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History and Economic of East Asia Essay

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Updated: Jan 22nd, 2021

The Meiji Restoration

The Meiji Restoration is a Japanese revolution that emerged in 1868 from a cascade of events, which restored the Japanese Empire under the rule of Emperor Meiji. The cascades of events that led to the Meiji Restoration are the fights, power struggles, and peace treaties between conflicting alliances linked to the patriotic Japanese and Western foreigners. Yoshida Shioin, a noble Japanese patriot rooted for the expulsion of foreigners and sought to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate, but the shogunal authority eventually beheaded him, and consequently, triggered a series of protests and violence, which led to the banishment of the Shogunate (Holcombe 216). The protests and violence gave the British, Dutch, French, and American military the opportunity to mobilize their fleet and destroy Japanese ports.

The Meiji Restoration marked the transformation of the military government into the imperial government leading to the restoration of the ancient Japanese government. The Meiji restoration created a unique Japanese Empire because it gave Emperor Meiji the imperial power to establish a strong political system in Asia. Emperor Meiji took an oath, which states that “evil customs of the past shall be broken off and knowledge shall be sought throughout the world to strengthen the foundation of the imperial rule” (Holcombe 219). In this view, the Meiji Restoration made a significant transformation of the Japanese regime during the reign of Emperor Meiji (1868-1912).

To industrialize Japan, the Meiji rulers made overarching reforms in the economic system by transforming the financial sector. Given that Japan had not established modern banking systems and operated without standard currency, the Meiji rulers planned to reform the financial sector before diversifying into other sectors of the economy. Holcombe states that the Meiji rulers introduced a new currency system, adopted the modern banking system, reduced foreign debt, and established a central bank (224). The Meiji rulers introduced the yen as a standard currency system in Japan, which competed effectively with other currencies in the global markets. The adoption of the modern banking system based on the United States’ Federal Reserve boosted industrialization. As foreign debts and Samurai’s stipends prevented Japan from saving money for development, the Meiji rulers removed them. The growth of the financial system prompted the Meiji rulers to create a central bank, which controlled financial institutions in Japan. Overall, these developments revived the financial sector and placed Japan in the strategic position to industrialize.

Moreover, the Meiji rulers noted that mechanized and rapid industrialization processes were key to industrialization because they increase productivity. In this view, the government planned to promote industrialization by establishing relevant industries in Japan, which have the capacity to boost economic growth through the creation of employment and processing of raw materials. In 1872, the government-funded the establishment of the textile factory, Tomioka, and promoted military industrialization in the shipping industry (Holcombe 225). By the 1980s, most of the textile mills used steam engines, which the government established. Moreover, owing to military industrialization, companies such as Toshiba, Nikon, and Mitsubishi contributed significantly to the economic growth and industrialization of Japan.

Communism in China

The rise and fall of communism in China capture the economic, political, and social challenges that China went through in the 20th century. The rise of communism in the early part of the 20th century originated from the fact that the Chinese adopted Marxism ideology and opposed capitalism because it was a Western economic ideology. Holcombe states that Chen Duxiu started communism in 1920 when he became a Marxist and took power as the first leader of the Chinese Communist Party (264). The advocates of communism took the advantage of the economic conditions of peasants and mobilized them to support communism. In 1949, Mao Zedong became the communist leader of the People’s Republic of China and propagated communism during his reign until 1976 (Wang 84). However, the extent of communism has declined to owe to changes in economic ideologies and the stance of party members. Yongnian argues that the destruction of internal discipline, shrinkage in organizational penetration, and disruption of authority in the Chinese Communist Party have significantly led to the decline of communism (11). Hence, the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 weakened communism because he was a great proponent of Marxism.

Since 1976 when Mao Zedong died to the present day, China has undertaken massive reforms in social, economic, and political aspects of governance. Ikenberry holds that China has enhanced its social stability, adopted capitalism, and embraced capitalism in modern society (11). Evidently, since the death of Mao Zedong, cases of violence and the prevalence of civil wars have diminished in China. During the reign of Mao Zedong, communism was the dominant economic ideology, but current leaders have gradually adopted capitalistic ideologies from Western countries and incorporated them into their financial institutions and global markets. In the aspect of politics, China has adopted Western democracy, which is characterized by good governance, liberalization, and respect for human rights.

It is not justifiable to call China a communist country in 2015 because it has gradually acquired and incorporated ideologies of capitalism in its economic system. According to Coase and Wang, the economic system that China uses is no longer pure communism because it has characteristics of capitalism (200). It is impractical for China to trade in global markets competitively using the economic system of communism because most countries are using capitalism. Hence, it is not justifiable to refer to China as a communist country in this era.

