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  • The State and the Advocate: Case Studies on Development Policy in Asia by Teresita Cruz-del Rosario
  • Yan Zhang
The State and the Advocate: Case Studies on Development Policy in Asia. By Teresita Cruz-del Rosario. London and New York: Routledge, 2014. Pp. xix, 294.

Teresita Cruz-del Rosario scrupulously analyses development policy from the perspective of “the state and the advocate” via seven interesting case studies across Asia. She defines the “advocate” as “non-state actors, coalitions of actors and advocates who seek to influence public policy” (pp. 5–6). Rosario argues that the developmental role of the state remains central in public policy formulation and implementation, while “in an age of expanded citizen participation and access to technology, policy-making has likewise moved beyond the confines of the state alone” (p. 5). The theme of the book, therefore, is about the state and the advocate facilitating developmental policy. Her comprehensive case studies include both positive and negative examples: hydropower development in Laos; agrarian reform and the commercial log ban in the Philippines; Chinese developmental aid in Asia; economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS); social insurance for foreign domestic workers in Sri Lanka; and Myanmar’s well-known economic transformation. Rosario portrays the complexity of development policy coalitions in Asia, touching on the fundamental issues of the developmental state, policy coalition and regionalism for Asian countries — mechanisms aimed at providing inclusive development.

Assessing state capability in Asia is a complex task because of the debate about the merits and demerits of authoritarian power. While a strong state is capable of both promoting and impeding development, a weak state might find it difficult to effectively implement development policies, and might also be manipulated by internal or external political forces. Thus, good governance requires both good policies and effective implementation. Conflicting examples of developmental states in Asia — authoritarian, democratic and hybrid — further [End Page 183] confuse our vision, let alone their long-questioned replicability. An effective state is not necessarily authoritarian, although authoritarianism could indeed streamline processes in developmental states. The dominant role of the state in economic development, as in China’s case, is a key feature of the developmental state. More crucially, a developmental state capable of cooperating with the advocate might eventually accelerate democratic transformation. Yet, as Rosario states, the “democratic developmental state is at best an ideal vision that is difficult to achieve” (p. 252) at present. Instead, civil society organizations can practise effective policy coalition by constantly cooperating with the developmental state and its power actors at all levels, as in Rosario’s case study of Laos. The core of political transition is about adjusting the power balance between emergent and dominant interest groups. Using the cases of the Philippines, Laos and Myanmar, Rosario emphasizes the importance of timing and the ability of the advocates in widening political opportunities.

The case studies of the Philippines are particularly interesting because the advocate’s “failure” to cooperate with existing political power structures nurtured a “pluralistic culture” — a situation arguably better for future policy coalitions. Conversely, Laos’ hydropower project and Myanmar’s ongoing transformation are instances of successful policy coalitions that failed to make political structures more open and transparent. However, although cooperation with international power actors — including international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the media — could “cushion the harsh effects of repression and serve to provide spaces” (pp. 255–56) in the Laos and Myanmar cases, their involvement is controversial. This is because the “universal values” and “institutional panaceas” that follow these international actors do not always facilitate economic development or serve the common interests of the people.

China’s rise and the 2008–09 global financial crisis have hastened a new round of debate about the developmental state. Neoliberals have claimed that the developmental state has withered, however, it has merely transformed into a more sophisticated and cautious system in which the state controls capital and markets — what has been described as the “post-Washington consensus” (Stiglitz 2008). Therefore, unlike what the neoliberal view might claim, analysing China’s developmental state is not outdated; Rosario’s book provides a solid argument for the existence of such a developmental state in Asia. She also...


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