Studies in the Economic History of the Pacific Rim

Studies in the Economic History of the Pacific Rim

Studies in the Economic History of the Pacific Rim

Studies in the Economic History of the Pacific Rim


This collection reflects the birth of Pacific Rim history and addresses it's development over 4 centuries, from trade with Hong Kong to British overseas banking.


When Ferdinand Marcos became president of the Philippines in 1965, he took over a state which had higher living standards than most Asian countries (George 1992:89). It seemed to be more likely to achieve lasting economic success than, for example, Korea, which had been damaged severely by the war of 1950-3 and its northern half had fallen under communist rule. Asian manufacturing produced cheap, inferior copies of Western goods; a label indicative of Asian origin was taken to suggest shoddiness. Some writers still doubted whether even Japan would be able to sustain its post-Second World War recovery and achieve continuing economic growth.

But the seemingly unpromising economies of East Asia have since achieved three decades of economic growth. From 1965 to 1990, the economies of what the World Bank calls the Asian ‘superstars’—Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand—have together grown at an annual rate of over 5 per cent, more than twice as fast as the rest of Asia and three times as fast as Latin America (Anon. 1993a:29). The Philippines now falls well behind most of the rest of Asia. Japanese growth has continued and its example has spread to other parts of the Asia-Pacific region. The southern parts of the People’s Republic of China, where the government has established several Special Economic Zones to draw in capital and technology from Hong Kong and Taiwan and other foreign countries, are currently the site of the biggest economic boom in world history.

There are several possible explanations for East Asia’s stellar economic performance and the relative lack of success in Latin America and the Philippines. Was it due to market forces being allowed to operate freely? How much did government have to interfere in the workings of the economy, and what were the appropriate policies needed, to bring about efficient allocation of resources? How was the economy affected by cultural factors—that is, by sets of values which stress the importance of thrift, family loyalty, education, hard work, pride in one’s work, and punctuality?

Each of these explanations has its supporters, but the matter is so

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