The Resurgence of East Asia: 500, 150 and 50 Year Perspectives

The Resurgence of East Asia: 500, 150 and 50 Year Perspectives

The Resurgence of East Asia: 500, 150 and 50 Year Perspectives

The Resurgence of East Asia: 500, 150 and 50 Year Perspectives

Synopsis

Examines the rise of East Asia as one of the world's economic power centres from three temporal perspectives: 500 years, 150 years and 50 years, each denoting an epoch in regional and world history.

Excerpt

Two events of world historical significance have marked the closing decades of the twentieth century: the demise of the USSR as one of the world’s two military superpowers and the rise of the East Asian region as one of the world’s economic power centers. Of these two events, the demise of the USSR has been most readily perceivable, and indeed has attracted most attention, not only because of the dramatic character of the political denouement, but also because it fits well into common understandings of the rise and fall of empires. The rise of East Asia, in contrast, remains a disputed fact overshadowed not just by the demise of the USSR but even more by the subsequent economic resurgence of the United States at a time of persistent economic recession in Japan and the 1997 economic crisis in the region at large. Moreover, in contrast to Soviet disintegration, the rise of East Asia is a process that has no single dramatic punctuation and does not fit comfortably into historical understandings that pivot on national states.

As we shall see in the book’s concluding chapter, by some indicators the East Asian rise does appear to have slowed down in the 1990s, especially in Japan. Nevertheless, thus far the slowdown has been accompanied by unabated expansion elsewhere in the region, notably in China, producing a situation with potential to transform both regional and global dynamics. Taking the region and the period as a whole, the East Asian expansion since the 1960s stands out as a global shift of economic power with few precedents in world history. No shift of such proportions can occur without pauses and temporary setbacks, as witnessed by the US-centered Great Depression of the 1930s during the early twentieth-century global shift from Western Europe to North America (Arrighi and Silver et al. 1999:95-6, 274-5). But pauses and setbacks should not prevent us from seeing the underlying trend.

The aim of this book is to assess the origins of this shift in light of a large-scale, long-term dynamic that has seldom been invoked in the mushrooming literature on the phenomenon. Our basic premise is that the exceptional economic dynamism of the East Asian region in the closing . . .

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