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The East Asian Miracle Developmental State Asian Values Notes

Politics Notes > East Asian Transformations (Political Economy) Notes

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*Link - 1.1 Introduction / 1.5 East Asia During the Cold War / 1.8 Rise of China // PO353 2.4 Microfinance

The East Asian Miracle, Developmental State & Asian Values
QUESTIONS
Asian Values debate
◦ 'The concept of 'Asian Values' is merely a political construct for authoritarian governments to justify their political monopoly'. Discuss.

Assess and discuss the analytical value of the Asian Values debate. [2018]

Discuss the concept of 'Asian values' and critically assess the usefulness of the debate in explaining political economy dynamics in the region. [2016]

To what extent were cultural values significant in the economic success of the 'Four Tigers'? [2015]

Developmental state
◦ Why do some scholars think that the concept of 'developmental state' is problematic?

Discuss the significance of the Cold War for the emergence and evolution of the 'developmental state'. [2018]

Discuss the key characteristics of the 'developmental state'. Is it still a relevant category today for studying the political economy of East Asia? [2017, 2016, 2015]

Is Asian regionalism 'developmental'? [2013]

INTRODUCTION
What was the 'East Asian Miracle'?

Signifies the rapid industrialization and unparalleled growth (in excess of 7% per year) of 23 economies across East Asia from 1965-90.
◦ Japan, the 'Four Tigers' - Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan - and the 'newly industrializing economies' (NIEs) of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Managed to avoid the fiscal deficits and balance of payments difficulties that so-often plagued developing economies, e.g. Latin America.

For many, interest in the 'East Asian Miracle' is fear-driven: Does East Asia's economic triumph signal the decline of Anglo-American neoliberal hegemony and the 'Washington Consensus'*? Others have responded by 'looking East' in a 'grail-like quest for what Woo-Cumings called the 'regional solipsism' of an 'Asian developmental model'.
◦ These debates have been as much ideological as methodological or epistemological.

Scope
This essay assesses the viability of 'Asian values' in explaining the 'East Asian Miracle'. I argue that East Asia's economic boom is a temporal phenomenon with limited transferability beyond its specific context. It is not a product of idiosyncratic Confucian ethics - for such claims are essentialist and ideologically charged - but rather, the
'virtuous interplay' of other factors, such as the 'developmental state' (focusing on Japan and South Korea) and international geopolitical posture of affairs.
THE 'ASIAN VALUES' (CULTURALIST) DEBATE
The 'Asian values' discourse emerged in 1979 with the publications Herman Kahn's The Japanese Challenge, Ezra
Vogel's Japan as Number One: Lessons for America and Roy Hofheinz' The Eastasia Edge.
Unlike the 1950s-60s where development experts saw forces of tradition and modernity as conflicting; culturalist scholars hold that certain values intrinsic to Asian/Confucian culture have fashioned a distinctive (and arguably
'superior') politico-economic system.
So-called 'Asian values' include:

1. Diligence & thrift;

5. Paternalistic meritocracy;

2. 'A sustained life of discipline and self-cultivation' [Berger & Hsiao, 1988];

6. Social conservatism;

3. Respect for authority/bureaucratic tradition;

7. An overriding concern for stable family life.

4. 'Education for action' [MacFarquar, 1980]; *Link - 1.1 Introduction / 1.5 East Asia During the Cold War / 1.8 Rise of China // PO353 2.4 Microfinance

8. The nature of man 'is expressed not through particular desires or acts of will, but through social interaction and bonds of responsibility/obligation'.
◦ Kahn proposes a 'Confucian ethic' whose communitarian spirit contrasts the individualism of Max
Weber's 'Protestant ethic' such that it is 'more adept at industrialization than the West'.

'Asian values', for Kahn, were uniquely conducive to 'the creation of dedicated, motivated, responsible and educated individuals', as well as 'the enhanced sense of commitment, organizational identity and loyalty to various institutions' that underpinned East Asia's unprecedented growth.

Critique
 Amartya Sen and Amitav Acharya: 'Takes Asia as a cultural monolith' and overstates regional homogeneity*
(e.g. Islamic underpinnings of Malaysia and Indonesia)

Asian Barometer Survey (ABS): popular attachment to Confucian civic norms across 5 countries was
'miles wide but only inches deep', with attachment levels being significantly higher in the 3 nondemocracies of China, Vietnam and Singapore.

Norms of frugality, hierarchical relations and hard-work among others are not confined to Asia but visible, for instance, in start-up organizational structures worldwide.

Culture becomes a reified and unchanging normative system that shapes social behaviour, as opposed to
'a 'signifying system' through which changing material reality is interpreted reproduced, experienced and explored' [Jayasuriya, 1998]

Orientalism
Conveying 'Asian' and 'Western' values as binary opposites prevents mutual learning, and fosters 'Orientalist'
thinking among Western intellectuals/policymakers.

Successful EA economies are modern fulfilments of the Orientalist project - conceived and executed,
this time by Orientals themselves…

Reverse Orientalism (instrumentalism)
Appropriated by Asian leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir Mohammed and Suharto in a nation-building process that sought to promote East Asian exceptionalism, instil collective social discipline and 'inoculate'
their populations against corrosive 'Western' norms like hedonism, crime, divorce and drug-abuse.

Leveraged to produce a nationalistic rallying point that 'secures elite power by appealing to emotive symbols of legitimacy' [Jayasuriya, 1998].Cult of personality - Lee Kuan Yew portrayed as a 'quintessential Confucian leader': austere,
remote, authoritarian, and intensely concerned with national welfare.Lee promoted bilingualism as a way of nurturing 'cultural ballast' - 'the supposedly innate strength that comes from identification with one's cultural heritage' [Lee, 1991] - in Singaporean youth.

In the absence of an independent sphere of civil society, pluralist politics (i.e. democracy) is often seen as unnecessary and disruptive to the political unity that is embodied in the state.

A diplomatic weapon to assert sovereignty and fend-off internal/external pressures to democratize their polities, liberalize their economies and answer to human rights violations.

Reactive modernization - Fornani notes how the revival of conservative traits of Confucianism is a
'reactive gesture that configures a regressive appropriation of tradition [as] an attempted response of identity to the pressure exercised by the hegemonic claims of Western modernity'.Provides states with an alternative genealogy for Asian modernity that allows them to claim/negotiate an independent basis for their capitalism.

If a 'Confucian ethic' explains East Asian success from 1965-90, does it not also explain the region's stagnation and financial crisis in 1997?
◦ An Economist article captures the essence of this problem: 'Attachment to the family becomes nepotism;
the importance of personal relationships over formal legality becomes cronyism. Conservatism and respect for authority becomes rigidity and an inability to innovate'.

Despite being 'home' to Confucianism, China did not experience dynamic growth until the 1980s.

THE DEVELOPMENTAL STATE (DS)

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