Author Parag Khanna insists that the rise of Asia will not lead to the decline of America or Europe
I'm saying that we really have a truly global coexistence of superpower regions and never in history has this happened."
He also said it's a mistake to graft the history of Europe in the 19th century or America in the 20th century onto predictions about what might happen in Asia in the 21st century.
That's because Asia is geographically so vast—creating room for multiple civilizations to thrive and prosper.
That was never possible in areas with the population and size of continental Europe or the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries.
"It's really not helpful when scholars, even knowledgeable people, lead by analogy to irrelevant periods in history," Khanna said. "It's not helpful to the people of today to understand the world if even some of the greatest minds—people who I admire—can't look further back than 100 years to determine what template they want to use to understand the future. It's really quite harmful."
He also has a more nuanced view of colonialism than many historians, suggesting that European imperial powers "gave a head start to many societies of Asia".
A notable exception, he added, was the partition of India and Pakistan, which he thinks was a mistake.
In addition, Khanna said that the American alliance helped South Korea and Japan achieve stability, which helped them blossom in the latter part of the 20th century.
He also categorically rejected the notion that one country, whether it's India or China or anyone else, will dominate the entire continent in this century.
"That's simply false in Asia and in Asian history," he stated. "The history of Asia is the Asia of many great civilizations simultaneously coexisting—India and China among them. So again, this is not France and Germany."
Conflict doesn't negate Khanna's arguments
At the same time, Khanna recognizes that conflicts and wars can occur along the path to building continental power.
That occurred in Europe in the 20th century on the way to the formation of the European Union. He doesn't discount the possibility of this occurring in Asia in the current century.
Khanna said that he has identified nine "major conflicts" that could erupt on the continent.
To cite one, he mentioned longstanding tensions between India and Pakistan.
At the same time, he noted that it's "unbelievably inefficient for today's generation to be fighting the wars of four generations ago", referring to the history of warfare between these two nation states.
"So, I don't shy away from conflict as something that invalidates my argument," Khanna said. "In fact, there is a very cruel section of the book where I say, 'Look, war can be good for regional integration.' That's what Europe proves."
He acknowledged that publishers in some countries wanted to add a question mark to his book title, i.e. The Future Is Asian?, but he adamantly refused to allow this.
"In fact, I was actually thinking of calling the book The Present Is Asia because in so many ways, we are already in the Asian century," Khanna stated. "Quite frankly, this is not something that is subject to debate."