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Essay Title: Is the East Asian Developmental State Replicable for Late Development in Other Developing Regions?

Mark Awarded: 67


There are many issues that need to be taken into consideration when deliberating on whether the East Asian developmental state can be replicable for late development in other developing regions in the world. In 1993 the World Bank released its report titled The East Asian Miracle, in which it attempted to explain the regions rapid and continual economic growth since after World War II (Bernard, 1996: p.649). When discussed in this essay, East Asian states refer to Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. There is a general unanimity that the state played a fundamental role in the East Asian states development (Ibid, p.228). The East Asian developmental state is characterized by authoritarianism with a high level of autonomy from societal pressures with economic development and industrialization being the main priorities of the state.

Chalmers Johnson first coined the term developmental state in his book MITI and the Japanese Miracle in order to characterize the role that the Japanese state played in Japans extraordinary and unexpected post-war enrichment (Johnson, 1999: p.33). Consequently the concept of the East Asian developmental state to be used as a model has been widely discussed in the literature and up until the 1990s many academics in the development community have championed the developmental state approach as a model that could be replicated elsewhere in world to assist other developing regions. The concept of the developmental model, which goes against neo-liberal notions, became particularly important in the context of Africa after the failure of the Structural Adjustment

Programmes; especially considering in 1960 many of the East Asian countries had been at comparable levels of development with their African counterparts (Meyns & Musamba, 2010: p.7). However, the East Asian model should not be viewed as a solution for late development in developing regions. As Eun Mee Kim argues, the developmental state model needs to be carefully considered before it is applied to other Third World nations (Kim, 1993: p.245). Not only does one have to consider whether the East Asian developmental state can be replicated elsewhere, one also has to speculate whether it is desirable to replicate the model or even if such a model exists that explains East Asian economic growth in the last four decades. When these issues have been weighed up it is obvious that the East Asian developmental state is largely problematic and cannot be applied to other developing regions to promote late development.

Can the East Asian developmental state be replicated?

The most obvious question that needs to be considered when analysing whether the East Asian developmental state can be used for late development in other developing regions is can the it be replicated? This concern has been extensively debated in the literature as if the developmental state can be replicated it could potentially solve the developmental dilemmas of areas such as Africa and Latin America by providing a model for late development and industrialization. As Richard Boyd and Tak-Wing Ngo recognize, the desire to replicate the developmental state is not surprising as the theory opens up possibilities to overcome the dictates of the world system and to escape the confines of dependency and the vagaries of the marketplace (Boyd & Ngo, 2005: p.1). The developmental state thesis therefore holds great appeal. However there are many features of the theory that make the East Asian developmental state entirely unique to East Asia and therefore make it impossible to be applicable to other states around the world.

The international context in which the East Asian developmental state emerged in the post-war period was vital for its very existence and thus generalizing the East Asian experience so it could be applied to other regions in the world would be, according to Ziya Onis, extremely ahistorical (Onis, 1991: p.120). The developmental state was only able to materialise due to the very specific conditions that were present in East Asia at the end of World War II, which would imply the impossibility of replicating it for other regions now in the present day. The severe external threat that confronted the East Asian states during the Cold War period which threatened their security resulted in a heightened sense of nationalism and with it a unique commitment to the long-term transformation of the economy which allowed the state elites to put aside concerns over social welfare and income distribution and focus solely on the growth of the economy (Ibid, p.116). Furthermore as East Asian states such as Japan were within reach of the Communist threat, they became beneficiaries of the United States which enabled them to extract important advantages vis-vis the core (Ibid, p.121), whilst Korea and Taiwan forged relationships with both the US and Japan. Advantageous relationships with the core along with an expansion in the US market which could act as a recipient for increasing East Asian exports created a favourable setting for development to occur (Brohman, 1996: p.121). As well as creating access to markets the Cold War context further provided an ideal situation for the developmental state approach as the Western allies overlooked the authoritarian regimes and market intervention approaches as long as the East Asian states remained rigidly anti-Communist (Wong, 2004: p.352). Ultimately the timing of the East Asian states reintegration into the global economy was crucial for their success and as Joseph Wong asserts the East Asian developmental state was the product of a certain time and place (Ibid, p.352). This makes it clear that the developmental state model cannot be replicated in order to encourage late development in other developing regions as it occurred in a unique international context which is not in existence today.

