Department of Political Science and Global Asian Studies,
DePaul University, United States
The economic and technological rise of several Asian economies have been acknowledged. As late industrializers, many of these economies have transitioned from the backwaters of labor-intensive, low-wage industrialization to high value manufacturing and services exports. Effectively they have narrowed the technological gap with the west. However, their rise and thus the opportunities for innovations have been punctuated by economic, political, and social challenges such as Japan’s “lost decades”, the 2008 global financial crises, exclusion of allies and partners from Asia in the wider geopolitical arrangements, and major demographic shifts. For example, China’s economic and technological ascendancy has provoked pressures for US-China decoupling and new geostrategic alignments between the US, Japan, India, and Australia. Yet, India’s technology professionals have been effectively shut out with the recent US visa restrictions, while Japan, a staunch US ally since World War II, is pursuing an independent space policy, potentially competing with other space powers. However, such cutting-edge Japanese efforts also coexist with unprecedented emptying of rural Japan thus prompting alternative approaches to remaking rural communities. The uneven unsettling of Asian economies and societies due to Covid-19 also challenges and offers opportunities for innovative public health policies. In this interdisciplinary roundtable, five Asianists young and senior of varied ethnicities, disciplinary backgrounds, and methodological orientations, discuss how Asian countries are adjusting to a rapidly changing innovation ecosystem. The analysis covers different economic, technological, and social sectors to discuss: Japan’s positioning in the global space economy; possible responses by India’s IT sector to create new avenues for the flows of innovation ideas through its globally dispersed diaspora; a pan-Asian coverage of innovation commons in China, Japan, and India for new, especially natural drug development ensuring fair accessibility to essential medicines; India’s political and social response to the Covid-19 and its uneven effects on diverse communities; and how small-scale, bottom-up innovative initiatives led by rural communities in Japan are repurposing vacant buildings and establishing artist residencies through socially engaged practices.