In 2006, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao foreshadowed that the 21st century could become the ‘Asian century’. He was voicing a belief that the world's economic centre of gravity is shifting to Asia, away from the United States of America and Europe, and that with this will come greater political, strategic and cultural influence for the nations of the region. Whether one endorses or dismisses such simplifications or generalisations, the notion of the Asian century has, at its core, an acceptance both within and outside the region that what happens in Asia does matter in the world and that collectively, and individually, the countries of this region have become, or are becoming, significant global players. This book shares the view that the nations of Asia can no longer be seen as operating at the periphery of global power, with their significance confined to economic and commercial matters. The importance of Asia means that Asian law and the role of law in Asia have also become important.
We lawyers, especially Western lawyers, tend to overemphasise the role that law plays in development. The early proponents of the ‘law and development’ movement and their predecessors who decades, or even centuries, earlier forced or convinced Asians to ‘modernise’, that is, to Westernise their legal systems, did so with the belief that this would lead to the economic development of Asia.