By Jirapat Taechajongjintana. Stanford University.
I once recalled my grandmother telling me her story of childhood yore; her eyes sparkled as she flashbacked to those moments of the “good old days”. “We lived differently then,” she said. “People went around on feet, the wealthy on horse-drawn carriages. Streets were just unpaved paths of rouge earth, with each and every piece of land on both sides littered with rice paddies and farms…” This was the land my grandmother once knew, a land barely touched by the onslaught of development. It was the place where people lived and traded without knowing what the invisible hand of capitalism was; where societies were structured by long-held traditions and social norms, ruled by divine monarchies, dominated by a strong faith in religion. Who would have believed that this was the continent called “Asia”, rewound back in time by a mere 70 years.
Asia has changed dramatically over the past decades, emerging itself from a distant terrain of the Far East into a prominent figurehead on the international stage (Gordon and Spicker, 1999). The rice paddies have been converted to high-rise buildings and apartments, the earthy roads now paved with concrete ground. The GDP of each nation skyrockets at a level as high as double-digit rates, and the people now receive better welfare and living conditions. If Asia were a man, it would be a young, attractive adult who is in pursuit for fame and success in his adulthood. This young man has a tenacious will, herculean strength, and great potential, but the path to that accomplishing adulthood will not be an easy one; instead, it will be an arduous path that lays defying impediments and obstacles, the ones which challenge Asia to get pass in order to achieve what it longs for. These impediments-the challenges of Asia-will define the fate of this young man in the next decade and beyond.
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