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Articles
A Roundup of Recent Titles
By Nayan Chanda, John Delury

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What Future for The Factory?

Are we witnessing another industrial revolution unfolding in the early 21st century, one equivalent in scale and scope to that which took place in Britain 250 years ago? Peter Marsh, former manufacturing editor for the Financial Times, forcefully argues so.

 

He traces the new industrial revolution's increasingly intertwined "revolutionary" features in six areas of global manufacturing: 1) computer-aided manufacturing and technology as a systemic resource; 2) huge consumer choice due to mass customization and personalization of production; 3) global value chains encompassing development, production and services; 4) the emergence of global niche production and markets; 5) the consideration of environmental issues in manufacturing; and 6) industrial democracy in which mass entrepreneurship directly connects invention and production.

 

Of particular note in this profound change are the connections that bind China to the rest of the world. The world's factory, China is now switching from a copycat philosophy to more innovative product areas, preoccupied with moving more products and processes towards the higher value-added end of manufacturing. Who will fill the place that China is about to leave? How will other emerging markets and developing economies locate themselves in the newly emergent global value and production chains that are undergoing massive reshuffling? This book, rich with detailed examples and insights, goes a long way toward answering these questions.


Reviewed by Taehwan Kim

 


Transform, Disrupt and Conquer

Is the 21st century still a century of industrialization? If so, what is to be done for those countries facing a new or re-industrialization in the coming years? This book, an outcome of close collaboration between three UN organizations, reviews crucial aspects of industrialization. Included are historical patterns; the proactive role policy has played in successful industrialization; the more recent context of global climate change; and the relationship between the state and entrepreneurs in the fast-changing circumstances faced by manufacturing sectors.

 

Lessons drawn can be summarized in three points: 1) Newly industrializing economies should follow the disruptive shift in manufacturing technologies from subtractive towards additive production, as in 3D printing. 2) They should locate themselves in the transformative global value and supply chains. China, by example, is striving to change from an investment-driven, export-oriented development model towards one led by domestic consumption. 3) State industrial policy needs fundamental change from a top-down approach to one relying on a reciprocal relationship between state and entrepreneurs.

 

Rich in historical cases and theoretical reflections, this book is strongly recommended as a guide for practitioners of industrial policy and as a reference for students of industrialization.


Reviewed by Taehwan Kim

 


The Recipe for Economic Success

Despite its title, Joe Studwell's latest book is not a rehash of the debate in the 1990s, the heyday of neoliberalism, over the East Asian "economic miracle" — whether it was down to the workings of markets or the intervention and guidance of the state.

 

Studwell, who spent two decades as a reporter in the region, rails against the "intellectual tyranny of neoclassical efficiency economics" and argues that there are two distinctive kinds of economics applicable to countries in different stages of growth. One is the economics of development, which requires nurture, protection and interventionist policies necessary to become rich in the first place. The second is the economics of efficiency, which is applicable to a later stage of development and requires less state intervention, more deregulation, freer markets and a closer focus on near-term profits.

 

In the context of development economics, the author describes three ingredients for the East Asian miracle: reform of household farming to raise agrarian productivity and release labor forces; growth of export-oriented manufacturing; and closely controlled finance to support these sectors. Studwell contrasts East Asian economies with Southeast Asia's, and says the latter were relatively less successful as they didn't engage in sufficient agrarian reforms and focused on free-trade agreements over exports. He also argues that Southeast Asian countries' financial sectors are being prematurely deregulated.

 

Going forward, the challenge for East Asia and Southeast Asia alike is to set in motion the efficiency economics necessary for the next stage of growth.


Reviewed by Taehwan Kim


Painful Solutions to Stagnation

Predictions that America is in decline wax and wane, but are on the rise again, particularly with China's ascent. This book offers historical and theoretical counterarguments to such pessimistic views.

 

Drawing lessons from historical cases including Imperial Rome and China, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, Japan and Great Britain, Columbia University economist Glenn Hubbard and Hudson Institute chief economist Tim Kane provide a convincing theory on the subject based on a new measure of economic power. They argue that Great Power decline is fundamentally economic in nature, concurring, in part, with Paul Kennedy in his influential thesis on imperial military overreach.

 

But Hubbard and Kane diverge from Kennedy in identifying the root cause of economic imbalance as stagnant political institutions biased toward status quo inaction. Their message is clear: Once the US rectifies its political institutional stagnation, it will resume being a rising sun. This message extends too to contemporary catch-up economies such as China and Japan.

 

The Asian model pioneered by Japan since its Meiji Restoration in the 19th century is fine for an economy aiming to catch up to the West technologically, but to sustain growth past the catch-up phase requires an entirely different mix of political institutions that emphasizes entrepreneurship and innovation.


