In This Review

A Region of Regimes: Prosperity and Plunder in the Asia-Pacific
A Region of Regimes: Prosperity and Plunder in the Asia-Pacific
By T. J. Pempel
Cornell University Press, 2021, 252 pp

Pempel comprehensively analyzes the growth strategies of ten economies during the Asian economic miracle that started in the 1960s. Four patterns emerge. “Developmental regimes” that had competent bureaucracies, homogeneous societies, and U.S. support, such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, were able to build advanced modern economies, although their growth rates declined in the 1990s due to U.S. trade restrictions and growing domestic political contention. “Ersatz developmental regimes,” such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, also enjoyed substantial growth, based mostly on their exploitation of labor, land, and natural resources. But they suffered from weaker bureaucracies and more divided societies and did not develop advanced economies. Even the “rapacious regimes”—Myanmar, North Korea, and the Philippines—had occasional growth spurts, but they never developed competent state institutions or skilled workforces. China combined elements of all three types: deep industrialization, cheap labor, and authoritarian institutions. Relations among these places—and between each of them and the United States—played an important role in fostering growth for all but Myanmar and North Korea. The regional stability on which they have relied, however, is now threatened by the U.S.-Chinese rivalry.