It is now widely rumoured that the ‘Asian century’ is upon us. But what does this really mean? As late as 1988, Deng Xiaoping—in remarks made before the Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi—expressed some scepticism about the facility of the formulation. As Deng stated then:
In recent years people have been saying that the next century will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, as if that were sure to be the case. I disagree with this view. If we exclude the United States, the only countries in the Asia-Pacific region that are relatively developed are Japan, the ‘four little dragons’, Australia and New Zealand, with a total population of at most 200 million. (. . .) But the population of China and India adds up to 1.8 billion. Unless those two countries are developed, there will be no Asian century. No genuine Asia-Pacific century or Asian century can come until China, India and other neighbouring countries are developed. By the same token, there could be no Latin-American century without a developed Brazil. We should therefore regard the problem of development as one that concerns all mankind and study and solve it on that level. Only thus will we recognize that it is the responsibility not just of the developing countries but also of the developed countries.
Whatever the doubts about his standing as a Marxist, then, we may say that Deng remained resolutely universalist in his perspective, at least outwardly.