Reviewed by Taehwan Kim



Is There Merit in Rule of the Worthy?

In the 1990s, "Asian values" advocates staged a bold challenge to triumphalist Western notions of liberal, individualistic democracy. Asian exceptionalism lost currency with the 1997-98 financial crisis, but today, as the US and Europe struggle out of economic crisis, political paralysis and foreign policy quagmires, new challenges to the Western formula are emerging in the resurgent East, where China's rise is lifting many boats along with it. One of the more philosophically interesting is the idea of "political meritocracy," or rule of the worthy, as a unique legacy of East Asia's Confucian origins and key to Asia's current success.

 

Political philosopher Daniel Bell, a professor at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, teamed up with Singaporean scholar Chenyang Li to assemble works by leading thinkers to renew the old debate between the ideas of "one man, one vote" and "government by the worthy." Their eclectic volume includes a rather optimistic spin on the Chinese Communist Party's system of promotion, shows cracks in Singapore's "macho-meritocracy," and describes meritocratic interventions to save California from democratic self-destruction. Bell is a prominent champion of meritocracy, but to his credit as an editor, the volume asks more questions than it answers, and quotes as much from John Rawls as Confucius.

 

This refreshing call for public philosophizing on the merits of political merit will enrich the conversation across East Asia and in the West about the future of good governance in an increasingly global world.


Reviewed by John Delury



Kim Il Sung, Speedboat Pilot

Columbia University professor Charles Armstrong's meticulously researched history of North Korea's foreign relations explodes the mythology of an isolated, unchanging "Hermit Kingdom". He likens North Korea's path to a speedboat in stormy waters negotiating hulking super-carriers (Russia, China, the US) and hostile destroyers (South Korea and Japan).

 

By mining diplomatic cables preserved in former Soviet and East European archives, Armstrong reconstructs Pyongyang's national security and foreign policy for Kim Il Sung's five decades as leader. Kim never wavered in his primary goals: to maintain his nation's sovereignty and independence (juche), as well as his own power. But he authorized a surprising level of experimentation in the pursuit, from leaning on the Soviet bloc in the wake of the Korean War, to flashy Third-World anti-imperialist diplomacy in the 1960s, to a curious 1970s interlude of borrowing heavily from capitalist countries in Europe and Asia. All the while, North Korea stuck close to Beijing and Moscow even as they turned into feuding Communist giants.

Ringed by exponentially stronger powers, North Korea has learned to exercise a "tyranny of the weak" to ensure survival, albeit at a brutal cost to its people.

 

This is required reading for anyone trying to fathom North Korean behavior, especially policy-makers hoping to shape it.


Reviewed by John Delury



Why Has Japan Failed to Change?

As an advisor to US President Barack Obama once put it, "never let a good crisis go to waste." Yet that seems to be what has happened in Japan in the wake of the 2009 earthquake and tsunami meltdown, MIT professor Richard Samuels says in this probing study.

 

Samuels, a distinguished Japan expert, spent six months talking to his contacts and listening to Japan's national conversation, and while he did hear "dueling narratives" over Japan's future, to his surprise he did not find a new national consensus about how to change or an urgency about the need for change itself. Instead, the divided opinions of center, left and right learned to reframe their positions in light of 3.11, without fundamentally rethinking their ideas, let alone bridging the gaps that separate them.

 

For example, centrists argued that the US government relief program reaffirmed the strength and importance of the US-Japan alliance, whereas rightists lamented the need for US assistance at all and called for complete "normalization" of Japan's Self Defense Forces into a full-fledged military that would eventually have no need for the alliance. Leftists saw US assistance as part of a plot to maintain Japan's status as a base for US hegemony in the Pacific and would curtail the alliance.

None of these arguments are new, and none seem to be winning the people's hearts and minds as a whole. Instead, Samuels' search for change in disaster's wake ends with the insight that "the much-maligned system, seemingly maladapted to the challenges that contemporary Japan faces, was far more resilient than many had given it credit for."


Reviewed by John Delury



Bitter Pills for China and the US

A political scientist and seasoned observer of US-China relations, Mel Gurtov offers a crisp and insightful meditation on the implications of a rising China. In his view, the Chinese giant stands on feet of clay, and myriad challenges at home limit Beijing from playing a more active role abroad. Yes, China is trying to fashion an "international identity" suited to its wealthier, more powerful self, but Gurtov sees no evidence of a "grand strategy" at work.