Mark Beeson has compared the Japanese and Chinese experiences and has concluded that despite their very different national histories China was still able to adopt the developmental state model (Beeson, 2009: p.12), which would suggest that the developmental state can be replicated for other countries. Since 1978 the Chinese Communist Party has put into action a series of reforms which have brought about huge economic growth. However Shaun Breslin has argued that despite the similarities between Chinas reform experiment and the East Asian developmental states, China has not been fully emulating the developmental state model and instead Chinas developmental trajectory has been to a large extent dysfunctional (Breslin, 1996: p.689). Breslin cites three factors as responsible for this which are incompatible with the developmental state model - political demands which have prevented the establishment of a productive and convincing national economic development strategy; a redistribution of economic decision-making power from central to local level authority and finally external economic interests which have influenced developmental policies and processes (Ibid, p.689). These factors have resulted in the central state having weakened control which is not an element of the developmental state model. Furthermore Breslin sees them as obstacles to effective long-term economic policy making (Ibid, p.704). This proffers the notion that China is not a developmental state and therefore is not evidence of the model being replicated.

Another element that makes the developmental state unique to Asia and therefore impossible to replicate are the cultural factors that are specific to the region. According to Steven Hood Confucian values that dominate East Asian society have meant that Asian societies have always been more concerned with the welfare of the group over the individual (Hood, 1998: p.854). These values are vital for the developmental state to exist as in the quest for economic growth the state does so at the cost of the welfare of its citizens. Confucianism has also created a respect for a hierarchical society and this along with its citizens willingness to make personal sacrifices and compromises in order for the state to follow its developmental goals are fundamental to the developmental state model. These regionally specific factors Confucianism and the international context in which the

developmental state came into existence indicate that the model cannot be replicated in other regions.

Not only do the regionally specific factors hinder the prospects of replicating the developmental state model in other areas of the world, along with the unique international context at the time of the emergence of the developmental state, the current international context would further prevent the possibility. The changing global conditions that face aspiring newly industrialized countries have meant that it is even more difficult to emulate the developmental state model. Increasing advancements in productive technologies have resulted in production returning to the core as a result of this less labour is required which is disadvantageous to developing countries with large productive capabilities (Brohman, 1996: p.121). In addition to this the strengthening of regional trading blocs such as the North American Trade Agreement and the European Union has made it much more difficult for newly industrializing states to enter the global market (Ibid, p.121). Overall Onis is sceptical about whether the developmental state model can be successfully replicated in a less favourable environment typified by growing protectionism and declining growth in world trade (Onis, 1991: p.122). Whilst this was undeniable when Onis was writing in the early 90s, it holds even truer in the present global economic climate.

Is it even desirable to attempt to replicate the model?

Although it has already been established that the developmental state model cannot be easily replicated for development in other regions in the current international context, one has to also assess whether it is even desirable to replicate the East Asian developmental state in the first place. There are many characteristics of the developmental state that would not be considered acceptable or desirable in the present day such as its authoritarian nature and oppression of labour.

Furthermore the problems that the East Asian developmental states are currently facing also reduce the desirability to replicate the model.

Possibly the most important concern when considering whether the developmental state can and should be replicated for other regions is the authoritarian nature of the East Asian model and whether it could be compatible with democracy. This is problematic as for developing regions democratisation is perceived to be desirable in order to allow for long term development. Thandika Mkandawire has proposed that the developmental state can be compatible with democracy and has found it remarkable that there has been such an insistence on the impossibility of developmental states in Africa in particular (Mkandawire, 2001: p.289). Mkandawire claims that developmental states are not completely alien to Africa and cites Botswana and Mauritius as examples of democratic developmental states (Ibid, p.310). However, democratic developmental states would result in economic goals being encompassed along with broader political reforms and in addition to this the demands of various groups would need to be addressed (Kim, 1993: p.243), therefore sidelining the main objective of economic growth. The developmental state is inherently incompatible with democratic governance and the example of South Korea can provide evidence for this. In South Korea the democratization movement led to the emergence of powerful groups such as the chaebol and labor, both of which have made demands for significant changes in the states structure and goals. As the state has democratized and therefore is obligated to address such demands there has been confusion over what new economic direction the state should assume (Ibid, p.243). Kim argues that it is this very reason democratization and the breakdown of the authoritarian regime - that has resulted in the South Korean state facing more problems than Japan (Ibid, p.242). As outlined previously, the separation of the state from societal pressures is instrumental in allowing the developmental state to achieve its main objective economic growth. It is the absence of autonomy which has proved to be a hindrance in the states of Latin America and post-colonial Africa (Wong, 2004: p.352) and which has restricted their capacity to develop.

