04.04.2021-final papr for a soc theory class that my friends helped me with
ORIGINAL TITLE: ASIATIC MODERNITY: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF CHINA AND JAPAN
Despite the current trend in written works that collapse definitions of globalization with American hegemony and European influence, global interactivity has been present for thousands of years, with centers of influence changing locations over time. This idea of multicentric globalization is particularly salient given that we are seeing the gradual decline in the power of the neoliberal order in conjunction with the rise of Asian coherence and powers. Pivoting our perspective from the West to the East allows us to see that the ASEAN region is becoming the cornerstone for Asiatic brands of modernity, with other nations orienting towards their gravitational pulls. However, within this dynamic and diverse region, Japan and China stand out as the most significant drivers of global processes. Japan’s meteoric rise to industrial status in the 1960’s has made it one of the most technologically advanced nations, but new problems of post-development economic stagnation have cropped up. In its place, China is emerging as an economic and political behemoth, steadily creating a vast network of Chinese investments across the globe. While both nations share similar methods of revitalizing their economies, there are key differences in Chinese and Japanese policies that explain the rise we see today, such as relations to other nations and status of development.
Before differences can be explored, an understanding of what separates China and Japan from some of the other nations of Asia is in order. The governments of both nations have established critical interventions that have improved the national economy, allowing for independence from unbalanced Western power relations. As the historian Studwell explains, these three critical interventions are the maximization of agricultural output, the direction of investment and entrepreneurs towards manufacturing, and the intervention to the financial sector to focus capital on developing both (2013). Without all three of these traits, technological progress and growth is unsustainable. As a result, Japan and China have been able to succeed where the Southeast Asian nations have failed. Japan was able to successfully enact these policies a decade before China, but both nations faced critique from the West. The Washington Consensus, a collection of neoliberal policies pushed by the United States, was the leading guideline prescribed for developing nations to follow. It encouraged foreign development investment and reducing government policies to achieve laissez-faire capitalism. Theorists from the West were certain that the Japanese model would not succeed as neoliberalism promoted by the IMF was succeeding in the SEA region. The Asian financial crises that began in 1997 proved them wrong. The economic output and quality of life in Japan began to steadily rise; by 2005, Japan’s life expectancy surpassed those of the most advanced industrial nations of the West (Henderson 2011). A similar pattern of doubt despite success is happening, this time for China. China was considered a Third World country for several decades but is now a global force because of their developmental state. Defying the ideology of the West, it has steadily carved its own trajectory through careful exposure to foreign capital and state intervention. For both nations, this adherence to their own policies has enabled a greater independence with foreign relations. Both nations are tied in beneficial relations of investment with states like Russia, Turkey, and the GCC countries. Instead of playing the game of short-term success at the hands of foreign nations, Japan and China are the power holders in these ties.
Japan’s trajectory from the 1950s to now is one of completed development and slower connections with other nations. As one of the most modern countries in the world, Japan is a leader in many respects. However, the lead Japan had on the rest of East Asia only lasted from 1970 to 1985. As previously stated, Japan was able to begin the radical restructure of its agriculture a decade before China was able to peacefully transition. This growth was sustained by focusing all modernization efforts on manufacturing, with all other financial systems dedicated to this cause. But as Pieterse notes, Japan’s model of economic growth was vertical, involving the shedding of basic industries to following nations. The value of the Japanese yen is appreciated due to the Plaza Accord of 1985, bursting the economic bubble Japan developed through consumer electronics (2015). By the 90s, Japan hits an economic plateau, with economic stagnation and a demographic decline due to a maturing population (Khanna 2020). Having already succeeded in the main goal of a developing nation, Japan’s focus has pivoted to addressing the post-developmental problems that have cropped up. In addition to economic stagnation, it is contending with the impact of its insular culture and regional aggression. The conservative culture that opposes immigration and economic frivolity contributes not only to its population problems, but also to low rates of everyday spending among its people. Current policies invented by 47th prime minister Shinzo Abe include monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and the promotion of entrepreneurship (Khanna 2020). Japanese companies are indiscriminately dealing on the foreign floor, which is a double-edged tactic. The key detail is that past of regional aggression and imperialism. The Japanese economy is only beginning its revival, and its strategic position with other Asian states have yet to recover fully. As a result, the slowdown of this advanced economy makes room for China to gain power.
