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Economic, social and natural environmental systems are interdependent, and economic systems cannot be assessed in isolation from an interconnected whole. Many parts of Asia face increasing market intrusion and forced changes in economic mechanisms and rights without concomitant social and technological co-evolution. Consequently, serious problems for economic, social and environmental sustainability are being experienced by local communities, especially in remote regions and in peripheral areas such as Northeast India and in hilly regions of China. Rapid Asian economic growth, extension of markets and processes of globalization are generating social tensions and magnifying stresses on natural environments. Many subsistence and semi-subsistence communities have been suddenly confronted by the extension of markets and the backwash of globalization. This has promoted uneven development, loss of community, disintegration of social structures which have supported economic mutualism and which have provided social safety nets. In many cases too, natural resource bases and environments on which local communities depend for their livelihood are under threat, partly because systems of property rights and governance evolve slowly and externally imposed changes in these are often counterproductive. This is illustrated by examples from Northeast India and China involving slash-and-burn agriculture. Factors which may cause regional and social economic divergence in Asia in this globalizing world are discussed. These include differential access to global knowledge and communication networks. Urban and cosmopolitan communities probably stand to gain to gain most from globalization processes.


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