THE EAST ASIA EDGE by
Kirkus Star

THE EAST ASIA EDGE

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An expert appraisal of the economic vitality of the whole of Eastasia--not just Japan, but also South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and even North Korea and China--with a timely caution: we can't beat them at their own game. ""The Eurasian Edge has cultural, psychological, and most fundamentally, structural elements"" alien to American society. One suspects that Hofheinz and Calder, ex-and currently of Harvard's East Asian program, would be content to show the East Asian accomplishment in its true, impressive light, and let Americans take heed; but they do offer some counsel. First, the economic reality: transpacific trade now exceeds transatlantic trade; South Korea had as many companies on the 1979 Fortune 500 list as Italy did. Next, the Western misconceptions--of either government intervention, or X-Y-Z management, or spiritual fervor as the root cause. Then, correctively, the common sources of strength: physical homogeneity makes others outsiders; painstaking, small-scale agriculture makes for assembly-line efficiency; preeminence of relationships over rules makes for work-place flexibility. The advantages of nationalism (as a spur), group loyalty (for teamwork), and secrecy (in surprising the competition) need hardly be spelled out. Foremost, perhaps, Eastasians share ""a positive view of organization and government."" Stable, single-party rule prevails--reassuring to business and, arguably, conducive to sound, long-range planning. General trading companies (Japan's Mitsui and Mitsubishi, Korea's Hyundai) ""handle complex transactions in highly disparate product areas,"" unhampered by antitrust laws. Less well known are distinctive Eastasian patterns in specific areas. ""Pro-agrarian statecraft"" (a favorable pricing policy, protection of smallholdings) has maintained a quiescent, productive rural populace. One of the world's highest savings ratios, ""together with the world's most efficient institutions for turning savings to useful purposes,"" assures capital-for-growth. Individual nations are profiled (in diversity is also strength); other areas--technology, energy, exporting--are covered; the political future is assayed (fear of instability is a stabilizing force); the Western response is weighed--not protectionism (we have too much to lose), but inventive adaptation (""lean but decisive government,"" first). Geopolitics, in sum, not simply (or simple) remedies--crisp and informed.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1982
Publisher: Basic Books