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  • Paths to Development in Asia: South Korea, Vietnam, China and Indonesia
  • Francis E. Hutchinson
Paths to Development in Asia: South Korea, Vietnam, China and Indonesia. By Tuong Vu. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. 294.

This book argues that the industrialization processes of the four countries specified in the title was the result of conscious state action. It contends that despite their labels as capitalist or socialist, the states of these countries have similar institutional attributes and relations to society. These characteristics enabled them to make the far-reaching decisions necessary to foster deep and far-reaching industrialization.

However, Paths to Development has a deeper argument to make. Drawing on substantial historical material, the book seeks to understand how these state structures and patterns of authority emerged in the first place. The author, Vu, argues that, in each case, these attributes were acquired during the state formation process or, more specifically, during the political processes usually — but not always — associated with state formation. In many cases these formation processes occurred when colonial empires collapsed and new post-colonial states were being constructed.

Vu argues that the determining political processes consisted of, on one hand, intra-elite negotiations and, on the other, elite-mass interactions. It is these interactions that decided whether these newly formed states were to possess the necessary bureaucratic capacity and organizational coherence for implementing the necessary "developmental processes" required for rapid industrialization.

The book holds that certain types of political interactions generate strong state structures, and others do not. Thus, the unity or polarization of elites is conducive to the formation of "developmental" state structures, but compromise and fragmentation among them are not. This is because one group needs to have a decisive hold on power, as opposed to diluting it through compromise. As to elite-mass interaction, suppression of the masses or controlled mobilization in support of industrialization are interactions conducive to the construction of developmental state structures. Conversely, mass incorporation into decision-making and accommodation tactics are not. The book also analyses the role of ideology in enabling elites to incorporate masses into their state formation and, subsequently, development strategies.

These patterns of intra-elite and elite-mass interactions give rise to many permutations. Vu looks at three combinations: confrontation, accommodation, or "mixed". He argues that the confrontational combination characterized South Korea, Indonesia under Soeharto, and Maoist China, and was the most conducive for the formation of "developmental state" characteristics and, consequently, industrialization. Accommodation best characterizes Sukarno's Indonesia and Vietnam, and their states had less cohesive structures. Republican China was mixed, with a combination of elite compromise and polarization, and mass suppression and incorporation.

The book also has a "nested design". Under this structure, the four countries are analysed in the first part of the book. In the second half, the arguments are further refined by an in-depth analysis of Indonesia and Vietnam, where the state formation processes gave rise to non-cohesive and weak state structures. In particular, the role of organizations and political discourses are analysed in-depth. This exercise aims to add richness to the argument by showing how the different permutations of the factors outlined above resulted in the same organizational disarray and ideological contradictions.

This book addresses an interesting theoretical and empirical question — namely, how are developmental state structures acquired or formed? Vu correctly contends that many analyses neglect the historical question of how developmental state structures are developed, and they do not address [End Page 162] the politics of why industrialization is pursued above other goals.

In looking at the mechanics of state formation, particularly during the emergence of mass politics, Paths to Development addresses this issue and seeks to reject contentions that colonial legacies in the form of state structures are paramount. This is an important theoretical argument. In addition, Vu looks at the importance of ideology and ideas, and how these shape subsequent state action.

In addition, his work enables a comparison of capitalist states with socialist ones, as well as between Northeast and Southeast Asia, which enables unusual contrasts. Paths to Development is at its best when it looks at Indonesia and, particularly, Vietnam, where the reader is treated to a nuanced...


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