Studying development levels and processes is an important aspect of learning about Asia. The Asian continent contains countries that span an incredibly large range of developmental levels—from advanced developed countries, such as Japan, to least developed countries, such as Afghanistan, with some of the fastest growing “newly industrialized” countries in between (e.g., the People’s Republic of China). Often, it is the habit of students (and instructors) to group countries into these three categories— developed (the most advanced), least developed (the least advanced),1 and newly industrializing countries, which previously belonged in the latter category, but are making a transition to the former. This practice presupposes that countries can be arranged in a strict hierarchy by developmental level, and that development occurs in a linear manner from one level to the next.
Central Asia and “Levels” of Development