The political economy of Pax Nipponica: Pacific Asia, Japanese economic expansion and elite perception
Von der Mehden, Fred R.
Doctor of Philosophy
This thesis addresses the issue of Japan's economic expansion in East and Southeast Asia and its regional political implications. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches are employed to capture the significance of Japan's economic role in the world's most dynamic and productive region. This thesis tests the relationship between elite perception of dependence on Japan and the statistical reality and evidence of Japanese economic linkages in the region. More importantly from the methodological point of view, this thesis incorporates the phenomenon of Japan's economic expansion in Asia into the political economy paradigms of development. Advanced statistical analyses are used to capture the impact of Japanese investment and trade on three standard development indicators--the economic growth rate, employment generation and human capital development in Pacific Asia. This quantitative treatment of the topic is then supplemented by 98 in-depth elite interviews taken between September 1992 and January 1993 in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Going beyond the questions related to dependency and Southeast Asian elites' concern about Japanese ventures in the region, the survey attempted to understand whether the elites regarded Japan as a potential political and military leader in Asia. Thesis findings provide access to the opinions of a powerful core group of current Asian leaders. The results from statistical analyses generally support the neo-classical model in the context of regional development experience and economic linkages with Japan. The interview analyses reveal a perception among Malaysian and Thai elites of dependence on Japan. The Asian elites are concerned about technology transfer and opening up of management in Japanese corporations. A substantial percentage of the elites perceive a Japanese economic empire in Asia. A significant finding of this research is the divergence between statistical evidence of a lack of dependent development and the Southeast Asian elites' perception of economic dependence on Japan. Another important finding is that while an overwhelming number of the elites considered Japan to be the economic leader and a potential political leader of Pacific Asia, a slight majority of the interviewed elites disagreed with the general statement that Japan could emerge as a military leader of the region.
Political science; Economics; Asian history; Australia; History of Oceania