The developmental state approach was extremely successful at increasing economic growth in the East Asian states however; the state elites ambitions to promote economic development came at a cost, the cost being human development and the welfare of its citizens. One of the core approaches of the developmental state was the withdrawal of workers rights, which was established through repressing labour conditions to keep wages low and therefore attract investment (Rapley, 2002: p.199). The ability to provide cheap and docile labour to corporations was imperative to the developmental state. In many East Asian newly industrialized countries workers were faced with hazardous and unhealthy working conditions and long work hours (Brohman, 1996: p.125). Not only were workers repressed generally, but in particular women were systematically exploited in the export sectors of the developmental states. In South Korea the number of women increased 14-fold between 1963 and 1980 the time when South Korea was industrializing however in 1989 their wages were only just over half of what male wages were (Ibid, p.126). Onis asserts that in the East Asian countries the welfare state function has been virtually absent. The state has assumed no responsibilities outside the domains of production and capital accumulation... (Onis, 1991: p.113). Based on the aforementioned it is apparent that the developmental state is not a feasible option for developing countries as the state has a duty to provide its citizens with a level of welfare however the approach leaves no room for this as its sole focus is on economic growth.

Considering the current problems many of the East Asian countries have been confronted with and notably the 1997 financial crisis when essentially the developmental state stopped fulfilling its purpose, the developmental state approach becomes less desirable. As a result of the financial crisis the East Asian states formerly associated with economic success have became associated with stagnation and decline (Boyd & Ngo, 2005: p.4) and it raises the question whether replicating the developmental state approach would only bring about short-term success. Moreover the impossibility theorem, the notion that the approach is not viable for other parts of the world has

gained much impetus since the crisis and many consider the developmental state concept to have died (Meyns & Musamba, 2010: p.31). Japan since the 1990s has had a particularly poor growth record as one of the leading developmental states in East Asia this is cause for concern, especially when many scholars advocate using the developmental state model for late development in other regions.

Does the developmental state even exist?

Finally a very important consideration that needs to be taken into account is does the developmental state that the theory proposes even exist? If it does not, then attempts to replicate it in other regions would be futile. Johnson is confident that the developmental state that he has proposed exists and is in the process of altering the world balance of power; evidence for this he places in the replication of the Japanese model for South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong (Johnson, 1999: p.36). However, portrayals that the East Asian model has already been replicated across the region, for instance in the cases Johnson has mentioned, are according to Mitchell Bernand, profoundly misleading and methodologically flawed (Bernard, 1996: p.650). Therefore any evidence that has been put forward by advocates of the developmental state model that highlights successful replication of the model on to other East Asian countries is invalid, and furthermore if the theory cannot be wholly replicated for countries in the same region then it can hardly be promoted for late development in other regions.

Boyd and Ngo point out that the developmental state is no longer just a theory, it has become a stylized fact, yet they believe this is flawed and that the notion of the theory entails a certain romanticization of the Asian experience (Boyd & Ngo, 2005: p.2). Ultimately Bernard asserts that identifying a model that then in theory can be replicated elsewhere ignores the political economy of the country in question, which is far more complex (Bernard, 1996: p.663). Boyd and Ngo concur,

stating that the developmental state thesis distorts and misrepresents the political economy of Asia (Boyd & Ngo, 2005: p.2).

Conclusion: This essay has comprehensively demonstrated that the East Asian developmental state cannot be successfully replicated for late development in other developing regions and furthermore neither is it desirable to do so as the developmental state and its features do not tie in with other developmental goals such as democratization, fundamental human rights and gender equality. The developmental state is unique to East Asia and proposals to replicate it completely ignore the history and international context within which it came into existence. Although the East Asian model cannot and should not be replicated, there are elements that could be applied to promote development in other regions. Amsden has advised that further research to explore and analyse systematically which of East Asias supporting institutions has served investment, education and exports especially well with an eye toward what must be done to modify these institutions to make them work elsewhere (Amsden, 1994: p.628). However, one must take caution with this approach as an adapted model may not be as effective in producing economic growth as was the original for the East Asian states, which goes against the very purpose of the developmental state.

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