In This Review

Democracy in East Asia
Democracy in East Asia
Edited by Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, 272 pp

In this collective study, Asian and non-Asian authors debate the desirability of democracy in East Asia, an ideal (if sometimes contradictory) testing ground for theories about democratic transition. The experiences of Taiwan and South Korea suggest that economic development can set the stage for democracy, while Singapore and Malaysia seem to negate that theory. The region offers Japan as a model stable democracy, but also has four of the world's remaining Leninist states. On the Asian values controversy, Singaporean diplomat Bilahari Kausikan argues that Asia does indeed have unique political norms antithetical to Western individualism, while Hong Kong professor Joseph Chan roundly disagrees. The Americans, W. Theodore de Bary, Francis Fukuyama, and Robert Scalapino, explore the cultural foundations of Asian societies and classify their diverse political systems. In a book as full of clashing ideas as this one, it is not surprising that no coherent theoretical conclusion or neat summarization is possible. The two editors, however, do an excellent job introducing the issues, ideas, and approaches of the fifteen authors.