Far East

Far East by Ron K. Unz
The Economist (Letters), May 3, 1986

As a long-time subscriber to your newsweekly I wish to bring to your attention an unfortunate skew in your coverage of world events, namely your overemphasis on Europe and your under-reporting of the Far East. Such an observation may seem curious since your newsweekly clearly contains the best and most comprehensive western coverage of the Far East, and was also among the first to alert Americans and Europeans to the growing world importance of East Asia (and the declining importance of Europe). Nonetheless, the facts are plain.

  • East Asia contains well over a billion and a half people, and the Indian subcontinent another billion; Europe (excluding the Soviet Union and Britain), little more than 400 million.
  • East Asia contributes a GNP of over $2 trillion, and the subcontinent, another couple of hundred billion dollars; Europe (again excluding Russia and Britain), less than $4 trillion. Furthermore, given the current growth rates and economic potential of the Asian states—especially China and India, as your recent minisurvey suggested—the next 15 years should see the Far East overtake Europe in economic significance.
  • By any standards, Japan, China and (perhaps) India are three of the half-dozen or so most significant nations in the world, and their importance is steadily rising. By contrast, the importance of leading European nations such as France or West Germany is declining.

All of these above notions are certainly not new to any regular reader of The Economist. Yet you have not followed your own teachings. Consider:

  • You publish a regular Europe section, but continue to lump East Asia and the Indian subcontinent under “miscellaneous,” namely your International section. And the eternal troubles of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America generally occupy the bulk of that section.
  • The lack of a separate Far Eastern Survey (or East Asian Survey) thus results in a less than sufficient coverage of those areas. An unscientific perusal of your past six issues (March 15th to April 19th) indicates these totals for regular survey pages of coverage: Europe (excluding the Soviet Union and Britain), 30; East Asia, 11; Indian subcontinent, 3.5. Only the most stubborn Eurocentric would claim that these totals accurately reflect the world importance of these three regions.

The obvious reasons for such skewed coverage are your history and the current composition of your readership and editorial board (for example, the continued existence of your Britain section is solely a relic of the former and a requirement of the latter). But your publication is no longer merely a British newsweekly or a European newsweekly, but has become a global newsweekly, and your emphasis should be reapportioned accordingly.

Establishing a regular survey section devoted to the Far East (or to East Asia) would properly focus increased reportage on what may well be the world’s economic and political center-of-gravity 30 or 40 years hence. Even most forward-looking Europeans might prefer more regular coverage of Japan and China to a surfeit of details on minor European states. And if the difficulties attendant upon the return of Hongkong to China lead to a decline in the quality of the Far Eastern Economic Review, your own increased attention to that part of the world will be of even greater importance.

Ron K. Unz
Stanford, California

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