Chapter 5: The International System and Democratization in East Asia

 

Whitehead argues that roughly 80-90% of cases of nations currently classified as democratic by Freedom House as of 199? experienced major international forces in their process of democratization. Almost half of the cases of democratization come from nations gaining independence from the British empire. A dozen cases were democracies imposed by the Allies after World War II. Most of the other cases are linked to the end of the Cold War. Nine recent cases of democratization occurred with the breakup of the Soviet bloc, and thirteen cases were anti-communist authoritarian regimes whose repressive tactics were undermined by the disappearance of the communist threat and the end of U.S. support for anti-communist dictatorships.

Whitehead posits three dimensions of international influence over democratic transitions: 1) contagion, 2) control, and 3) consent. These are not mutually exclusive variables, but different assumptions about agency in democratization. Explanations based on contagion do not assume any agency, only geographical and temporal proximity. Control brings in the international factor, especially the role of great powers. Consent takes into account how domestic forces respond to international trends and powers. Whitehead argues that combining these levels of analysis gives the most sophisticated understanding of the international effects on democratization.

As evidence of contagion, Whitehead points to five clusters of democratizations within particular regions in relatively short periods of time, which together make up more than half the cases of currently active democracies: Western Europe at the end of the first world war, the Caribbean during decolonization, Iberia/Latin America beginning with Portugal in 197?, Eastern Europe during the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and Southern Africa in the 1990s culminating with the end of aparthied in South Africa. The most obvious cases of control are the Allied imposition of democracy on defeated powers after the second world war and the British imposition of the Westminster system as a price of decolonization. Whitehead argues that the final dimension of international effects on democratization take the form of consent, that is the interaction of domestic and international players in the complex process of democratic transition.

In the same volume, Schmitter expands on Whiteheads three levels by adding a fourth and breaking these categories down into a two-by-two table based on the number of international actors and the degree of coercion. Cases of democratization by contagion are relatively voluntary and unilateral. Cases of control are coercion by one great power. Schmitter adds the concept of conditionality to refer to cases of coercion in a multilateral context, such as conditions the EU imposes on potential members or the IMF and other international lenders impose of borrowers. Cases of consent are relatively voluntary acts of democratization in a multilateral international context.

 

 

 

II. The International System and Waves of Democratization

Perhaps the most perceptive work that focuses on the relationship between democratization and the international system is Samuel Huntington's The Third Wave. Huntington points out that virtually every case of a polity adopting a democratic political system comes in one of three periods in history. Between the successive waves of democratization are periods of reaction against democratization when large numbers of democracies fail and revert to non-democratic regimes. Huntington calls these "reverse waves." He shows that the percentage of governments that are liberal democratic has ebbed and flowed with international tides.

 

Looking at democratization from this global-historical perspective highlights the role of the international system in democratization. The large N quantitative studies of the economic and social correlates of democracy have usually been cross-sectional rather than cross-time, comparing many countries without reference to historical processes within individual countries. Even those quantitative studies that use cross-time analysis rarely include international system variables. In contrast, most historical studies of democratization focus on one country, a few countries, or a region. Such studies are much richer in the details of particular cases, but tend to focus on country-specific variables, or generalizations that are region-specific. Neither type of research puts enough emphasis on the global forces which shape democratization. At best both types of analysis tend to note parenthetically that the international system provides certain background conditions that facilitate democratization in particular countries. At worst, the international system is completely ignored. Yet when one looks at Huntington's analysis of the successive waves of democratization and reversal of democratization, one cannot escape the conclusion that the international system plays a large role in the democratization process.

Huntington's explanations for the waves of democratization duly note the role of the international system. He points out that the international system plays an increasingly important role in each succeeding wave.

Huntington's argues that explanations for each succeeding wave of democratization must be different. He attributes the first wave of democratization to three factors: 1) economic and social development in northern Europe, 2) the economic, social, cultural, and intellectual environment of countries settled by British emigrants (the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand), and 3) the victory of the Western allies and the creation of new nation states out of old empires.

Huntington's analysis of the second wave of democratization puts more emphasis on international factors. He notes that most new democracies in this phase fit into three categories: 1) states in which the victors imposed democracy on the losers or their dependencies, 2) states which "moved in a democratic direction because the Western Allies had won the war," and 3) democracies which arose out of western decolonization.

Huntington identifies five causes of the third wave of democratiztion, most of which focus on international variables: 1) "legitimacy problems of authoritarian regimes in a world (with) democratic values," 2) global economic growth in the 1960s, 3) changes in the role of the Catholic Church, 4) shifts in the policies of the EC, U.S., and the Soviet Union, 5) the demonstration effects of democratic transitions in the early part of the third wave.

 

World War, Cold War, and Waves of Democratization

Huntington rightfully places much more stress on international factors than most analysts. But he still does not emphasize clearly the role of war and war-bloc alliances in waves of both democratization and anti-democratization. He also largely misses the significance of Anglo-American-Western hegemony in the choice of nations to adopt or reject democratic forms.

