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The Development Paths and Strategies of Japan, South Korea, and China—A Comparison

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Abstract

This chapter compares the development processes in Japan, South Korea and China presented in detail in the previous chapters. Glawe and Wagner first identify the commonalities in the development of the three countries and elaborate on whether these commonalities justify speaking of a special “East Asian development model”. In order to come to a balanced judgment, the authors also work out in detail the manifold differences between the three countries and their development strategies, including the different starting levels at the beginning of reforms after World War II, the varying driving forces of development, the different political and economic systems, the different strategies regarding the adoption of foreign technologies, as well as differences in the culture, size, geography, institutions, economic/industrial policies, breaks in the development processes, and inequality.

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Fig. 5.1

Source V-Dem dataset Version 11.1, Varieties of Democracy Project, Pemstein et al. (2021)

Fig. 5.2

Source V-Dem dataset Version 11.1, Varieties of Democracy Project, Pemstein et al. (2021)

Fig. 5.3

Source Hofstede Dataset

Fig. 5.4

Source Démurger et al. (2002)

Fig. 5.5

Source Kaufmann et al. (2010)

Fig. 5.6

Source Kaufmann et al. (2010)

Fig. 5.7
Fig. 5.8
Fig. 5.9

Source OECD (2019)

Fig. 5.10

Source OECD (2015)

Notes

  1. 1.

    Cf. Sect. 5.3.5 for a discussion on the different methods for acquiring foreign technologies in Japan, South Korea, and China.

  2. 2.

    However, this arrangement has been challenged more recently due to increasing rural–urban migration in China (cf. also Chap. 4).

  3. 3.

    This also partly depends on the varying interpretations regarding the role of import substitution for the Chinese economy.

  4. 4.

    The Kuznets facts state that during a country’s development process, there is first a massive reallocation of labor from agriculture to manufacturing and services, and in later development stages then from manufacturing to services (cf. van Neuss 2019).

  5. 5.

    It is noteworthy in this context that China initially started to build up the heavy industry during the 1950s whereas Japan and South Korea focused on light manufacturing from the beginning (cf. Boltho and Weber 2009).

  6. 6.

    Similarly to Japan, also China’s SOEs faced a soft-budget problem that led to a relatively low efficiency of the state sector. However, China tried to solve this problem stepwise, first by granting SOE managers greater autonomy and exposing SOEs to greater competition with the newly flourishing non-state sector. That is, the Chinese government was aware of the soft-budget problem, but could not proceed in the same way as it was accomplished in Japan due to ideological constraints (see also below). Only in the late 1990s, more comprehensive reforms were undertaken (through the adoption of the “grasping the large, letting go of the small” reform).

  7. 7.

    Originally, only Germany, France, Great Britain, the USA, and Japan were included.

  8. 8.

    In this respect, China and Vietnam share some similarities.

  9. 9.

    On rural democracy in China, see also He (2007), Shi (2000), and Xi and Wen (2019).

  10. 10.

    However, more recently, there is evidence that generalized social trust in South Korea is positively associated with political trust (Lee and Yi 2018).

  11. 11.

    This development was probably partly supported by improved higher education.

  12. 12.

    According to Klenner (2006), another difference exists between the employment system in China and Japan. For instance, the Japanese employment system exhibits rather “community-like” features; the betterment of the firm is more important than increasing personal wealth. In contrast, newly established private Chinese firms were influenced by the business cultures of foreign investors—not only from Japan, but also from the EU, USA, and Hong Kong. Therefore, they are different from the Japanese community-like enterprises. Cultural differences most likely also played a non-negligible role for these differences (see also Sect. 5.3.6), so did the different historical experiences (especially the SOEs centered social security system, see Sect. 4.6.1).

  13. 13.

    Nowadays, there are also various large Chinese companies that, like the South Korean chaebol conglomerates, have subsidiaries in different sectors. However, some argue that the motivation of these Chinese conglomerates is at least in some cases rather global dominance (e.g. in the semiconductor industry) than making profits (see https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2021-opinion-china-jituan-conglomerates-differences-south-korea-chaebols/).

  14. 14.

    It has to be noted, however, that the indicators for output vary across countries (for China output is measured by GDP, for Japan by sales, and for South Korea by manufacturing value added; for more details see Yoshino and Taghizadeh-Hesary 2018).

  15. 15.

    However, also before its nationwide implementation after Deng’s Southern Tour, FDI was promoted (but at a smaller scale and rather in an experimental manner) through the establishment of the special economic zones (SEZs) (see also Sect. 5.4.6).

  16. 16.

    Slow decision-making processes, sometimes perceived as a sign of hierarchy, are in fact an indication that there does not exist one decision maker at the top of the hierarchy (at least according to the Hofstede Country Comparison).

  17. 17.

    Still, Japan is roughly the size of Italy and thus not that small from a European standpoint.

  18. 18.

    Some of these (like multiple climate zones) are of course related to or a consequence of the size differences.

  19. 19.

    However, more recently, Fukuoka has gained more prominence for being “Japan’s most innovative city” (cf. Gent 2019).

  20. 20.

    These provinces are: Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Shandong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan (from north to south).

  21. 21.

    In addition, Japan has almost no natural resources which made it very dependent on imports. See also Sect. 6.3.3.1.F.

  22. 22.

    Also China is mountainous; however, the highest mountain ranges are located in (South)Western China.

  23. 23.

    The devastation of the traditional elites does not necessarily imply that all institutional achievements including the building up of state capacity were lost and did not play a role at all (see also Gray 2014 on this issue). See Alesina et al. (2020) on the persistence of elites and the related re-emergence of pre-revolution inequality patterns in China (see also the following footnote).

  24. 24.

    Alesina et al. (2020) find that even though the Chinese Communist Revolution and the Cultural Revolution effectively homogenized the population in the short run, the pre-revolution inequality pattern re-emerges today. In particular, individuals whose grandparents belonged to the pre-revolution elites earn more and have higher levels of education. Thus, the former elites probably have persisted through the intergenerational transmission of values.

  25. 25.

    Using data from the Maddison Porject Database, Version 2013 data (cf. Bolt and van Zanden 2014) and income thresholds proposed by Felipe et al. (2012, 2017). Notice that the high-income threshold is 11,750 US$ (in Geary-Khamis (GK, international) dollar).

  26. 26.

    In fact, China has already overcome the high-income threshold proposed by Felipe et al. (2012) in 2016 when using Maddison data and growth rates of the IMF World Economic Outlook from October 2020 (of constant GDP p.c. in national currency). However, when Japan surpassed the high-income threshold, its GDP p.c. was around 68% of that of the USA; for South Korea, it was around 50% (in 1995); and for China only around 37% (in 2016). Therefore, it is questionable in how far the “absolute” 11,750 US$ threshold is meaningful over time. For an extensive discussion on the middle-income trap probability of the Chinese economy, see Glawe and Wagner (2020a).

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 5.3 and 5.4.

Table 5.3 Types of accountability V-Dem Dataset
Table 5.4 WGI dimensions, short description

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Glawe, L., Wagner, H. (2021). The Development Paths and Strategies of Japan, South Korea, and China—A Comparison. In: The Economic Rise of East Asia. Contributions to Economics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-87128-4_5

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