Globalization and the Asia Pacific and South Asia

This essay explores the relationship between the processes of globalization and the area of Asia Pacific and South Asia. It proposes a framework along three trajectories: the region impacted by globalization, the region pushing globalization forward,
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  13 Globalization and the Asia Pacific and South Asia Ehito Kimura ASIA PACIFIC AND SOUTH ASIA AND THE WORLD Two processes, seemingly in tension with one another are occurring in world politics today. The first is the acceleration of globali-zation, defined as the worldwide integration along economic, political, social, and cul-tural lines. The second is the emerging influ-ence of Asia as a global force. Neither of these processes is absolute, each contains elements of variety, contingency, and uncer-tainty. But given these broad trends, this essay explores the relationship between the  process of globalization and the region of Asia Pacific and South Asia.The essay proposes a framework along three trajectories, the region as an object impacted by globalization, the region as a subject pushing globalization forward, and the region as an alternative to globalization. These three ideals are proposed acknowledging that they are neither complete nor wholly distinct. Instead, they highlight the different ways we might think about varying processes of globalization from a regional perspective. The essay chooses breadth over depth and presents a series of snapshots as a way to offer a larger, if incomplete, tapestry of the relationship  between process and place, between globali-zation and Asia Pacific and South Asia.The term ‘Asia’ itself comes from the ancient Greeks who categorized the world into three continents, Europe, Africa, and Asia. In this sense, Asia as a region was ini-tially defined externally rather than from within. The exact boundaries of Asia have  been a matter of contention since its inception and demarcation has often been made along cultural or political lines rather than accord-ing to any clear geographical rationale. For example, while Russia occupies a vast amount of the Asian continent, it is not usu-ally considered a part of Asia. The Middle East, too, while sometimes included as part of Asia is typically referred to as its own region.A more recent and even less precise regional label is ‘Asia Pacific’. This refers  broadly to the area of the world in or around Asia and the Pacific Ocean. Typically, it Kimura, Ehito. “Globalization and the Asia Pacific and South Asia.” In The SAGE Handbook of Globalization, edited by Manfred B. Steger, Paul Battersby, and Joseph M. Siracusa, Vol. 2. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2014.  GLOBALIZATION AND THE ASIA PACIFIC AND SOUTH ASIA  201 includes the states in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Occasionally, it refers to an even broader area as evidenced by the regional grouping, APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation), which includes economies of the ‘Pacific Rim’ such as Canada, the United States, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. Sometimes, Asia Pacific includes South Asia and even Central Asia, though usually it does not. The ‘Pacific’ part of Asia Pacific usually refers to the Pacific Islands, or Oceania, the island groupings of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.For purposes of this essay, the Asia Pacific and South Asia refer together to the regions of East (or Northeast) Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and South Asia. In addi-tion to differences in language and culture, the variation among states and peoples in this region is vast. It also includes some of the world’s most economically developed states such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, and highly impoverished countries such as Cambodia, Laos, and Nepal. It includes the largest and most populous states on the globe including China and India and some of the world’s smallest such as the Maldives and Bhutan. The countries in the region also vary widely according to geogra- phy, political systems, historical experience, and broad demographic characteristics.Lumped together, the area makes up nearly a third of the world’s land mass and two-thirds of the global population. The combined econ-omies of the region now generate the largest share of global GDP (gross domestic product) at 35 per cent, compared with Europe (28 per cent) and North America (23 per cent) (Asian Development Bank, 2012: 156). It also accounts for just over a third of total world exports of merchandise goods up from a quar-ter in 2001 (Asian Development Bank, 2012: 211). Despite this economic growth, there are still millions of people affected by poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, gender inequality and other socio-economic problems in the region.In addition to its sheer size, the Asia Pacific and South Asia has emerged over the past dec-ade as a new political force in the world. Much of this is driven by the robust economic growth in China and India and the strategic implica-tions this brings to regional and global players. Japan also remains a relevant if declining force in the region and the world, and other countries including the Koreas, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Pakistan all have economic and strategic rele-vance in today’s global system.For all of these reasons, global powers outside of the region are focused intently on the Asia Pacific and South Asia. The United States has implemented a foreign policy shift dubbed the ‘Pacific Pivot’ committing more resources and attention to the region. In a widely read article in Foreign Affairs, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called this the shift from the ‘Atlantic Century’ to the ‘Pacific Century She notes: The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans – the Pacific and the Indian – that are increasingly linked by shipping and strat-egy. It boasts almost half the world’s population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of green-house gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia. (Clinton, 2011) How then are we to think about the relation-ship between globalization and this economi-cally and politically important region? The rest of this essay divides into three parts. The first section takes an externalist view illus-trating the way in which the region has been affected by globalization. The second section takes a generative view showing how the region is an active agent pushing the process of globalization forward. The third perspec-tive shows how the region can be understood as posing an alternative to globalization. Ultimately, no one view is complete, but together they illustrate the dynamism and complexity of globalization. In putting for-ward these perspectives, the essay also sees globalization in broad historical terms focus-ing not just on the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries but further back to colonial and even pre-colonial times.  THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF GLOBALIZATION 202 AN EXTERNALIST VIEW OF GLOBALIZATION One thesis about globalization in the Asia Pacific and South Asia is that it is an external  phenomenon being pushed into the region by world powers, particularly the United States and Europe. From this perspective, globali-zation can be understood as a process that transforms the Asia Pacific and South Asia. On the one hand, it can be seen as a force for good bringing economic development, politi-cal progress, and social and cultural diversity to the region. Others see the darker effects of globalization including its role in economic underdevelopment and the uprooting of local tradition and culture.One of the earliest manifestations of this externalist discourse emerges from the his-torical narratives about the Western ‘arrival’ to the Asia Pacific and South Asia. According to this view, the technologically and industri-ally more advanced Western powers found their way to the region and alternatively  prodded and muscled their way to political and economic dominance. Western superior-ity at the time existed for a variety of reasons, ranging from environmental and ecological advantages to other social, political, and/or cultural characteristics. 1 While we will question some of these assertions later, there is little doubt that colo-nialism in the region beginning from the 1500s brought enormous, often devastating changes. This ‘first globalization’ had deep implications for domestic political structures in many local indigenous polities. One early example of this was the Portuguese invasion of Melaka in 1511 and the subsequent fall of the sultanate, which shifted political and eco-nomic dynamics in Melaka and beyond. Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Visayan region of what would become the Philippines in 1521 marking the beginning of extended Spanish colonial rule in those islands. The Dutch followed in the seventeenth century and slowly strengthened their position in the Dutch East Indies. The British also consoli-dated their power in South Asia, Burma and the Malay peninsula while the French even-tually took control of Indo-China in the late nineteenth century.The mode of colonial rule and domination varied over both space and time. JS Furnivall famously made the distinction between direct colonial rule through colonial administrators and indirect rule though ‘native’ administra-tors (Furnivall, 1956). Depending on the context, some local rulers were simply deposed, but in other instances, colonial pow-ers propped up rulers, formed alliances, or faced significant resistance. Despite these differences, the breadth and depth of transfor-mation that colonialism brought to the region would be difficult to understate. Europeans  brought new economic practices, religious  beliefs, cultural values, and political struc-tures that changed the region drastically.Even places that did not experience colo-nial rule decidedly had to deal with the con-sequences of Western influence. Japan, which had been closed off during the reign of the Tokugawa shogunate, was forced open by the ‘black ships’ of Commodore Matthew Perry in the late nineteenth century. Combined with other factors, this brought about the Meiji Restoration and the subsequent political and economic transformation of Japan turning it into a regional and eventually world power (Jansen, 2002). Thailand too was never tech-nically colonized, but the country underwent significant changes under the rein of King Mongkut (Rama IV) and King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). Rama V in particular is still remembered as a ‘Great Modernizer’ who  brought major political, social, and economic reforms to Thailand (Stifel, 1976).By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, movements for nationalism and independ-ence emerged in many parts of the world including the Asia Pacific and South Asia. While important in its own historical right, these movements were also products of an increasingly globalized world. Scholars of nationalism argue that the roots of national identity lie in the rise of western industriali-zation and capitalism. Once developed, it  became manifested politically in concrete  GLOBALIZATION AND THE ASIA PACIFIC AND SOUTH ASIA  203 movements in colonial areas such as Latin America and Asia. Benedict Anderson, for example highlights the global experiences of nationalist leaders such as Jose Rizal in the Philippines, who came to imagine them-selves as Filipino after being influenced by life in Spain and elsewhere (Anderson, 2007). He also highlights how as the idea of nationalism gained steam, it became modular and spread to other parts of the globe (Anderson, 1991).World War II marks another way in which the region comes to be at once integrated and influenced by external forces. The rise of Japan and the outbreak of war in the Pacific theater after the bombing of Pearl Harbor marked the beginning of the end of Japan’s own imperial domination in the region. After the war, the region became mired in the emerging politics of the Cold War. After World War II, concerns about political insta- bility, faltering economic reform, and the fall of China all pushed the United States and their occupation to stress Japan’s economic growth and its incorporation into the world economy (Ikenberry, 2007: 52). This meant opening up American markets to Japanese goods, drawing on the Japanese market to supply equipment and goods for US armed forces and other aid programs, and eventually incorporating Japan into the multilateral eco-nomic order including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Ikenberry, 2007).Much ink has been spilled about Japan’s subsequent economic ‘miracle’ of the 1970s and 1980s with authors attributing the suc-cess to statist policies, market policies, cul-tural characteristics, and international relations (Johnson, 1982: 6–16). While inter- pretations vary, one argument is that Japan and other East Asian states including Korea and Taiwan were able to adapt their eco-nomic policies in line with what they under-stood as an increasing globalized