What Happened to the Miracle Eight? Looking East, 21st Century is the 9th Pok Rafeah Chair Public Lecture, Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia delivered on 24 November 2014.
Consider the cityscapes of Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, etc. and there seems to be little difference-corporate high rises, multi-lane traffic, traffic jams, high-modem facilities, transnational and signature architecture, advanced mass transit systems, bustling shopping streets, ritzy malls, international brands and banks, a mobile WiFi populace. The differences lie elsewhere. In Northeast Asia, per capita GDP is high and inequality is low while in Southeast Asia, per capita GDP is low and inequality is high. Is this a temporary deviation, a mere time lag, or is there a pattern of differences between Northeast and Southeast Asia?
All developing countries have been ‘looking East’ since the rise of the Asian tigers simply because during decades of development, the tiger economies, especially South Korea and Taiwan, have been the most successful and accomplished. In the nineties, the World Bank grouped the region together under the heading of the ‘East Asian Miracle.’ The comparison is implied in the term ‘tiger cubs’ for Southeast Asian economies.
Can would-be tigers become tigers? If Southeast Asian countries are to escape the ‘middle-income trap’ this question has policy relevance. A further appeal is that this concerns Asia-Asia (East-East) research, rather than well-worn problematic of Orientalism, the Western gaze, North-South relations, and so forth.
This lecture, What Happened to the Miracle Eight? Looking East, 21st Century, first addresses history by way of a brief review of oriental globalisation and then reflects on the geographical categories used. The lecture next turns to a sectoral comparison of trends in Northeast and Southeast Asia in agriculture, industry, services and finance. It follows from an institutional approach that the state and political institutions are a key part of the comparison. This is also considered in the context of comparative capitalisms. The closing section deals with China effects in the region.