Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

East Asia's Economic Success: Conflicting Perspectives, Partial Insights, Shaky Evidence

  • Robert Wade (a1)

Neoliberal economists say that growth is easy, provided the state does not obstruct the natural growth-inducing processes of a capitalist economy. They point to the success of South Korea and Taiwan as evidence that this proposition also holds for quite poor economies. Using chapters of Helen Hughes's edited volume by way of illustration, this article shows that the neoliberals ignore so much contrary evidence as to suggest that the neoliberal paradigm has entered a degenerative stage, like classical economics in the years before Keynes's breakthrough and like much Marxist writing of the 1970s.

Two recent books about East Asia offer ways forward. The one by Alice Amsden argues that Korea has done better than other developing countries because it has created a more powerful synergy between a state that aggressively steers market competition and large, diversified business groups whose firms focus strategically on production processes at the shop floor. In conditions of “late development” this synergy is the key to success. Stephan Haggard's book accepts the core economic mechanism of the neoliberals but argues that the choice between sensible export-oriented policies, as in East Asia, or unsensible secondary import-substitution policies, as in Latin America, is determined by a complex conjunction of international pressures, domestic coalitions, political institutions, and ideas.

Both books make important contributions to the debate. But they are weakened by not situating the experience of their case studies within an account of trends in the world system and by not addressing the question of what prevented massive “government failure” in market interventions in the East Asian cases. The last part of this paper takes a short step in this direction.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Mick Moore , “Economic Growth and the Rise of Civil Society: Agriculture in Taiwan and South Korea,” in Gordon White , ed., The Developmental State in East Asia (London: Macmillan, 1988)

C. Fried , Right and Wrong (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978)

Hans Singer , “The World Development Report 1987 on the Blessings of ‘Outward Orientation': A Necessary Correction,” Journal of Development Studies 24, no. 2 (1988)

Michael Lipton's review, Economic Journal (September 1989)

Krueger , “Government Failures in Development,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 4, no. 3 (1990), 12.

H. Schmiegelow and M. Schmiegelow , “How Japan Affects the International System,” International Organization 44, no. 4 (1990)

Chenery , Robinson , and Syrquin ; Pack , “Industrialization and Trade,” in Chenery and T. N. Srinivasan , eds., Handbook of Development Economics (Amsterdam: North Holland, 1988)

Minford , “A Labour-based Theory of International Trade,” in J. Black and A. MacBean , eds., Causes of Changes in the Structure of International Trade, 1960–85 LondonMacmillan, 1989)

Joseph Stiglitz , “Learning to Learn, Localized Learning and Technical Progress,” in Partha Dasgupta and Paul Stoneman , eds., Economic Policy and Technological Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987)

R. Bates , P. Brock , and J. Tiefenthaler , “Risk and Trade Regimes: Another Exploration,” International Organization 45, no. 1 (1991)

Adrian Wood , “How Much Does Trade with the South Affect Workers in the North?” World Bank Research Observer 6, no. 1 (1991)

Paul Streeten , “Comparative Advantage and Free Trade,” in Azizur Rahman Khan and R. Sobhan , eds., Trade, Planning, and Rural Development (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990

David Colander and Arjo Klamer , “The Making of an Economist,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 1 (Fall1987)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 42 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 422 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.