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November 24, 2009

Key Asian Indicators: A 2009 Book of Charts

By , and

The United States is no less a Pacific nation than an Atlantic one. The state of Hawaii and the territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa all lie in the Pacific. The United States has five treaty alliances in East Asia (Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand), the Pacific Fleet, and major military bases throughout the region. It has legal obligations to Taiwan's security, and a burgeoning economic relationship with mainland China.

In South Asia, the United States is establishing a multifaceted partnership with India; it has a critical partner in nuclear-armed Pakistan; and is leading a war against global terrorism in Afghanistan.

America's presence in Asia is massive and deliberate. It is the product of more than 100 years of commitment and sacrifice, including the Spanish-American War, World War 11, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and today's war in Afghanistan.

The United States is in Asia to stay The graphics that follow help to demonstrate why A quick glance is enough to demonstrate the dynamism of the region. Asia is home to more than half the world's population. Freedom and tyranny live side by side across the region, as do economic opportunity and poverty East and South Asia have some of the best places in the world to do business, but they also have some of the worst. Asia is home to some of the most unstable, dangerous nations in the world, and it is home to some of the most steady and reliable. It is also home to the only country in the world capable of emergng as a peer competitor for global American influence - the People's Republic of China.

Asia is a work very much in progress. Its sheer size makes its development a determining factor in protecting and promoting American interests and values. Its growth means it will only become more important in the future. And Asia's dynamism means that nothing about its development can be taken for granted.

Walter Lohman is Director of the Asian Studies Center, John Fleming is Senior Data Graphics Editor, and Nicholas Hamisevicz is a Research Assistant in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

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Defining the Region

We have defined an "Asia" bordering on Iran in the West, the Pacific in the East, Russia in the North, and included Australia and New Zealand, as well as the Pacific islands. This captures several critical geo-economic and geopolitical features: East Asian dynamism; the emergence of India; and relationships between China and India, India and Pakistan, and Pakistan and Afghanistan. It also encompasses all of America's five Asia- Pacific treaty allies to include Australia.

Defining the Region

Key Areas of Dispute

Key Areas of Dispute

Political Instability

Failed states are synonymous with national security threats. Unfortunately, as measured by the Failed States Index prepard by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine, Asia has its fair share of instability.

Political Instability

The State of Political Freedom

Asia has an extraordinary mix of political systems from some of the freest to the most oppressive, as ranked by Freedom House. The freer the country, the more likely it is to be America's friend.

The State of Political Freedom

The Best Places to Do Business

The Best Places to Do Business

Market Attraction

China attracts more global direct investment than any other country in Asia. When combined with Hong Kong, it accounts for more than 10 percent of global totals.

Market Attraction


Worldwide Direct Investment

The United States invests more money in physical assets beyond its borders than the combined total of Asia's 23 largest investors.

Worldwide Direct Investment

Booming Trade

Asia accounts for more than a quarter of all global trade in goods and services--more than the U.S. and the European Union combined.

Booming Trade

Growing Prosperity

In 1997, Australia had the fifth-richest economy in the Asia-Pacific. In 2008, Australia became the richest, even surpassing the United States. In the last 20 years, many economies in Asia have seen their GDP per capita double or triple.

Growing Prosperity

Economic Stakes

At $14.2 trillion, the U.S. economy is nearly three times the size of Japan's, Asia's largest, and comparable to all the Asian economies in this list combined ($15 trillion). China is very likely to surpass Japan as the No. 2 economy in the world in 2010.

Economic Stakes

The State of Economic Freedom

The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal rate and rank the world's economies according to 10 factors: business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption, and labor freedom.

The State of Economic Freedom

China's Military Size Dominates Asia

When comparing active-duty personnel, China's army alone is larger than any other Asian nation's entire military. In pure numbers, it even exceeds the size of the U.S. military

China's Military Size Dominates Asia

North Korea Is Asia's Most Militarized

Nearly 5 percent of North Korea's entire population is active-duty military personnel, a rate more than double that of other Asian nations.

North Korea Is Asia's Most Militarized

India Will Be World's Most Populous Nation

India is projected to supplant China as Asia's most populous nation by 2030. The two nations have nearly twice the population as the combined total of the rest of Asia. Asia accounts for 60 percent of the world's population.

India Will Be World's Most Populous Nation

Asian Support for the U.S. in the U.N.

How Asian and select other members of the United Nations voted on 88 key resolutions of the 2008 General Assembly, in terms of coinciding with the U.S. vote. Even some of America's best friends vote against us more often than with us.

Asian Support for the U.S. in the U.N.

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