One of the perils of the media-driven world in which we live today is the opportunity it offers for instant comment and analysis. Thus it was with last year's Asian financial crisis. As usual, where the urgency of the requirement for comment overwhelms the need for proper consideration, much of the analysis was out of date by the time it appeared - and not to say contradictory. This brings to mind the somewhat cynical comment of a stock-market analyst pressed by a client for his view of the situation. 'Do you want this morning's long-term forecast or this afternoon's?' he asked.
And so it seems appropriate this month, as ASEAN ministers arrive in London for an EC trade summit, to take a considered look at not only the economic health of the region but also its impact on us.
For there is little doubt today that, if Asia catches the flu, then the rest of the world will probably sneeze - and sooner rather than later. Indeed, our block of four features on Asia, starting on page 54, underlines just how important the region is to the world economy, and to Britain in particular. As David Smith's article observes, the biggest risk now is protectionism. If that happens, last year's crisis will repeat itself. Nonetheless, he concludes, what is going on in Asia now is really only a corrective pause brought on by a unique combination of circumstances.
Let us hope he is right. As the other article show, Asia's contribution goes far beyond trade or even direct investment (page 60), to include management theory (page 68) and manufacturing practice (page 72). Earlier studies have shown that sectors of Britain's manufacturing heartland lead the world - and there is no doubt that we owe part of this to the regenerative and catalytic effect of Asian money, influence and practice in all spheres of industry and business.