The Politics of Practical Nostalgia

By Wehrfritz, George; Adams, Jonathan | Newsweek International, April 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Practical Nostalgia

Wehrfritz, George, Adams, Jonathan, Newsweek International

Byline: George Wehrfritz and Jonathan Adams; With Jaimie Seaton in Bangkok and B. J. Lee in Seoul

Asians are rallying to new leaders promising something the region once took for granted: growth.

Voters in Asia are kicking out incumbents like never before. As maturing economies combine with the global slowdown to put a brake on the pace of development, Asians are electing pragmatic managers-in-chief who promise a return to the good old days of fast growth, job security and social mobility. The first came in South Korea last December, when former Hyundai chairman Lee Myung-bak won election as president vowing to serve as the pro-business CEO of a "Global Korea" and ending the reign of a string of populist liberals. On March 8 in Malaysia, an opposition coalition dealt the ruling party its worse loss in four decades by running on bread-and-butter issues and promising to end a stifling Malay affirmative-action system. Then on March 22, voters in Taiwan tossed out a quixotic nationalist who had undermined Taiwan's key economic advantage--access to mainland China--in favor of Ma Ying-jeou, who promises to improve economic ties with the mainland. In an exclusive interview with NEWSWEEK last week, Ma said he won because voters were tired of "pugnacious nationalism" and because the economic performance of outgoing President Chen Shui-bian had been "so poor, people just felt that enough is enough."

It's a counterrevolution of sorts. Unlike the rabble-rousers, populists and old-guard ideologues they've ousted, Asia's new leaders are mostly common-sense conservatives who preach limited government, free trade and multipronged development strategies that evoke the go-go 1980s--in the hope they can recapture the 8 to 9 percent growth that transformed backwaters like South Korea and Taiwan into modern, high-tech economies. Such pledges have hit home with voters keenly aware that, outside China and India, Asia's growth rates have slowed to an average of about 5 percent in the last decade (compared with 6.5 percent in emerging markets worldwide). "Prodded by a realization that the world is passing them by, voters in the region's laggard economies have either thrown incumbents out or cast protest votes against their governments," writes Ruchir Sharma, head of global emerging markets at Morgan Stanley, in a recent note.

Yet reviving the kind of rapid growth that Asia enjoyed before the 1997 financial crisis may not be possible. These countries, particularly Taiwan and South Korea, may be too mature to expand as fast as developing economies can. Lee, for example, has promised to push South Korea's growth rate back to 7 percent. But with a GDP already at $950 billion, that would require an additional $67 billion in output each year. Ten years ago, the same feat would've required only $25 billion.

East Asia's industrial giants have lost much of their labor-intensive manufacturing to China, and governments are under intense pressure to respond. But the old strategy of export-led expansion--which included keeping currencies artificially cheap and erecting barriers to protect the local market--won't fly anymore. Once upon a time, these states used centralized government to build and defend internationalization, but that is increasingly difficult in a world where vast trade and capital flows are overwhelming national bureaucracies. "All of these leaders have to cope with a new world where they have much less power over their own economies," says Phil Deans, a political economist at Temple University in Tokyo. "You can't be ideological when confronted with globalization, you have to be pragmatic."

That's one trait the new leaders share. Ma joined the ruling Kuomintang shortly before it ended 38 years of military rule in 1987. In 2000, the KMT lost power for the first time to the Taiwan-born Chen, a former human-rights lawyer who obsessively championed Taiwanese identity and implied that Ma and other mainlanders had divided loyalties. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Politics of Practical Nostalgia


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.