Edited by Misa Izuhara
Chapter 14: Presence of the state: probing the middle class and civic organizations in Chinese societies
Tai-lok Lui and Shuo Liu
One of the leading themes of social studies of East Asian societies since the 1980s falls in the area of economic development and its social and political implications. The early 1980s witnessed first a growing interest in unravelling the secrets of Japan’s economic success and then later a curiosity of rapid economic growth in the Four Little Dragons (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan). After deliberating on the analogy of the ‘flying geese’, with Japan taking the lead and other rising Asian economies following, the focus of attention quickly shifted towards a search for the so-called Fifth Dragon. It was the period of time when Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam attempted to join the league of newly industrializing economies. But then, with the initial success in the Pearl River Delta and then later a deepening of economic reform in the early 1990s, China rapidly emerged as the ‘world factory’. The focal point of discussion of Asian societies since the beginning of the new century has shifted towards the rise of China and India. Though the scope of discussion and analysis was by no means confined to the economy, economic development and its social and political aftermaths constituted the overarching theme of research on East Asia in the past decades. The recipe of economic success and the wider repercussions of economic transformation (one prevailing theme being how economic liberalization and development would bring about democratization) were the key concerns on the research agenda.
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