economic system and benefitted from export oriented growth policies in the 1980s and 1990s. The growth model suggested an important role of the state, contrary to neo-liberal economic thought but it was a far cry from collectivist and autarchic economic policies followed by India and China in the post-war period.The success of the East Asian economies was followed in the late 1980s and 1990s by the highly high-flying growth of Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. The Southeast Asian ‘tigers’ had some similarities to their East Asian counterparts including rela-tively close ties between the state and business elite, some degree of autonomous decision-making structure, and the rise of manufactur-ing. However, the Southeast Asian economies were also much more reliant on infusions of foreign capital, based on fixed exchange rate  policies and corresponding investments and returns (Garnaut, 1998: 1–11).Much of the rise in financial investment can also be attributed to the role of International Financial Institutions (IFIs), namely the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Part of the Bretton Woods system, they were the cornerstones of economic liberalization and globalization in the post-war global economy. While initially designed to help rebuild Europe, the World Bank and the IMF soon turned their attention to the developing world including Southeast Asia. During the Cold War, these institutions came under the heavy influence of the West and so they simultaneously promoted neo-liberal economic policies while also prop- ping up Western and US allies, often times authoritarian figures.In Indonesia, Suharto’s policies and the economic framework under the IMF and World Bank provided crucial assistance as well as a foundation for the legitimacy of the authoritarian Suharto regime. And despite  providing some basis for economic coher-ence, the lenders looked away from the mas-sive amounts of corruption and patrimonialism that occurred in the Suharto regime (Winters, 1996: 86).   In Thailand, the IFIs pushed liber-alization and export oriented growth which led to increasing amounts of foreign invest-ment and double digit GDP growth (Hewison, 1999). In the Philippines, the World Bank and the IMF had a cozy relationship with  THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF GLOBALIZATION 204 Ferdinand Marcos whose tenure had a disas-trous impact on the country’s economy and left it straddled with nearly US$30 billion in debt (Bello, 1982).By the mid-1990s, the policies that had driven high levels of growth in the ‘tiger’ economies began to show their limits. Much of the investment going into places such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia was spec-ulative ‘hot’ money looking for quick returns on capital. When investors began to realize the unsustainability of this model, financial speculators began to attack the currencies,  betting that the central banks would have to readjust their rates thereby netting huge gains for the speculators. In July 1997, the Thai economy collapsed as investment fled like a massive herd and the crisis spread to much of the region (Bullard, Bello and Malhotra, 1998).Once again, interpretations of the Asian Financial Crisis varied. The IFIs and ortho-dox economists argued that the crisis occurred due to poor policies, weak govern-ance, corruption, poor institutions, and inad-equate liberalization (Rahman, 1998). In other words, they argued that globalization had not gone far enough. Other more critical voices argued that the problem was precisely the unfettered capital resulting from pro-cesses of globalization over the past several decades (Bello, Bullardand Malhotra, 2000). Both views however, recognized the deep impact globalization has had on the econo-mies in the region and the influence it played in the creating the 1997 crisis.More recently, attention has turned from Southeast Asia to China and India. For its part, China began liberalizing their economy in the late 1970s with the reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping. India began to liberalize their economy in 1991 and increased levels of trade and foreign direct investment particularly in the textile and services sectors of the econ-omy. While there are significant differences in their approaches to liberalization, both coun-tries have experienced high levels of eco-nomic growth as a result and have also  become much more integrated into the global economy including membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) (Mahtaney, 2008).Economic globalization and liberalization has arguably had other broad regional effects as well. In terms of working conditions in the Asia Pacific, a study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) highlights how labor practices are undergoing significant changes. Among many of the developed countries in the region such as Japan, Korea, and Australia, a more global economy has meant an uptick in non-standard employ-ment, characterized by temporary and part-time employment (Lee, Sangheaon and Eyraud, 2008: 3). In developing countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, there has been an increase in informal employment such as self-employment, fam-ily workers, and informal enterprise workers. The Philippines estimates that 18 per cent of workers are underemployed while in Indonesia, nearly a quarter of all workers are either unemployed or involuntarily underem- ployed (Lee, Sangheaon and Eyraud, 2008: 19). Often these workers do not have legal contracts and even in places where they do, observers have raised serious concerns about working conditions and safety issues at fac-tories that manufacture goods for Western companies (Yardley, 2012).Politics too has been a defining character-istic of globalization. Proponents often argue that liberal and democratic political values should not be interpreted as Western, but rather as universal thus explaining the expan-sion of democracy worldwide. In the region, the past three decades have witnessed a sub-stantial fall in authoritarian regimes with a corresponding rise in democratic regimes. This has been attributed to a number of fac-tors including rising middle classes, a more globally connected world, and the end of the Cold War (Huntington, 1991).The fall of the Suharto regime in Indonesia in 1999 is illustrative. Suharto had been in  power for over 30 years. When the Asia Financial Crisis brought the country’s econ-omy to its knees, large-scale protests, the flight of capital, and the lack of international support
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