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May 04

Thoughts on the East Asian Miracle and Backwardness in Muslim World

The East Asian miracle is referred to the remarkable success and high growth and development of eight countries in East Asia- Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan (China) and Thailand over a smaller period of time than Western countries. Simply put, there are two views on how an economy should run, namely the Western free market model, in which the market forces are allowed to decide and government intervention is minimal, and the full government intervention model, i.e., the Soviet model, where the government intervention is high such that market failure is remedied by market replacement. The East Asian countries, in summary, have pulled out a spectacular achievement, churning out development in about 4 decades that took the Western nations more than 8-10 decades. World Bank economist Joseph Stiglist asks, what policies and factors led to this growth, and can others replicate these policies to emulate such rapid growth?

The questions are problematic on many levels. Firstly, the Western concept of free market economy is challenged, as these countries followed government intervention in the economy to stimulate growth and regulate the direction of this growth over the several decades. Secondly, the government in these countries remained single party system government or near authoritarian regimes for almost the whole period, unlike the West where the system of government is liberal multiparty democracy. Thirdly, if these economic policies are replicable, does it mean that the Western models and policies are being undermined, and that the authority of the West with their model of free market economy can be questioned?

Stiglist found some common trends in the East Asian countries, which he believes led to the development success story. They include, stable governments (long stable regimes), removal of corruption and its disappearance over time (an attribute of long stable regimes), good, in fact brilliant economic policies by these East Asian governments (that means good governance), an efficient bureaucracy, good education systems, willingness to adopt latest technology, large scale investment in research and development of new technology, growth of class of technological experts which took the development of the nation to a new level, etc. In effect, these nations were lucky to get long regimes under committed and conscious leaders, who strived to develop their nations and economies. Their visionary stances helped to create amongst people a belief in the state and in the future. The leadership worked hard to reduce their dependence on foreign aid, assistance and technological superiority. But they needed money, and dependence upon the West and its World Bank meant incurring future debt. They turned towards their people and initiated in them a national fervor to participate in government initiated saving schemes which generated a lot of money, due to their belief in long term high profit returns. This money was then wisely used and reused to develop expertise – institutions, experts, infrastructure, to develop their countries and take them to new heights. Based on an export model, where there was the realization that in order to compete, their products had to be more technologically advanced, and cheaper, they invested heavily in R&D. Large companies and conglomerates were born, and the economy flourished. These nations flourish by two ways, some by having created huge multinational conglomerates – Japan and South Korea, others by becoming regional commercial and financial hubs – Hong Kong and Singapore, where all the big banks and financial institutions are. They have been success stories, and the West and America doesn’t want you to think that these can be replicated, hence the term “East Asian miracle”, the narrative being that such success cannot be emulated and is a result of a set of extraordinary conditions.

But coming to an obvious question, we may ask; why does the larger Muslim world not have such success stories? Similar to the East Asian countries, we have had authoritarian regimes such as in Egypt, and long reigning monarchs in the Middle East. We share colonial pasts, where the Europeans colonized us. And as added bonuses in contrast to the East Asian nations, we have an abundance of natural resources. For some, the answer may be that we have had corrupt regimes, bad economic policies, lack of technological development and lack of education. But why? Does that mean that Muslims are inferior to the East Asians? Does that mean that Muslims are less hard working, and tend to be under bad governance always as a matter of fate, because they truly deserve it?

The answer is simple. No. Firstly, its important to note that Muslim nations have not been alone in this, and are joined by nations of Africa and South America in their misery and underdevelopment. Moreover, East Asia has been lucky for two reasons; they have had visionary leaders, and they have far fewer natural resources, which means lesser attraction to resource hungry developed nations. The Muslim nations have been unlucky with their leadership. But it is true that their geographical position is such that they are much endowed with natural resources. And the developed world needs natural resources, and hence needs to control who has access to them. Hence post-colonialism in the Muslim world in the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and the non-Muslim nations in Africa and South America have meant neo-colonialism of a highly terrible kind; the interference of the colonial powers never ended. Thus, the liberal developed West, to maintain its dominance and control, always covets to control the political landscape of these nations, talking of liberal values when it is needs to ditch an anti-Western autocrat/democratic regime, and shamelessly supporting an autocratic/monarchy regime if it is pro-Western. As a result, the presence of corrupt leadership in these lands has never faded, as leadership with conscience and good intentions cannot conspire with the West against their own people, and hence are not allowed to remain, as evidenced by the numerous CIA South American junta supportive coups and continued Western support of autocratic regimes in today’s Middle East. The West, with its media, bureaucracy and military might, cannot allow matters to proceed otherwise. Anybody taking up grievances in this regard, eventually get identified as anti-Western fundamentalists, or gets pushed towards terrorism, or in the case that they manage to come within the paradigm of democracy and liberal values and gain power, such as FIS in Algeria, or Brotherhood riding the waves of popular support in Egypt in 2011, are gagged and replaced eventually with corruptible pro-Western puppets, with the full unequivocal support of the West.

The problem now is actually Islam, the violent book called Quran, hatred of the West and America in these countries and societies, lack of civilization, remnants of Communism, absence of love for LGBT’s (how barbarically backward), jihadist tendencies among restless populations, hardline extremist Quranic interpretations, creeping Shari’ah, the oppressed Muslim woman in her hijab who needs to be bombed to make her free, etcetera, etcetera.

Stay calm, and eat muri.

Note: An interesting side note is that Chinese and Japanese multinational companies and search for resources in the Muslim world and African and South American subcontinent has also occurred. But these Chinese economic expeditions have not resulted in uproar in the Muslim nations. The so called terrorists do not blow up Chinese of Japanese cities or have Chinese or Japanese Al Qaeda or ISIS units. Many Chinese still work without fear in Africa, Afghanistan, the Arab world, and do not incur the wrath of the so called terrorists. There may be exceptions, but what has been stated is largely true. The targets always turn out to be Western and their perceived collaborators. In this regard, it is clear that the nosey interventionist policies of Europe, UK, US et al stand to blame, unlike Chinese/Japanese approach which seems solely focused in trade and economic profit at large.