musha68000/Flickr)

Informatics Creative Commons photo-patchwork. (musha68000/Flickr)

But of course, the decision is not all in Asia's hands. Emphasis on the social sector depends on government involvement, but globalization has tended, as you know, to downplay the rule of government. The pressure is still on to reduce the role of the public sector. Even in the UN setting, which is a membership of governments, the role of the state is somehow not very clearly defined. It's always said what the state should not do, but not much discussed as to what the state should and must do.

For example, and equalization of opportunity, the social safety net providing equal opportunity for all, these have to be the role of the state. But these are not very much emphasized or discussed. I feel that the Asian countries must start to speak with one voice on social issues and issues of social investment and development in the United Nations, in the financial institutions and in other economic groupings.

They should also speak out for the value of social investment, environmental protection and resources conservation. They should defend the power of national governments against further erosion by economic forces outside of their control. I think there has to be some kind of framework within which globalization and the non-governmental sectors - and I say this with a "small n", which includes the private sector and multi-nationals and so on - operate so that there's no exploitation and there opportunity to equalize the playing field for all the people within the country.

There is much also that Asian countries can do to help one another. For example, in our field, we have facilitated an exchange of experience in population and development. This exchange has transferred good practices and supported expertise and training. Extending such arrangements in other areas, I think, is a matter of neutral self-interest.

The Unites States, which was the other part of the question that you are addressing will play an important role in Asia as the biggest economy, as the biggest consumer of Asian products and the biggest investor almost - I'm sure after Japan - in Asian countries. The US has also historically supported social development in Asian countries and in the area of population, of course the US is the largest funder, in fact, of population programs around the world and has done this very actively and has participated in all of the success stories in Asia. The US is and will remain preeminent in the international community and its leadership can make a great difference to the future direction in which Asian societies move. I feel also that the US must take a longer view of its own self-interest and not just a short term view. I think here many things are judged by returns that must happen instantly. I remember a story of a mayor that came from one of the cities in the former Soviet Union and he came here looking for long term investment. We were all at a lunch together and he said, "With all the businessmen that I have met, they want to know when the returns will start coming in and I was thinking of ten years" and they said, "Oh, ten years. Our shareholders won't stand for that". So I think long term and on the other hand, when they talked to Japanese, the Japanese talked about twenty-five years and thirty years. To them, five years and ten years was nothing. I think it's a perspective that really has to be taken into account.