17 December 2018


By Bian-lian Huang

Image result for cute asian couple
The current trade war with the People's Republic of China, which will conclude amicably, underscores the epic and historic rise of Asia over the last 40 years, particularly the last 20, when China officially joined the World Trade Organization.  No economist or sinologist in 1978 dared to dream that China would become the world's largest economy (in PPP terms) 36 years later.  More broadly, the Asian-Pacific region accounts for the largest portion of the global gross domestic product.

Asia's rise to economic superpower status was undergirded by one main factor:  its human resources.  Asians are the hardest working and smartest people in the world.  With this asset, it is inevitable that Asian dominance of the world economy will remain the order of the day for many decades to come.

Yet, Asians have generously shared their number one asset with the United States.  Every year, Asia sends its best and brightest to Silicon Valley, medical hubs, financial beachheads, and other key economic realms that define the American economy.  And of course, native-born Asian-Americans (children of the various immigration waves) provide the much needed natural replenishment of this precious resource.

Natural replenishment is key for the United States continued success.   One day, in the near future, Asia will stop sending its talents abroad because of its aging population and because local opportunities and living standards will outshine those offered overseas.  (We are already seeing this phenomenon.  Of the hundreds of thousands of Mainland Chinese students studying in Europe and the United States, the vast majority choose to pursue their careers in their motherland.)  American innovation and productivity may suffer as a consequence, depending on whether the Asian-American population is large enough to reasonably shoulder this burden.

Of course, there will be no shortage of other peoples wishing to come into the United States to reap economic fruit. But it's just not the same without the dual characteristics embedded in the Asian DNA -- intellect and diligence.