This chapter presents the initial conditions of the pretakeoff period of Taiwan as compared with other comparable neighboring countries like South Korea, Japan and China. It presents the degree of “institutional readiness” of Taiwan, one of the newly industrializing economies (NIEs) in 1970s and 1980s, for takeoff to rapid economic development. We start from comparing the social indexes (including cultural, health and educational efforts), political freedom, defense burden and so forth. We then compare economic development indicators of Taiwan in the 1970s, the period in which Asia was just starting to emerge, with other Asian newly industrializing countries (NICs), namely, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. In some comparisons, we also included Japan, China and the United States.
Special interest in East Asia has been aroused again recently from Japan's emergence as a world industrial power (Patrick and Rosovsky 1976). After much acclaim of Japan as number one (Vogel 1979), people began realizing that not only Japan but also the smaller, newly industrializing countries (hereafter NICs) in Asia, such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, have followed closely and performed as well as Japan, although on a smaller scale (Little 1979). These five fast-growing countries, along with China and North Korea, are now viewed as a “challenge” and a “threat” to the United States and the Western world. They are known as the Eastasia Edge (Hofheinz and Calder 1982). With this perspective, this chapter examines some development indexes of Taiwan.
Taiwan's economic performance has been one of the best among the nations in the world after World War II. In fact, among 134 countries, for the period between 1950 and 1975, Taiwan's annual growth rate of per capita gross national product (GNP) in 1974 US dollars was 5.3%, ranking fifth, behind only Japan (7.6%), Swaziland (7.0%), Iraq (5.9%), and Greece (5.4%) (Morawetz, 1977, 77– 80). In recent years the Taiwanese economy has been in the spotlight again as a new study has disclosed that Taiwan might be one of the few countries that has achieved this rapid growth with an equitable distribution of family income (Fei, Ranis and Kuo 1979). Since there currently exists extensive literature on the Taiwanese economy itself (e.g., Ho 1978; Galenson 1979), the purpose of this chapter is to compare some of its development indicators with those of selected countries.