East Asia 2014: Rise of China
Gorbachev’s reforms led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and a decade of stagnation in Russia, but China’s more gradual road to capitalism after the death of Mao proved more successful. By 2011, aided by the restoration of Hong Kong and Macau in the 1990s, it had overtaken Japan economically and seemed poised to return to its old role as the dominant power in Asia.
25 Dec 1991 Dissolution of the Soviet Union▲
On the morning of 25 December 1991, in a nationally televised speech, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, declaring the office extinct and ceding all its powers to Russian president Boris Yeltsin. At 7:32 pm that night, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time in Moscow and the Russian tricolor raised in its place, symbolically marking the end to the Soviet Union and the independence of the eleven remaining Soviet republics.
Jul 1997-1999 Asian financial crisis▲
Starting in Thailand with the collapse of the Thai baht, a financial crisis spread across the ‘tiger’ economies of East and Southeast Asia in the late 1990s. The biggest impact was on Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand, but Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, and the Philippines were also deeply affected. The crisis ended about a decade of growth in the region and put pressure on the economies of the Pacific Rim.
1 Jul 1997 Hong Kong returned to China▲
Although China had ceded Hong Kong Island and Kowloon in perpetuity, it would have been impractical to maintain without the air and sea infrastructure in the surrounding New Territories, whose lease from the Qing Dynasty was set to expire on 1 July 1997. Britain thus negotiated for the People’s Republic of China to assume sovereignty of Hong Kong on the condition that both it and the New Territories remain together as a separate entity from Mainland China itself with free elections (”Two Systems, One Country”).
4-20 Sep 1999 East Timorese crisis▲
After 78.5 percent of voters chose independence from Indonesia in the East Timorese independence referendum of 30 August 1999, violence erupted in East Timor. Anti-independence paramilitary groups attacked people and set fires in the capital of Dili, prompting foreigners to flee the country and tens of thousands of East Timorese to take to the mountains. In response to Western condemnation of the violence, Indonesia agreed to withdraw its troops from East Timor and accept an international peacekeeping force in its stead.
20 Dec 1999 Macau returned to China▲
The 1974 Carnation Revolution had ended any Portuguese interest in maintaining an overseas empire. Accordingly, Portugal negotiated to transfer sovereignty over its port city Macau to the People’s Republic of China, under similar conditions to those made for Hong Kong.
2 Apr 2007-30 Jul 2008 Subprime mortgage crisis▲
During a boom in housing construction, the bundling and improper rating of high-risk mortgages caused the United States bond market to crash in 2007. The ensuing financial crisis sent the US economy into the Great Recession, with the stock market crashing a year later.
25 May 2009 North Korean nuclear tests▲
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea detonated a nuclear device underground on 25 May 2009, making its first successful nuclear test.