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Journal of World History 11.1 (2000) 164-166

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Book Review

Governance in the Asia-Pacific

Governance in the Asia-Pacific. Edited by Richard Maidment, David Goldblatt, and Jeremy Mitchell. New York: Routledge, 1998. Pp. 320. $75 (cloth); $24.99 (paper).

In the 1990s the Asia-Pacific region has attracted increasing scholarly attention, not the least being a series of books produced in association with the Open University in the United Kingdom. One of them is Governance in the Asia-Pacific, edited by Richard Maidment, David Goldblatt, and Jeremy Mitchell, which examines government policies and their impact. Although the book's focus is mainly on the Asian side of the Pacific basin, some consideration is given to the Anglo states of Australia and North America, with less attention to the Pacific islands and Latin America.

The book is informative about a wide number of issues that include [End Page 164] economic, social, and environmental policies, as well as political authoritarianism and democracy. It also deals with the historical background of the issues. The authors demonstrate a sophisticated awareness of the difference between the various nations with their very diverse cultures and historical backgrounds. This analysis is based on the wide range of scholarly expertise of the authors. Most of them are British or Australian, but some reside elsewhere in the Pacific basin. The best of the chapters is chapter 6, by Duncan McCargo, which analyzes the political, bureaucratic, business, and military elites that wield so much power in Asian countries.

The book is student-friendly. Each chapter has an introduction that clearly sets out the agenda. There are subheadings and a conclusion. The text is enlivened by well-chosen photos. Source references are given in the text, including useful cross-references to other books in the series, such as Culture and Society in the Asia Pacific (1998). References are listed at the back of each chapter, along with suggestions for further reading. There is an informative index. The book's usefulness would have been enhanced if there had been other maps in addition to the two historical maps in chapter 1. However, there are many maps in another volume in the series, The Asia-Pacific Profile (1998). An irritating omission in the book being reviewed is that it has no list of abbreviations.

There are some scholarly weaknesses in this book. In the first chapter, which is a historical and thematic overview, there is no reference to major historical surveys of the post-World War II era, such as Roger C. Thompson, The Pacific Basin since 1945 (London: Longman, 1994), or Michael Yahuda, The International Politics of the Asia-Pacific, 1945-1995 (London: Routledge, 1996). Some of the chapter reading lists are much more extensive than others. Attempts to provide thematic overviews in chapter 1 overlook historical reality. For example, modern scholarship about democracy in the antebellum southern states of the United States is ignored in the claim that the American Civil War "curtailed the development of an explicitly anti-democratic coalition of northern and southern elites" (p. 8). Mistakes also emerge in other chapters, such as the statement in chapter 12 that there are "in the Solomon Islands, English and French speaking political parties" (p. 24), which only applies to neighboring Vanuatu. In chapter 3 we read that the American military occupation of Japan consisted of only "a few under-strength divisions" (p. 64). That is a misrepresentation of the 600,000 U.S. troops that initially occupied Japan at the end of the Pacific War.

There is also a problem with the main conceptual theme in chapter [End Page 165] 11. This is its use of the term strong state. The real definition of "strength" in that chapter is Asian political authoritarianism. By contrast, the United States is depicted as a "weak" state! Notably, chapter 12, which is on pressures for political change, uses instead the term authoritarian. However, in chapter 12 the scale of generalization distorts some of the pictures painted. A major example is a statement that in Fiji in 1987 there was "a coalition between the...