The Chinese trajectory of development since 1980 to now involves careful policy to encourage rapid growth and extensive networks with other states. China’s current undergoing of the developmental process is part of the reason that it is such a driver of global economics – it is still in the process of becoming a wealthy nation. As a result, this latecomer to the world economy has leverage due to its growing middle class and upgrades. The growth spurt of the Chinese economy began in 1979, with the transition from communist systems to a socialist market economy. Widespread poverty with little industrialization or education was the status quo. Like Japan, the country-driven nature of the government was the main force driving development, with the state successfully formulating development policies for itself instead of relying on foreign prescriptions and money. When Japan and other states were hit by the Asian financial crisis of 1997, China was able to avoid economic slowdown and continue with brisk growth due to its doubly insular economy. With a vastly larger population and successful avoidance of economic stagnation, it was free to engage in investment with other nations. Chinese investments are omnipresent in Southeast Asia, Africa, and West Asia. Notably, Chinese cash and investment drives the economy and wellbeing of the SEA nations, something Japan has been unable to fully achieve. The difference, as noted by Pieterse, is that China’s relationships with other nations is horizontal and vertical. The sheer size of China results in uneven development across the nation; thus, the nation is outsourcing its industries while still competing. The population aspect comes into play again as the Chinese diaspora is spread over the globe. As a result, Chinese investment is tied intricately to cooperation and competition, parallel development, and a vertical lead (2015). This nation is the largest trading partner of many nations for compelling reasons.
Being the driving force of globalization is not without its struggles – China may be growing into its potential as a hegemonic force, but there are struggles it faces back home that Japan is not contending with. China’s horizontal and vertical relationship with other nations is indicative of the inequality inherent in the state. The divide between the rich and the poor Chinese is worsening, in part due to urban sprawl in conjunction with weak protection of land rights (Ho 2009). The real estate industry is one of the most lucrative businesses in China but drives mass landlessness. Breakneck growth and quality of life do not always come hand in hand. Comparatively, Japan may not have the rapid economic growth of China, and its population may be aging, but this state has the infrastructure to create new technological breakthroughs. Its people live in relatively better conditions, as indicated by Japan’s GINI index of 0.37 to China’s index of 0.42 (Pieterse 2015). China’s role as a global power may drive a ‘race to the bottom’ – where each country grows unsustainably and at the expense of its people. But this is a reductive take, influenced by Western media unaccustomed to alternative paths to prosperity and influenced by decades of anti-Asian sentiment. Following the collapse of the Chinese communist system, the nation has adopted a policy of gradual expansion, infrastructure, investments, and loans.
As the oldest continuous state and the largest country, China is no newcomer to the long-term. The relationship between Russia and China are rather indicative of China’s trajectory. The two nations are closer than even their communist days, with Russia and China willingly collaborating through trade and investment. Russia benefits from the way Chinese investment will still employ Russian workers, and China benefits from taming the Eurasian state (Khanna 2020). This focus on reliable, gradual connections is best understood through the lens of the new Silk Road initiative China is undertaking. This harmonious relationship is like Chinese policy in other states across West Asia and Africa. Additionally, on China’s agenda, the Silk Road initiative involves the interconnectivity of the entire globe. The investments taken in this process focus on the nations that are poor, rejected by the West, or are dictatorial in nature (Pieterse). This is a unique approach to investment that demonstrates China’s position towards other nations – soft power and prosperity that is co-dependent on all nations. While the project is not without its issues, and while the nation is not without its internal stressors, this nation is fully prepared to re-emerge as a global power, reminiscent of the era of the old Silk Road. Japan, on the other hand, has its own history as a cloistered, off-shore island to surpass if it wishes to create networks to the extent that China is working towards.
Both Japan and China are leaders for the other Asian nations, that much is undeniable through comparisons of GDP and other indexes. Their dedication to state-led growth and development as opposed to the neoliberal policies in vogue in the past several decades proved fruitful. However, China is an emergent developing economy with the size and linkages to other nations capable of shifting the trajectory of globalization from its current path of Western influence. Certainly, it will not be a full-fledged Chinese hegemonic globalization, since there are many centers of influence vying for power, but its massive population and size have resulted in an economy capable of changing the dynamics of the economy. Japan’s lead on Asian nations was slowed by its own insular nature and past of imperialism. As a relatively new post-development society, its demographic problems hinder its role as a global force. China is capable of learning from the progress of the other Asian nations, avoiding the path already trodden to forge a new future. The decisions China makes in the near future will have tremendous consequences for every nation in the world.
Henderson, Jeffrey. 2011. East Asian Transformation. London: Routledge.
Ho, Peter. 2009. "BEYOND DEVELOPMENT ORTHODOXY: CHINESE LESSONS IN PRAGMATISM AND INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE." Pp. 177-210 in Doing Good or Doing Better: Development Policies in a Globalising World, Monique Kremer, Peter van Lieshout and Robert Went. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Khanna, Parag, 2020. “THE RETURN OF GREATER ASIA.” In The Future Is Asian. New York, USA: Simon & Schuster.
Nederveen Pieterse, Jan. 2015. What happened to the Miracle Eight? Looking East in the twenty-first century. Canadian Journal of Development Studies / Revue canadienne d'études du développement, [online] 36(3), pp.263-282. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02255189.2015.1069178.
Nederveen Pieterse, Jan. 2015. Goodbye Miracle Eight. Kuala Lumpur: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Studwell, John., 2013. How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region. New York: Grove Press, p.xiii-xxv.