As we write this, the world has entered its second major economic crisis in four years. Europe is gripped by a series of sovereign debt crises, and the United States is facing the prospect of a double-dip recession. Last year, 2011, started off strong but finished with a seemingly endless parade of economic, stock, and earnings downgrades. Analysts agree that the United States and Europe will face several years of slow growth.

Amid all the volatility and uncertainty that’s racked the global economy in recent years, one thing is certain: Asia’s star is rising. Asia is no longer a workshop to the world, and the region’s economies are starting to decouple from the West. Asian consumers are driving domestic growth, and that shift is happening at a critical time. Western consumers are struggling, and it will be years before those economies get back to normal.

Companies across the world were homing in on Asia’s consumers before the current crises set in. Asia’s middle class is growing at a frenetic pace, and over the next two decades, the bulge of the world’s middle class will shift from the West to Asia, according to the Brookings Institution. That agency reckons Asia will be home to 66 percent of the world’s middle class by 2030, up from just 28 percent in 2007.

Multinational companies recognize this and are making moves to capitalize on the shift. They’re moving research centers to this region and scaling up investment in Asia-driven research and development ...

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