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Reviewed by:
  • Clusters and Economic Growth in Asia ed. by Sӧren Eriksson
  • Leo Van Grunsven
Clusters and Economic Growth in Asia. Edited by Sӧren Eriksson. Cheltenham, U.K. and Northampton, Massachusetts: Edward Elgar, 2013. Pp. x + 189.

This new book adds to our knowledge on the role of clusters in industrial development in East and Southeast Asia, a research subject that has been substantially augmented and enriched over the past five to ten years. In its preface, the editor states the book’s ambition of providing “new and interesting dimensions about clusters and economic growth” (p. ix). To what extent and in what way does it fulfill this ambition?

The book consists of eight chapters, each dealing with different aspects of industrial development and economic growth in Asia. The first chapter, by Alexander Ebner, discusses the need to understand the increasing relevance of cluster policies in the context of an ongoing economic transition in East Asia, towards innovation-driven growth. In this process, the “developmental state” evolves into the “entrepreneurial state”, which tasks itself with creating more technologically advanced industries through the cluster approach. In Chapter 2, Yanfei Li and Wai-Mun Chia employ a growth accounting model to analyse the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in the economic growth of four Asian economies since the late 1990s: Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore. They conclude that ICT has made a significant contribution to economic growth in every economy but Singapore’s.

In Chapter 3, Felix Haifeng Liao, Karen Zhihua Xu and Bin Liang investigate the industrial agglomeration of Taiwanese electronics firms in Dongguan, China. From firm-level interviews and statistics, the authors observe that Taiwanese firms have co-located in Dongguan over the past two decades, forming a close network that local firms have hardly entered. In Chapter 4, Jun Koo and Jongmin Choi discuss the rise of the biomedical cluster in Wonju, South Korea, which offers a different — local-initiated — development model compared to the chaebol. The authors dissect the cluster development process to better understand the factors that affect clusters in their take-off stage. They find that the presence of successful “star” venture firms in the early stage can play a crucial role in the growth of clusters.

In Chapter 5, Henning Kroll and Daniel Schiller analyse the recovery of different regions and industries in China, from the exports dip during the 2008–09 global financial crisis. Although the regions were generally quite resilient, the authors notice regional differences in impact and recovery from the crisis, which also drove industries and regions into upgrading. In Chapter 6, Curt Nestor examines the technological intensity of foreign direct investments (FDI) in Vietnam, and technology development through FDI spillover effects. While the author primarily focuses on the technological characteristics of manufactured output and exports, he also notes the potential of FDI to drive the emergence of clusters.

The last two chapters, by Sören Eriksson, discuss several aspects of the aircraft industry’s development in Asia. Chapter 7 focuses on Indonesia’s attempt to establish an internationally competitive aircraft industry — an ambitious undertaking given the advanced technological and structural requirements of the industry. It details the main factors behind the long-term failure to promote technology development in Indonesia, and discusses arguments against creating such [End Page 180] industries for the purpose of economic growth in emerging countries. On the other hand, China has been more successful, with a significant and well-functioning military aircraft industry in — among other locations — Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Eriksson discusses in detail the development of Chengdu’s aircraft industry in Chapter 8, with a focus on the origins and characteristics of foreign technology transfers into Chengdu.

How to evaluate this book then? Each contribution adopts a singular perspective on a facet of industrial development, such as: ICT and growth; home effects in agglomeration and local networking; post-crisis regional growth paths; and foreign knowledge transfer in industry branch development. There is little connection and coherence across the contributions from the cluster perspective; in fact, despite its title, more than half of the chapters do not explicitly deal with cluster dynamics. One chapter refers to clusters only...


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pp. 180-181
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