Overview: East Asian Economic “Miracles”?
Since the end of World War II, East Asia has been the most impressive of the world’s regions in creating economic growth rates that have improved the daily lives of millions of people. As late as 1960, when the entire Asian continent’s gross national product was only five percent of world GNP compared to North America’s 37 percent, and only a few astute observers visualized that parts of Asia might someday be economic powerhouses. Today, Asia’s share of world GNP is approximately 35 percent, and it exceeds that of the US and the European Union combined. Although much of Southeast Asia and India now appear to be on the same growth trajectories that Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea experienced decades ago, the economic transformation of East Asia is the major development in world post war economic history.
The general objective of the following readings and activities is to disabuse participants of any notion that what happened in East Asia is a “miracle” in any sense. Much of the positive postwar economic transformation within the region is a result of hard work, sound public and private sector leadership, economic decision-making, impressive investments in human capital (education), and the hard work of millions of everyday East Asians. Other larger factors that affected East Asian post economies include demography, the Cold War, and international economics. The ensuing subtopics may help educators understand how so many East Asians’ lives are now materially enriched since 1945.
The Marcus Noland Interview
Please read the interview with economist Marcus Noland, Education About Asia, Vol. 10, no. 2, EAA, Fall 2005, 8-11.
Please answer one of the following two questions in 250 words or less.
1. Most economists criticize the expression “East Asian economic miracle” because of its implication that what occurred in East Asia was mostly the result of good fortune. What examples does Marcus Noland discuss in the interview that supports economists in their critique of the expression? Does Noland use any examples in the interview of fortuitous events that fuelled East Asian economic growth that were not the result of policy decisions of East Asian governments? If so, please elaborate.
2. What, if any, material in the interview relating to the economic trajectory of the two Koreas might be useful to you in assisting students to understand various aspects of the quite different economic situations of the two nations. Why?
Sources and Further Optional Resources
In addition to the Noland interview, Zhiqun Zhu’s, Understanding East Asia’s Economic “Miracles” is a 77-page booklet that is part of Key Issues in Asian Studies (Association for Asian Studies, 2009). The KIAS series, designed for advanced high school students and university survey-level undergraduate courses, is a good read for educators who do not have an economic background. Information about the booklet may be obtained at the Association for Asian Studies. Teachers and senior high school students on or above reading grade level who are interested in a short non-technical reading on the both China and Taiwan’s economic rise, should consult chapter 4, “The PRC and Taiwan: The Story of a Dragon and a Tiger,” in Zhiqun Zhu’s Understanding East Asia’s “Economic Miracles” (Association for Asian Studies, 2009).