But what about the impact of the popular movements in Egypt, Libya and Syria? David Arnold, who lived in Egypt for six years before joining the Asia Foundation, believes an impact on Asia is inevitable. He says the Arab uprisings are significant political and social developments for the world.
Reporter: Karon Snowdon
David Arnold, President, The Asia Foundation
SNOWDON: David Arnold was the head of the American University in Cairo for seven years. He left Egypt in December -- just before so much in the region changed -- to take up the presidency of the regional NGO, the Asia Foundation. He says the so-called Arab Spring has some unique characteristics. But he thinks its ambitions are shared with many in Asia. And they go far beyond economic development alone.
ARNOLD: Economic growth is not a substitute for good governance.
SNOWDON: As the Arab reform movements demonstrate the demand for political rights and freedom from oppression cuts across age, religion and culture. David Arnold says in Asia, South Korea, the Philippines and more recently Indonesia stand as examples of this universal desire.
ARNOLD: I definately think there's an awful lot ot be learned in lookin at what's happened in Indonesia since the chnage there. Indonesi now is emerging as much more significant player on the regional stage on the global stage, their leadership of ASEAN...
SNOWDON: Can you equate that in some ways with its devleopment of democracy?
ARNOLD: I think it enjoys a position of legitmacy of standing in the world community that it would not have had in the absence of that change.
SNOWDON: Can't be said the same of China though? Its economic might, its military might seems to many people's minds to be the major factors there?
ARNOLD: Well it certainly has been and I think the growing criticism that you're seeing from the international community in terms of human rights issues in China is a reflection that people are concerned about the direction of political developments in China as it is achieving the kind of success that it has on the economic front. And I think the message is that you really have to concentrate on both. Continuing to try and develop accountable, transparant, responsive forms of government that contribute to long term sustained economic growth and development.
SNOWDON: The Asia Foundation is a 60 year old US based NGO which spent almost 100 million dollars in Asia last year supporting civil society, law and economic reform, women's empowerment and environment programs. The recent roundup in China of activists speaking out for free speech and more democracy appears to be a reaction to the Arab Spring by a worried leadership. David Arnold says while this is hard to link directly he says it wont stifle change in the long run.
ARNOLD: We're seeing in some o the backlash that's taking place, in the efforts to crackdown to control access to information to control the internet to limit social media and so on and so forth, in some respects you're seeing actions by the more authoritarian governments in the region to try and draw the wrong lessons from what's happening in the Middle East.
SNOWDON: What are the wrong lessons, just very briefly?
ARNOLD: The wrong lessons are that you can stop all of this by turning off the internet you know and that didn't work in Egypt.
SNOWDON: So I guess the main question is is what's happening in Arab countries will speed up the process in Asia, is there a direct correlation? Is there a domino effect or a rippling effect?
ARNOLD: I would aregue that there will be a reverberation effect, I'm not arguing that this is the march of history that we're all inexorably moving towards, every country havng democratic system of government. What I am sugesting is that in this interconnected global age that what's happening in the middle east really matters in the scheme of things. This is the most dramatic change since the fall of the Berlin Wall in terms of a global political development, I think this is in terms of historic importance, on a par with that particular moment in our history.