- Colonial Legacies: Economic and Social Development in East and Southeast Asia
Taiwan and South Korea, both former Japanese colonies, managed to have a faster economic growth from 1960 onward relative to former European or American colonies in East and Southeast Asia. There is an argument that places high importance on the colonial past of these two countries as a determinant of their economic performance, contrary to the popular belief that emphasizes the economic policies adopted in the post independence era. As the author states in the book, the aim of this book is “to place the debate concerning Japanese colonialism in a wider perspective through an examination of the record of other colonial regimes in East and Southeast Asia”. The author also writes that “This book attempts a comparative study of the economic and social development of colonial territories in East and Southeast Asia in the first four decades of the twentieth century and the consequence of that development to the transition to independence after 1945”. The book manages to fulfill these objectives. By providing detailed descriptions and comprehensive data throughout the book, the author gives us not just a glimpse of what was happening, in terms of economic and social development, but rather tells a complete story of what was really going on.
Although the colonial empires of Japan and America in East and Southeast Asia was short lived than that of the European empire, but in many parts of the region, effective colonial administrative systems were only established in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. For this reason the comparative study presented in the book is based only on economic and social development after 1900.
The book starts with a review of economic development of European colonies (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, and French Indochina), an American colony (Philippines), Japanese colonies (Taiwan and Korea) and Thailand, which was never colonized, during the period 1900–40. It examines main economic indicators such as population growth, growth in national output and income, growth of agricultural output, and growth of non-agricultural activities. This book further tells us: there is no strong evidence of differences between Japanese colonies and European or American colonies in terms of main economic indicators during 1900–40 and that might explain the differences in economic growth of former Japanese colonies after 1960 relative to other colonies. This confirms the popular belief that in post-independence, economic policies were the main determinant of economic growth. [End Page 238]
The remainder of the book explores the economic indicators in more detail and describes relevant social developments resulting from policies that were implemented during 1900–45. It discusses the agricultural expansion of East and Southeast Asian colonies with respect to population growth and access to land, colonial government economic policies (with detailed analysis of taxation, budgetary regime, international trade and exchange rate), growth and diversification of the market economy, changes in living standards and human development, and the economic and social impacts of Japanese occupation of East and Southeast Asian Colonies from 1942 to 1945. Analysis of these economic and social conditions reveals a great deal of variations within colonies regarding their policies and social/economic outcomes of these policies, thus making it difficult to determine the source of divergence in economic performance in the coming decades.
The last part of the book gives us a review of possible sources of divergence that arises among former colonies after they become independent. As we discover from reading the review, there are a few factors that might explain the divergence of the post-war economic conditions of the former colonies. These factors include differences in the size of American aid received by a country and differences in the rate of structural changes away from agriculture towards industry. These two factors, to some extent, provide a reasonable explanation for the divergence of economic conditions that happened to the former colonies between the end of World War II and 1960. But after exploring further economic performances of the former colonies after 1960, the...