South Korea’s defence minister has resigned amid a wave of criticism that the country had been unprepared for a North Korean bombardment on Tuesday that killed four people and destroyed dozens of houses.
Seoul launched no effective counter-attack to the North Korean shelling of an island in the Yellow Sea, putting South Korea’s military posture under intense scrutiny.
China, which the US is pressing to rein in Pyongyang, offered a change of tone, with Wen Jiabao, the premier, saying Beijing opposed “provocative military behaviour” on the Korean peninsula. Beijing’s response to the Yellow Sea exercises is more restrained than its angry reaction to similar drills over the summer, which China said endangered its security.
We can detect a nascent self- possession the east has not known for many centuries. That is what is new among Asians – elusive, unannounced and unmistakable all at once.
– Patrick Smith, Somebody Else’s Century: East and West in a post-Western World
——帕特里克•史密斯(Patrick Smith)，《Somebody Else’s Century: East and West in a post-Western World》
Asense of “the great shift east” could be found this month on Station Parade in the London suburb of Ruislip. At Bainbridges auction house, an anonymous bidder with a Beijing accent stumped up £53m ($85m) for a 16-inch Qing dynasty vase. The purchase, for what is believed to be the highest price paid for a Chinese work of art, forms part of a trend: huge sums of Chinese money are being marshalled to bring the country’s heritage back home.
How does one calibrate the momentous shift of economic and geopolitical clout towards the east? Symbolised by the rise of China, it is part of a broader movement of capital, innovation and economic muscle to Asia that is, in many people’s reckoning, the most important rebalancing of global wealth and power since America emerged as a new force at the end of the 19th century.
Does one find this transition in the remarkable growth rates of China, India and Indonesia; in the western levels of income in Japan, South Korea and Singapore; or in the mountains of foreign currency reserves piled up in the vaults of Asian central banks? Should one look for it, instead, in the innards of the Tianhe-1A, the world’s fastest supercomputer, built by scientists not from America or Europe but from China? Or might it lurk in the pitying remark of a senior Indian diplomat who, speaking before President Barack Obama’s visit to India this month, said New Delhi needed to spend billions on American aircraft and equipment “to help them out with all that unemployment”?
Naturally, it is to be found in all these things and a myriad of other data points, financial league tables and attitudinal changes besides. From sales of vehicles in China, which surpassed those in the US last year, to the rising global presence of companies such as Reliance of India, Samsung from South Korea and numerous Chinese resources groups, there is a palpable sense that the world’s centre of gravity is shifting eastwards.