With the economic rise of China, India and smaller southeastern Asian countries (such as the 4 Asian tigers), the 21st century is expected by many to be the Asian century. However, with Overshoot about to bite down and forced relocalisation to begin, will this actually matter for Australia? As international trade/transport declines, what will it matter if Asia’s economy (or only parts) is booming? As local industries that are integrated into local markets that have re-emerged and imports/exports decline in importance, what does it matter if some other economy is growing? As the decentralising effects of renewables changes the structure of our economy, how will the centralisation model of superpowers work?
While I doubt that the Asian century will happen as predicted due to Overshoot, lets imagine it does. So let us see what some of the possible factors to the answer for the question above are.
As international transport capacity falls, it will not matter how much Asia produces since a bottleneck has been formed (without even taking into account lack of resource shipments to Asia). Now international transport capacity is not functionally limited and the limiting factors are in other sectors of the economy. But peak oil will change that by lowering utility (via slower speeds, less ships and more expensive transport) of the current system and hampering the ability of creating a new one. The direct adaptation is relocalisation. For Australia and New Zealand, this effect will be even more pronounced due to our isolation. Asia will become more relatively important since they are closer, while their absolute importance declines, so at the beginning it could matter but as transport continues to decline it will eventually decline with it.
Relocalisation will directly challenge globalisation, which the Asian century is based upon by removing mass imports/exports. This will involve the direct revival of local manufacturing in Australia to use our abundant local resources and to fulfil local needs. Thanks to peak oil, the rise of rise of renewably powered industry is assured and the shift in structure it brings. These industries are, however, limited when compared to modern industries and won’t have the productive power of the industries in Asia, luckily that won’t matter as much since they aren’t exporting industries.
Renewable energy is, relative to non-renewables, inherently decentralised and drives industry to be located over a large area instead of being concentrated in small areas. The reason for this is quite simple, renewable energy is available over large areas, and is acutely vulnerable to concentration losses. While non-renewables come in a concentrated form and, barring uranium, easy to transport. Since our economy will downscale anyway, having many small manufactories instead of one or two big factories would work fine. This reduces reliance on Asia for manufactured goods. While the imports remain they will be increasingly restricted to either capital goods and the rich until everything of importance is made locally.
So does the Asian century matter to us?