 

He sees China and the US as the yin and yang of the international political order. Nationalism in the US is expansive and ideological, while Chinese nationalism is pragmatic and defensive, seeking to restore the nation to a position of equality, not to topple liberal democratic regimes worldwide.

 

A self-described skeptic, Gurtov not only raises fundamental doubts about how China can sustain its ascent, he then turns his gaze back on the US, dissecting the pathologies in the US economy and political system: ingrained inequality, politics corrupted by campaign contributions and the like. China and the US are trapped in unsustainable models of development (Beijing) and dominance (Washington), he concludes, and the 21st century will belong to neither. This slim volume should be of interest to anyone thinking through what the future of the pivotal US-China relationship portends.


Reviewed by John Delury



From the Elite to the Electorate

n this provocative book, Dipankar Gupta, a leading Indian sociologist, challenges the idea that democracy is driven by ordinary people. They may go to the polls to elect a government, but true democracy can emerge only when there is genuine fraternity among citizens. And this can only be when all have equal rights and opportunities.

 

The two principal policies to create fraternity are universal education and health care. But the initiative will have to come from what Gupta calls the country's "citizen elite" — enlightened and visionary intellectuals and political leaders who rise above their class interest to strive for these goals, even if ordinary citizens are unaware of the equality of opportunity they will create. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were two such citizen elite who pushed non-violence, fought untouchability, promoted secular policies and built much infrastructure, and not because the masses demanded this, but in order to lay foundations for a fraternal, modern India.

 

Gupta surveys the history of European democracy, including the Basque region where he was a visiting professor, to find examples of how democracy took root and prosperity was created in the middle classes through initiatives of citizen elites. Gupta does not hide his disappointment that economist Manmohan Singh, who could as prime minister possibly have been a citizen elite, turned out to be a mere politician. Written with passion and verve, this is thought-provoking book, holding out a glimmer of hope even in today's dysfunctional Indian democracy.


Reviewed by Nayan Chanda



A Skeptic's View of China's Future

After a wave of books predicting China's inexorable rise to rule the world, more skeptical writers have now begun to appear, their books timed coincidentally with the slowdown of the Chinese economy.

 

Joining the new trend is a veteran investment banker with 35 years experience in Asia and a keen interest in China. Timothy Beardson has written an ambitious book encompassing virtually every aspect of Chinese life today. He expresses admiration for what the Communist leaders of this millennial civilization have achieved, but paints a picture of the challenges ahead. He points out that China's export-led growth model is broken. And this at a time when a rapidly aging population and rising cost of environmental degradation are creating huge burdens, and as unemployment and growing inequality threaten social stability.

 

If this goes on, China will be an aspirant First World power that gets old before it gets rich. In his non-ideological and nuanced rendering of China's complex problems, Beardson does not rule out it defying the odds and pulling through. But managing to preserve the regime may not lead to China rising to replace the US as the world's leading power.

 

Beardson's research is impressive and his writing style light. His near encyclopedic coverage of modern China makes it the "go to" book for readers who don't have the time to read many books on China.


Reviewed by Nayan Chanda

 

 

Back to Issue
    The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production By Peter Marsh Yale University Press, 2012, 320 pages, $23.32 (Hardcover) Pathways to Industrialization in the 21st Century: New Challenges and Emerging Paradigms By Adam Szirmai, Wim Naude & Ludovico Alcorta Oxford University Press, 2013, 472 pages, $96.25 (Hardcover) How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region By Joe Studwell Grove Press, 2013, 320 pages, $18.69 (Hardcover) Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America By Glenn Hubbard & Tim Kane Simon & Schuster, 2013, 368 pages, $19.29 (Hardcover) The East Asian Challenge for Democracy: Political Meritocracy in Comparative Perspective Edited by Daniel A. Bell and Chenyang Li Cambridge University Press, 2013, 392 pages, $36.99 (Paperback) Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992 By Charles K. Armstrong Cornell University Press, 2013, $35.00 (Hardcover) 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan By Richard J. Samuels Cornell University Press, 2013, 296 pages, $29.95 (Hardcover) Will This Be China’s Century? A Skeptic’s View By Mel Gurtov Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2013, 180 pages, $19.95 (Paperback) Revolution from Above: India’s Future and the Citizen Elite By Dipankar Gupta Rupa, 2013, 225 pages, 495 Rupees (Hardcover) Stumbling Giant: The Threats to China’s Future By Timothy Beardson Yale University Press, 2013, 517 pages, £25.00/$35.00
    Published: September 2013 (Vol.8 No.3)
    About the author

    Nayan Chanda is founding editor of YaleGlobal Online and a Global Asia editorial board member.

    John Delury is an Associate Professor at Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies and Global Asia’s Associate Managing Editor.

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