In each wave of democratization, the victory of the hegemonic power or powers in world war or cold war is a major stimulus to democratization. Huntington's first long wave of democratization should really be broken down into two periods: 1) a long period from the early 19th century to the early 20th century when the first modern democracies germinate, and 2) a shorter burst around the time of the first world war, when the first concentrated wave-like spread of democracies appears. Most of the cases of early democratization emerged in northern Europe and English settler states, and can be seen as due mostly to indigenous causes, although some demonstration effects should not be ruled out.

But virtually all the cases of democratization in Huntington's first wave outside of northern Europe or English settler states come in a short burst, mostly after the Allied victory in the first world war. A second burst of democracies appears at the end of the second world war, during the decolonization of the European empires when the United States has assumed the role of hegemon. The third wave of democracies appears with the collapse of the socialist challenge to U.S.-Western hegemony in the international system.

 

Explaining the Correspondence of World War, Cold War, and Waves of Democratization

This pattern of bursts of democracies around victories of the western Allies in world war or cold war is due in part to American, British, and later EC promotion of democracy. After the first world war the British imperialists tried to place pro-British forces in power as they carved up the defeated Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Turkish empires. In eastern Europe, the pro-British forces also happened to be pro-democratic as well. Pressures from the Americans, who were more self-consciously promoting democracy, contributed to the Allies favor toward pro-democratic forces in the new eastern European nations.

After their victory in the second world war, the United States and its allies consciously put democratic regimes in place in Germany, Italy, Austria, and Japan. As the exhausted British retreated from their global empire, they tried to tip the balance in the new nations between pro-western or neutralist forces which tended to be pro-liberal democratic, and pro-Soviet, anti-liberal democratic forces so as to keep the newly independent nations in the western camp or at least out of the Soviet camp.

In the third wave, first southern, and then eastern, European nations that wanted to join the EC knew that democratization would facilitate their integration into the new European reality. Western success in pressuring southern and eastern European nations toward economic and political liberalization and democratization encouraged the U.S., the EC, and various multilateral bodies like the OECD, the IMF, and the World Bank to link economic aid to non-European nations more directly to economic and political liberalization.

Interestingly, even Huntington does not place as much emphasis on international factors in explaining waves of reaction against democracy. Yet when one looks at the two historical reverse waves, one sees that they both are related to changes in the international system brought on by the world wars and particularly reactions against Anglo-American hegemony in the international system. A large number of the emergent democracies were created by the western Allies after both world wars and these were the polities most likely to succumb to the reverse waves. Although the sequence of events is different, in both reverse waves there is:

1) the rise of a new war bloc to challenge Anglo-American hegemony

2) the rise of a new anti-liberal democratic ideology

3) the demonstration effects of another road to modernization

4) the collapse of many of the liberal democratic regimes installed by the western Allies in new states created after world war

The Cold War was a crucial factor in the second wave of reaction against democratization, and of course, the end of the Cold War was a major trigger to the third wave of democratization. Communist ideology had been around for a century, and the Soviet Union was formed in 1917, but the Soviet Union had few allies who held state power until after the second world war. Orginally the Soviet war bloc consisted only of regimes it imposed during its postwar occupation of Eastern Europe. But pro-Soviet forces had played a leading role in many of the insurgencies against Japanese and German occupation in many nations during the war and in the independence movements against the weakened western European empires after the war. With the revolution in China and the massive wave of decolonization, communist ideology became a global challenger to American hegemony.

With the collapse of international communism and the Soviet Union in the last generation, it is hard for us today to remember just how dynamic international communism appeared in the post-World War II period. But in little more than a decade after the end of the war, pro-Soviet regimes gained control over appoximately a quarter of the world's people and a large chunk of the Eurasian land-mass. The Soviet economy was growing faster than the U.S. economy, and pro-Soviet insurgencies were being carried on in large parts of the Third World. No functioning democracy moved directly from the American to the Soviet camp. But socialist ideology was a global force. Many of the newer democracies in the Third World succumbed to anti-Soviet military coups, and many more became nominally socialist dictatorships, with friendly ties to the Soviets. The apparent success of the Soviet Union and its allies had major demonstration effects on the Third World. For those nations trying to emerge from under the colonial or commercial domination of the West, there was an alternative road to modernization.

In the early years of the Cold War many U.S. and British policymakers saw democratization as the way to maintain pro-western regimes in decolonizing nations and the rest of the Third World. But very early on the western powers saw that sometimes they would have to choose between democratization and keeping nations in the anti-Soviet camp. Attempts by the American occupation forces to root out the economic and social bases of fascism in postwar Japan ended with the Chinese revolution. In the mid-50s the CIA backed coups against quasi-democratic regimes in Guatemala and Iran because the new regimes were hostile to western economic and strategic interests. When the French gave up on reconquering Indochina the U.S. and British opposed free elections in a united Vietnam because they knew the communists would win. What began as ad hoc reaction eventually became doctrine. The differentiation between "authoritarian" and "totalitarian" regimes was largely a legitimation of U.S. and western support for military coups in situations where communists might come to power. By the mid-1960s the U.S. was backing military coups against democratic and quasi-democratic regimes around the world, with Brazil, Indonesia, and Chile being only some of the most notable.