Post-World War II Development in Japan

Japan made tremendous economic progress during the Post-World War II period. The first distinctive feature, which characterized the development after the Second World War, was industrial development. The Japanese government formulated industrial policies that promoted the establishment of diverse industries in the automobile, steel, electronics, coal, and shipping industries. The automobile and electronics industries grew exponentially during the 1960s and contributed to economic development because they dominated the competitive global markets. According to Kohama, the Japanese government boosted the automobile industry, when it gave loans to Toyota and Nissan (191). Moreover, the invention of transistors revolutionized electronics and communication industries as Sony manufactured portable radios, which dominated global markets and earned massive foreign exchange for Japan (Metzger-Court and Pascha 272). By the 1980s, Japan dominated the automobile and electronics industries, and thus, became a robust economic hub in Asia.

The second distinctive feature of the Japanese economic development was the saving culture, which emanated from the Confucian culture. Ozawa states the Confucian culture of saving boosted domestic savings and provided adequate funds for investments, which stimulated the industrial revolution in the postwar era (23). The industrial revolution increased production in industries, created jobs, and earned foreign exchange, thus, increasing gross domestic product significantly in the 1950s and 1960s. The third distinctive feature of the economic development of Japan during the postwar era is the formulation of sound monetary policies. Metzger-Court and Pascha argue that the Japanese government formulated monetary policies that aimed at reducing expenses by terminating expenditure on the military, increasing collection of taxes, and stabilizing financial markets via the development of robust financial systems (245). As a consequence of sound monetary policies, Japan was able to save a lot of funds and invest in industrial development.

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is a blessing in disguise for economic success because it enabled Japan to save a significant amount of money, which it could have spent on the military. Given that Japan incurred great losses during the Second World War, its economic state after the war was very poor because 5 million of its population were unemployed. Article 9 prevented the Japanese government from spending on the military and using war as a way of settling international disputes (Metzger-Court and Pascha 281). Essentially, the Japanese government maintained self-defense forces, which were cheaper to fund than the military. Kohama states that the Japanese government converted military resources into industries, which created job opportunities, manufactured products, and enhanced gross domestic product (54). Therefore, Article 9 contributed significantly to economic progress in Japan.

Flying Geese Model and Asian Tigers

I agree with the flying geese model because it is an economic theory that comprehensively elucidates how developing countries in Asia went through a period of rapid economic development. According to Hatch, the flying geese model advances that economic development in Asia competes effectively with Western economies and causes manufactured products to move from developed countries to less developed countries (25). The model predicts that the alignment of Asian countries will follow the pattern of flying geese. Since Japan underwent a period of rapid economic development in the mid to late 20th century, it became the leading goose, which other Asian countries, such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan followed. The flying goose model elucidates that the economic development of Asian countries follows a three-level pattern comprising promotion of export products, structural upgrading of products from crude to refined, and eventually alignment of the Asian countries, according to their levels of economic development (Ozawa 4). In this view, the flying geese model explains why countries forming Asian Tiger economies have different levels of economic development.

The notable similarities among the four Asian Tiger economies are economic status, liberalization, and rapid industrialization. These countries are similar because they are developed economies, which have a significant influence on Asian and global economies. Given that these countries are in Asia, they operate in liberalized markets, which allow each of them to trade without undue restrictions in commerce. In the aspect of economic history, all these countries went through a period of rapid industrialization during the mid and late 20th century.

However, Asian Tigers differ in size, the number of people, and population density. Hong Kong and Singapore are almost the same in size with a similar population density of about 7,000 people per kilometer square (km2). South Korea is the largest with an area of 100,210km2 and a population density of approximately 500 people per km2, while Taiwan has an area of 36,193 km2 and a population density of about 600 people per km2. The four Asian Tigers also differ in the economic growth as Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore sustained the economic growth rate of 3.9%, 5%, 5%, and 6.5% respectively, during the period of 1990 to 2010 (Khuong 151). Given that these countries have different levels of gross domestic product, they rely on diverse economic activities. Singapore majorly relies on labor and information communication technology, Hong Kong mainly relies on labor, and Taiwan and South Korea rely on industrial development (Khuong 152). Hence, the Asian Tigers differ in terms of population density, economic growth, and economic activities.

Works Cited

Coase, Ronald, and Ning Wang. How China Became Capitalist. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.

Hatch, Walter. Asia’s Flying Geese: How Regionalisation Shapes Japan. New York: Cornel University Press, 2010. Print.

Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilisation to the Twenty First Century. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

Ikenberry, John. “America’s Challenge: The rise of China and the future of liberal international order.” New America Foundation 1.1 (2011): 1-14. Print.

Khuong, Vu. The dynamics of economic growth: Policy insights from comparative analyses. London: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013. Print.

Kohama, Hirohisa. Industrial Development in Postwar Japan. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.

Metzger-Court, Sarah, and Werner Pascha. Japan’s Socio-Economic Evolution: Continuity and Change. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Ozawa, Terutomo. “The (Japan-Born) ‘Flying-Geese’ Theory of Economic development revisited and reformulated from a Structuralist Perspective.” Centre on Japanese Economy and Business 291.1 (2010): 1-48. Print.

Wang, Zheng. Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Print.

Yongnian, Zheng. The Chinese Communist Party as Organisational Emperor: Culture, Reproduction, and Transformation. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

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