During the 2000s, a multinational CEO based in Asia told me he had the best job in the world. All he had to do was look at regional GDP and trade growth projections, and he could surmise that his business was destined for another blockbuster year. Nor did he need to worry about political and social risks, unlike his counterparts elsewhere. He assured me that the region’s transformation was unstoppable: Asia was stable and policymakers were enthusiastically pursuing pragmatic free market policies.
Fast forward to 2021. Asia still has high rates of economic growth, but social and political stability is fraying. Rising inequality has left younger Asians feeling that economic opportunity will be narrower compared with the booming generation of their parents.