Asia Rising - Jim Rohwer and China's Future Rising From His Past

Ghost cities rise and fall in China every day - some are real...

By , Columnist
Reports of a ghost city rising over Huanshan, China, are fueled by a story in the West Australian claiming that the city was a mirage or even possibly a  "vortex to a lost civilisation." Camera tricks being not so difficult to accomplish these days are not beyond possibility, but eye-witness reports by local residents are less easy to dismiss. "The giant mirage complete with tall buildings, mountains and trees appeared across the skyline after heavy downpour and humid conditions along the Xin'an River," the paper reports.

Which brings me to Jim Rohwer and the subject of his 1995 book, Asia Rising: "Eye-widening, eyebrow raising observations, backed by plenty of charts and diagrams, on why Japan's per capita income was able to double in 33 years (1880+); Indonesia's in 17 years (1965+); South Korea's in 11 years (1970+); China's in only 10 years (1978+). These figures are put into perspective with the United States' per capita income doubling 50 years after 1840 and Britain's in 60 years after 1780 (the world's then fastest-growing economy)," Technology Management Associates reports.

Jim's book was my constant companion on being transferred to Asia from Chicago in 1995. It sold me on the idea that the world was changing and that Asia would be the next great growth engine in the milenium to come. And that was sixteen years ago. Jim's past predictions of the future had now become my present. I only wish my management had read the book as well.

Rohwer (Berkeley MA in Economics, Harvard JD) and a former correspondent for the Ecomomist writes what some have called "The best textbook on Asian economics" and it is highly recommended reading for anyone considering doing business in Asia. "By the year 2020, Asia will be home to the largest middle class in history, bringing the greatest boon to world prosperity in modern times", he writes. Trouble is, it's all happening just a bit earlier. The recent US financial bailout, largely financed by China; the Chinese offer to help the EU in bailing out the Greeks and China's heavy investment in Africa all point to a growing Chinese influence in world affairs; and in effect, an Asian influence. 

Sadly, Jim Rohwer passed away in a boating accident in France in Sept, 2001, so he wasn't able to see his predictions come true. And the visions of giant Chinese ghost cities rising and falling, continue to pervade the news.

The Daily Mail reports that Google satellite images show hundreds of thousands of brand new unoccupied homes springing up in Chinese suburbia. As America's housing crisis continues to drive prices through the floor whilst credit has evaporated for a vast number of potential buyers, maybe the two countries could find a solution - by putting homeless American families in these new beautifully built metropolises. All they will have to do is learn a few thousand Chinese characters to sign the mortgage agreement.

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David has spent most of his career in advertising. That alone should call his writing skills into question. David currently writes the Wild Wild East Dailies from Saigon but has trouble seeing the forest for the trees because it's a jungle out there.

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