Asian Perspectives On The Economic Crisis

August 18-20, 1998

Over a year has passed since a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions interrupted the record-breaking economic growth rates of the Asia-Pacific region, and particularly Southeast Asia. Experts agree that the region's problems are deeper, wider, and potentially more destabilizing than earlier predicted. Initially, non-economic issues seemed less urgent than financial and currency problems. Today, growing unemployment, ethnic tensions, political instability, humanitarian crises, labor unrest and a rise in regional tensions have placed political and security concerns at the forefront of policy priorities.

In an effort to draw clearer linkages between the economic and strategic concerns generated by the turmoil in the region, the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies held on August 18-20, 1998, its second conference exploring the various impacts of the financial crisis. With a particular emphasis on Asian perspectives of the crisis, scholars and policy specialists from around the region gathered in Honolulu to assess the region's economic outlook one year after the crisis began. They assembled to conduct case studies on the social and political impacts of the crisis on the hardest hit economies of Thailand, Indonesia, and Korea, exchange views on the role and status of regional powers, China and Japan, and identify emerging security and strategic concerns resulting from the economic difficulties facing the region. A number a key conclusions emerged from the discussions:

  1. Regional security concerns, less perceptible at the beginning of the crisis, are now more visible.
  2. The crisis is deeper and more pervasive than initially predicted.
  3. Despite poor economic conditions and social instability, a return to authoritarianism is unlikely in emerging democracies.
  4. Focused on its own economic troubles, Japan is apparently unwilling or unable to be the locomotive of growth for the rest of the region.
  5. China is unlikely to devalue in the short term.