Changing Patterns of Sarawak’s Exports, c.1870–2013

  • Atsushi KobayashiEmail author
  • Kaoru Sugihara
Part of the Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research book series (AAHER)


This chapter describes the changing patterns of Sarawak’s export trade from the late nineteenth century to the present, and discusses their implications for the fate of a high biomass society. Its main contribution is to collect trade statistics in and beyond Sarawak in order to identify the long-term trends and changes from the perspective of global economic history. From the 1870s to 1913 Sarawak became integrated into the Singapore-centred network of Southeast Asian export economies, largely by exporting primary products for local and regional consumption. From c.1914 to 1940 the composition shifted towards international commodities, especially rubber and oil. From 1946 to 2013 new commodities, such as timber, natural gas and oil palm, were added. Sarawak’s postwar trade growth became progressively dependent on the growth of East and Southeast Asian economies, especially Japan and Malaysia. While acknowledging the successful export performance, the chapter also sketches the process of progressive disarticulation between the export sector and the local economy and society, with an increasing dependence on oil and natural gas. It suggests that such a tendency was a likely outcome for the resource-rich periphery, especially if the economy was not administered by a state intent on linking resource revenues to the improvement of the welfare of local society.


Sarawak Economy Exports Natural resources Oil and gas Trading networks 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Southeast Asian StudiesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Research Institute for Humanity and NatureKyotoJapan

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