Two Billion People: A Survey of Asia

In This Review

Two Billion People: A Survey of Asia

by Norman Macrae
The Economist May 7, 1977, 1977
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The deputy editor of The Economist has written a stunning tour de force on Asian economic development. Its major theme is that, in the past decade and a half, after many centuries during which the real problem of poverty in Asia has been rural underemployment, two different sorts of societies have begun to break through to creating full employment in the countryside. One of them is communist China, which has been following a policy which Macrae calls "rural Keynesianism." The others are "capitalist roaders" such as South Korea and Taiwan, following the trail blazed by Japan.

On the mostly authoritarian governments in Asia, Macrae has some heretical conclusions that will pain Western liberals and conservatives alike. Of the 16 non-communist governments in the area, he says, there are only two for which he could in no circumstance vote. Of the seven communist countries in the area, only two have a really rotten ruling system. Most Asian leaders, opines Macrae, are in politics because they have a genuine desire to see their peoples advance in income and happiness.

Although such a broad scope and such sweeping conclusions may bring upon him scholarly wrath, Macrae has done what desperately needed to be done - to look upon East Asia as a whole, to identify the major problems and the most successful responses, and to put it all into an historical and cultural framework. No one could fail to profit from this essay.