East Asian Economic Miracle

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To what extent has the East Asian economic miracle relaxed tensions between the regional powers?

During 1960 to 1990, East Asia experienced a huge transformation in its economic development which is now widely referred to as the East Asian economic miracle. This was largely a result of the growth of eight economies known as the high-performing Asian economies, hereinafter HPAEs. These comprised Japan, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, and the three newly industrialised economies (NIEs) which were Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Prior to the 1960s, tensions between the regional powers were relatively high, which was evidently the result of several major events including the Sino-Japanese war, the wars between Japan and Russia and Japan and Korea and the invasion and colonisation of certain regions. After 1960, however, a radical adjustment in the interactions between these regional powers developed, arguably as a result of the creation of organisations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967. This illustrates a significant relaxation of tensions which effectively promoted economic, social and cultural co-operation between the member states.[1] Nevertheless, the extent to which such tensions have diminished is questionable, especially in light of the effects of both the Cold War and the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

In order to develop a valuable analysis which documents the political implications of the East Asian economic miracle, it is first necessary to briefly outline the preceding tensions which existed in order to measure the extent to which tensions subsequently relaxed. Prior to 1960, relations between China and Japan were undoubtedly hostile. In 1964, China fought Japan in the Sino-Japanese war over the control of Korea which resulted in the Japanese acquisition of Taiwan and the Liaodong province and the independence of Korea. In 1931 Japan had invaded Manchuria and was in occupation of this area by 1933. During this period atrocities such as the Nanking Massacre took place which exacerbated tensions between Japan and China. In 1905 Japan and Russia were at war, and in 1910 Japan had colonised Korea which significantly contributed to regional tensions in East Asia. Nevertheless, in the post-World War II era, most of the colonised regions in East Asia had become independent which arguably created the conditions for regional cooperation. However, when East Asia became engulfed in the Cold War, further tensions emerged between China and Japan. In addition, this also resulted in the creation of North and South Korea, and the Vietnamese civil war. Thus, these major events resulted in hostile tensions between the East Asian regional powers, which are arguably still visible today.

During the 1940s, relations between Japan and other East Asian regions appeared to deteriorate, particularly as a result of the Japanese creation of the East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Arguably, this seemed to enhance relations in East Asia by unifying the region and marking ‘the end of European control.’[2] However, this was not a universally held opinion as many regarded this as political propaganda which served merely to disguise Japanese aggression and its underlying agenda for imperial domination[3]. It seems that it was not until the 1960s that relations between Japan and the South East Asian regions began to improve. Thus, the period between 1965 and 1975 ‘saw the maturing of Japan’s own economic position and the beginning of Japan’s large scale investment in the region.’[4] Arguably, Japan realised the need for co-operation with the South-East Asian regions in order to take advantage of crucial raw materials such as rubber and oil. Consequently, Asia became the largest recipient of Japan’s manufacturing investment which resulted in large economic development in the South-East. Throughout this time of development, South-East Asia introduced many tariffs and...
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