Pacific-Asia and the Future of the World-System

By Ravi Arvind Palat | Go to book overview

area for another world-economy, the Chinese, and was the centerpiece of England's "Pacific Rim" empire. It has been shaped recently by a number of anticolonial independence movements (Vietnamese socialism, Indonesian nationalism, Malayan and Filipino guerrillas, Burmese autarky, etc.) that make it less open to American and Japanese ministrations than Northeast Asia has been. Today Southeast Asia has an alternative organization of capitalism, the longstanding interstitial commerce of "island China," the Chinese diaspora. Some pundits think that this might provide a different way of organizing Rim capitalism, with Hong Kong and Vancouver, British Columbia, being principal nodes, patrimonialism and family-based entrepreneurship serving as the means, and Chinese being the lingua franca. A reorganization of the region under Chinese auspices seems remote, however, until the mainland itself is so organized; in the meantime, Chinese commerce will continue to operate in the pores of the system.

We are left, I think, with but one grand event that is symbolized by " Pacific Rim," and that is the rise to power of Japan. It is the only true entrant to the ranks of the advanced industrial core in the past century, with the possible exception of the (now deindustrializing) Soviet Union. It is the only non-Western entrant. If today it does not wish to be and cannot be the lodestone for an autonomous non-Western reorganization of the region, one day it will be. When that happens, an old soldier and charter Pacific Rimster, General Douglas MacArthur, Japan's benign American emperor, will have been right. In an address in Seattle back in 1951, MacArthur opined that:

Our economic frontier now embraces the trade potentialities of Asia itself; for with the gradual rotation of the epicenter of world trade back to the Far East whence it started many centuries ago, the next thousand years will find the main problem the raising of the subnormal standards of life of its more than a billion people.

It is a classic piece of Rimspeak.


NOTES
1.
According to Gary Gereffi, he and his coeditor wanted the title of their book to be Manufactured Miracles, but the press changed it (to go along with the trope).
2.
Sociologists will be happy to know, even if East Asianists will drop to their knees in mortification to find out, that in Simon Winchester view ( 1991: 487), Max Weber offered "the most complete, if not the most readable, account of Confucius" (in his Religion of China). Weber famously sought the source of East Asia's failure to develop capitalism in the absence of the Protestant ethic or its equivalent; generations of graduate students learned this as an explanation for why the West was dynamic and the East was not. But at least his version was readable especially compared to the East Asianist texts.
3.
Alexander Woodside has noted that there are no Chinese, Indonesian, or Vietnamese Alvin Tofflers.
4.
By 1894, American kerosene exports to Japan had reached 887,000 barrels of 42 gallons each. Standard entered the production field in Japan with its International Oil

-36-

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