> Foreign Policy In Focus
With the sudden end of the export era, East Asia may be entering a period of radical protest and social revolution that went out of style when export-oriented industrialization became the fashion three decades ago, writes Walden Bello.
As goods pile up in wharves from Bangkok to Shanghai, and workers are laid off in record numbers, people in East Asia are beginning to realize they aren’t only experiencing an economic downturn but living through the end of an era.
For over 40 years now, the cutting edge of the region’s economy has been export-oriented industrialization (EOI). Taiwan and Korea first adopted this strategy of growth in the mid-1960s, with Korean dictator Park Chung-Hee coaxing his country’s entrepreneurs to export by, among other measures, cutting off electricity to their factories if they refused to comply.
The success of Korea and Taiwan convinced the World Bank that EOI was the wave of the future. In the mid-1970s, then-Bank President Robert McNamara enshrined it as doctrine, preaching that "special efforts must be made in many countries to turn their manufacturing enterprises away from the relatively small markets associated with import substitution toward the much larger opportunities flowing from export promotion."
EOI became one of the key points of consensus between the Bank and Southeast Asia’s governments. Both realized import substitution industrialization could only continue if domestic purchasing power were increased via significant redistribution of income and wealth, and this was simply out of the question for the region’s elites. Export markets, especially the relatively open U.S. market, appeared to be a painless substitute. Read more
date of on-line publication : 18 February 2009