Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Catching up with the West: a perspective on Asian economic development

Singh, Ajit (1996): Catching up with the West: a perspective on Asian economic development. Published in: Economic and Social Development into the XXI Century, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC (1 January 1997): pp. 222-265.

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Following closely my remit, this paper reviews and assesses Asian economic development in the recent post-1980 period, as well as over the somewhat longer time-span since WWII. Its chief purpose is to draw analytical and policy implications from this experience. This is a challenging but pleasant task, since, conceived at least in narrow economic terms (growth of per capita incomes), the Asian story is generally speaking one of outstanding success. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that post-World War II economic expansion in a number of Asian countries are the most successful examples of industrialization and fast growth over a sustained period in the entire history of mankind. Recall that Japan in 1950 produced less than 5 million tonnes of crude steel per annum and a little over 30 thousand motor vehicles of all types. The US output of steel at that time was nearly 90 million tonnes and it produced about 7 million automobiles per year. By the mid-1970s the Japanese had caught up with the US in the production of steel and replaced West Germany as the world's largest exporter of cars. By 1980 Japan overtook the US to become the largest producer of automobiles in the world.

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