Where China Meets Southeast Asia: Social & Cultural Change in the Border Regions

Where China Meets Southeast Asia: Social & Cultural Change in the Border Regions

Where China Meets Southeast Asia: Social & Cultural Change in the Border Regions

Where China Meets Southeast Asia: Social & Cultural Change in the Border Regions

Excerpt

The Editors

The chapters for this book were all written in headier days — not too long ago — when the “Asian Economic Miracle” was still riding high. When words like “free-wheeling” and “dynamic” were bandied about freely, conveying a sense of limitless investment opportunities and a new age of growth which would soon overflow into general affluence, and further down the line, human rights and democratic freedoms.

But even then people knew that there was an underside to the Asian dream: official corruption, environmental havoc, the exploitation of marginal or vulnerable social groups (migrant workers, rural women, children, ethnic minorities), the appropriation of land, the spread of drug abuse, prostitution. This was a vision of capitalist greed backed by state controls, a nightmare world in which the worst of capitalism meets the worst of Stalinism, where workers locked in at work die in factory fires, border guards are drug smugglers and forestry officials are loggers and poachers.

The Asian economic crisis that began with the collapse of the Thai baht in mid-1997, along with the pall of haze which hung across Southeast Asia as a result of the enormously destructive forest fires in Indonesia, swung attention to the downside of the seemingly fast-fading miracle. International commentators now focus on the effects of corruption and cronyism in government across the region, and there is an embarrassed silence about the earlier upbeat assessments.

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