Academic journal article China Perspectives

Asian Industrial Clusters, Global Competitiveness and New Policy Initiatives

Academic journal article China Perspectives

Asian Industrial Clusters, Global Competitiveness and New Policy Initiatives

Article excerpt

Bernard Ganne and Yveline Lecler (eds.) Asian industrial clusters, global competitiveness and new policy initiatives, Singapore, World Scientific Publishing Company, 2009, 562 pp.

The clustering phenomenon shapes local economies worldwide. The concentration of specialised firms benefiting from advan- tages of co-location in terms of information sharing, labour mar- ket, and specialisation processes is indeed a systemic organisation form of economic development in both industrialised and emerging coun- tries. This book joins in such an outlook and provides fieldwork results on multiple forms of cluster-based industrialisation patterns experi- enced by Asian countries positioned at different stages of developmen- tal maturity. After first tackling Japan's manufacturing decline, it turns to a masterful analysis of the SME-based industrialisation process of China and the surrounding countries of Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Edited by Bernard Ganne and Yveline Lecler, the book stems from a re- search program whose final scientific results were presented in an interna- tional workshop held in 2006. Contributors carried out extensive surveys in Asian countries; the book is therefore a structured collection of highly orig- inal material. This makes for fascinating reading right from the outset, in an investigation of topical dynamics through close observation within a timeless socio-economic paradigm in which SME systems characterise country-specific industrial transformations ranging from the traditional to the globally competitive.

This book aims to answer the following questions: which lessons can be learned from the Asian experiences of industrial clusters? Which are the prevailing policy approaches? Are traditional conceptualisations suitable for Asian studies?

As the editors point out in the introductory chapter, the industrial policy approach to local development sometimes fails to detect diversified or- ganisation models at the local level in Asian countries. One of the major attempts of the book is a re-evaluation of the traditional theoretical ap- proach in light of the Asian experience, in order to grasp the essential dy- namics of industrial clusters underlying future trajectories. Above all, the risk of reducing the variety of specificities in the local context is high if ob- servers are Western-oriented and use traditional categories of analysis. History, tradition, and social roots have to be taken into account.

Part One provides the theoretical framework and underlines the shift from a general industrial policy approach to an industrial clusterpolicy ap- proach in Asian countries. Bernard Ganne and Yveline Lecler review the theoretical scenario on agglomerations of firms, pointing out the prevailing force of interpretative Western models of industrial districts, industrial clusters, and poles of competitiveness. They consistently highlight new lenses through which we can closely observe and interpret industrial trans- formations of Asian countries based on sociological and local economic development bases. Differences between the industrial policy approaches followed by Japan and those of other East Asian countries are clearly laid out by Akira Suehiro, who provides a taxonomy of industrial clusters and policies in an evolutionary perspective.

Part Two focuses on Japan. Industrial policies on SMEs implemented since the late 1970s have been predominant in setting the legal stage for devel- opment during the rural urbanisation path. Policy measures were initially devoted to the creation of geographically localised industries, and then shifted towards the promotion of innovation through technology transfer and university-industry linkages. More recently, the central government has supported collaboration among local players in order to enhance sci- ence and technology (Akira Hattori). Decentralised governance and the in- volvement of the private sector is a prerequisite for the success of indus- trial cluster formation, as demonstrated by the repeated failure of indus- trial policy based on the creation of various types of industrial parks during the 1990s (Yoichi Sekizawa). …

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