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Over the last decades, East Asia has seen one of the most remarkable economic success stories and has gained increasing importance in the world economy. The “East Asian Miracle” started with the rise of the Japanese economy in the 1950s which was soon followed by South Korea and the three remaining so-called “Asian Tigers”. More recently, China presented the most famous Asian success story. This introductory chapter briefly analyzes the catching-up development of the East Asian countries with respect to GDP per capita as well as various other non-economic indicators such as education, infant mortality, and life expectancy. It then provide a short overview of all subsequent chapters of this book.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-87128-4_1
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  1. 1.

    Throughout the book, we use China as an abbreviation for Mainland China.

  2. 2.

    “China was a poor country in 1949 with agriculture’s contribution to output value of more than 70 per cent”, see Wagner (2021: 5) referring to the data given in Muqiao (1981: 19).

  3. 3.

    Ravallion (2021) in his study arrived at a poverty rate of 87.5% for China and 73.6% for South Korea and Taiwan (in aggregate; abbreviated as SKT) in 1950. He apparently attributes this difference (the lower rate for South Korea and Taiwan) to benefits from the former Japanese colonial rule. “A notable difference in this context is that mainland China lagged in human development relative to SKT; for example, the Barro-Lee data for 1950 indicate that 55% of those aged 15–64 had completed primary school in South Korea, as compared to 29% in Taiwan and only 7% in mainland China” (Ravallion 2021: 4).

  4. 4.

    PPP stands for purchasing power parity.

  5. 5.

    Own calculations based on current GDP in international dollars adjusted by PPP.

  6. 6.

    Of the 10 richest countries, 6 are very small countries, meaning they have a population of less than 1 million (own calculations based on World Bank (2021) data on population and GDP per capita in constant 2010 US dollars of the year 2005).

  7. 7.

    These 13 countries were Israel, Japan, Ireland, Spain, Hong Kong, Singapore, Portugal, Taiwan, Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea, South Korea, Greece, and Puerto Rico.

  8. 8.

    Overall, 5 of the 13 states were from East Asia (including Singapore).

  9. 9.

    TVEs were collectively owned by a village or township, which made them ideologically much safer than normal private enterprises; at the same time, they faced a harder budget constraint than state firms, which made them much more productive than state firms.

  10. 10.

    There do, however, exist differences among the three East Asian countries.


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Correspondence to Linda Glawe .



See Table 1.3.

Table 1.3 The development of the economic power and population in East Asia

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Glawe, L., Wagner, H. (2021). Introduction. In: The Economic Rise of East Asia. Contributions to Economics. Springer, Cham.

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