Asia's Emerging Economies: "Miracle," Myth or Neither?
For nearly a quarter of a century, futurists have taken as a veritable article of faith that global influence would gradually--but irrepressibly--move west. 1 Given the rapid growth of Asian economies, it was not remarkable that President Clinton, at the first APEC leaders' summit in. Seattle in 1993, declared that America's trading future lay in the Pacific Rim. The Asian "economic miracle" was to beget a "Pacific Century."2 This prospect so unnerved our European partners that they negotiated a New Transatlantic Agenda. Now America is engaged on two fronts.
In the last fifteen years Pacific Rim economies became the darlings of investors, public and private. Early news told of the incredible economic turnaround of these nations from sleepy agrarian economies to modern, export-oriented states. Many dubbed this warp-speed transition the "Asian Miracle." To some extent it was. In 1960, East Asian economics accounted for only 4 percent of the world's gross product. By 1991, they represented 25 percent, approximately the same as the United States. By the year 2000, they were expected to represent one-third. The news was unbelievably good. Between 1965 and 1995, the per capita GDP of Asia's four "Little Tigers" ( Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) had increased from 17 percent to 72 percent of that of the U.S. Recently, however, the news coming out of East Asia has told a different story, a story of excess, collapse and attempts to rebuild. Prior to that, the West lost ground to the East quite steadily. In 1950, at the apex of its industrialization, the West claimed 56 percent of world production with only 17 percent of its population. Asia, with 66 percent of world population, had a meager 19 percent of its in-