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The Future Society of Asia

Working Paper by Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, Executive Director, Institute of Future Studies for Development

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The future of Asia can be deduced from the linkage among traditional lifestyles, values and thinking patterns on the one hand and future developments on the other hand.

01.08.2001 · Research Group on the Global Future


Scholars observe that every two to three centuries a major shift significantly shakes global affairs. Also, every two to three decades, they observe less cataclysmic but still significant shifts in the social values, economic structures, political systems, culture, arts and other substantive institutions within all societies of the world. Radical lifestyle changes have also occurred in the past two to three decades. The result of such shifts is a new global order so dissimilar to the previous one that we are unable to imagine life as it was a few short decades before.1 If scholars are to be trusted, the convergence of the next world shaking historical change will occur sometime between 2010 and 2020, not far from now.

The twenty-first century is now upon us, bringing with it the significant changes wrought by globalization and technological advancement, phenomena that will touch every member of the human race. To wisely handle the challenges of our age, we must understand imminent changes and prepare ourselves accordingly. Only those who possess a clear visionary perspective of the future will be able to adapt well to the changes.

This paper presents an analysis of the coming future society. More specifically, I focus on the future societies in Asia. "Asia" here does not denote the entire continent of Asia but only East Asia, i.e. Northeast Asia: China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, that is, all ASEAN countries. I do so because these parts of Asia are regarded as having a higher development level. In addition, these regions - as members of APEC and ASEM - play an important role in international politics and economics. Asia has drawn the interest of the world community throughout the past decade. Such interest includes an effort to understand the condition of Asia in the past, the present and the future. Thus, this material analyzes likely conditions within Asia over the coming two decades: in other words, what Asia could become by 2020.

The material is presented in three parts: (1) the historical development of Asia, (2) Pre-determined elements: trends and developments considered to be pre-determined or "certain," and (3) a scenario-section.

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