To summarize, the second wave of democratization was given much of its impetus by the creation of new states by the European empires exhausted by the second world war and the second wave of reaction against democracy was driven in part by the rise of the socialist challenge to western liberalism. As a consequence of the war, western powers, especially the British, tried to install pro-western, democratic governments on the defeated powers and newly decolonizing states. But as the Soviet bloc rose to challenge the U.S. and its western allies, western support for democracy in the Third World was tempered by Cold War considerations. The socialist bloc became an alternative model for newly created states, and many of them gravitated away from the West and western liberalism. Beginning in the mid-50s and intensifying in the 60s, the U.S. and its allies were more often intervening in favor of military coups that promised to keep Third World states in the western camp than in favor of democratic transition. Once the Soviet threat disappeared, the third wave of democratization accelerated, in part because the "second world" had collapsed and in part because the triumphant West no longer feared the outcome of democratization might be socialism.

There are many similarities in the international dimensions of the first and second waves of anti-democratic reaction. Although the sequence of events is different, in both cases there is the initial Allied imposition of friendly, democratic regimes in new nation-states. In both cases there is both local and international reaction against these democracies as tools of foreign hegemony. In the first wave of anti-democratic reaction, fascism and other forms of militant nationalism are the emergent anti-liberal democratic ideology. While in the 1920s the English and the other liberal democratic powers were unable to stem the tide of depression, Mussolini made the trains run on time. By the early 1930s fascism provided the ideological glue to a new war bloc which challenged Anglo-American hegemony. The rise of fascism was brought about by the interplay of militant nationalist ideology, anti-western mass parties, the increasing political power of the military, and the eventual alliance of like-minded anti-western regimes. The relative economic success of fascist regimes during the Great Depression provided powerful demonstration effects that there were alternatives to liberal capitalism and democracy. By the beginning of the world war, most of the democratic regimes installed at the end of the previous war no longer existed.

Early Twentieth Century Democracies That Failed

NEW POSTWAR STATES AND

DEFEATED POWERS

TRANSITIONS

TO

FASCISM

SOUTH

AMERICA

AND OTHER

     

Germany

Germany

Columbia

Austria

Italy

Argentina

Hungary

Portugal

Uruguay

Czechoslovakia

Spain

Chile

Poland

Japan

Greece

Estonia

   

Latvia

   

Lithuania

   

The theory of the relationship between western hegemony, challengers to western hegemony, and global conflict is not just a post hoc explanation of historical waves of democratization. It also has predictive power. If the post cold war world sees a stable, peaceful western hegemony, then one would expect a large number of the third wave democracies to be successful, and perhaps other nations to follow suit. If a new challenger or alliance of challengers to western hegemony arises with enough international clout to form an anti-western war bloc, one would expect a large number of third wave democracies to collapse and few new ones to be initiated.

If the post cold war world is more multipolar than the 20th century has been, then the history of the 20th century is not as clear a guide as to what to expect. But it still can be predicted that if a multipolar world is essentially peaceful, with few massive regional conflicts, then new democracies are more likely to appear and to survive. If a multipolar world is rent with major regional wars, then this would be bad for the establishment and survival of new democracies. If a multipolar world oscillates between periods of relative peace and more intense regional conflicts, then new democracies would be more likely to be created during the periods of relative peace and to fail during periods of intense conflict. Regions experiencing greater regional peace would be more likely to produce and sustain democracies while regions that experienced more intense conflict would be less likely to produce and sustain democracies.

 

World War, War Blocs, and the Domestic Politics of Democratization

One should not oversimplify or exaggerate the role of international factors in democratization. Of course, domestic factors like level of economic and social development, political culture, elite choices, etc. are also important, in most cases probably more significant than international factors. But the very fact that democratization has historically come and gone in waves indicates that the international system also has its impact. International conditions facilitate certain choices in individual nations, encouraging or discouraging democratization at different periods in history. International forces clearly tip the balance in close cases, or else we would not see the clustering of cases into waves of democratizaton and reversal of democratization. With the growth of global communications, the international integration of economies, and the consequent rapid spread of ideas and institutions across national borders, the international system will only grow in importance in the process of democratization.

The question remains, how do changes in the international system translate into changes in domestic regimes? In many cases the mechanism has been direct. Postwar victors imposed democratic regimes on defeated states or new states carved out of defeated empires. Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, and Japan were all democratized after one or both of the world wars. Colonial powers, especially the British, imposed democratic regimes as part of the price of decolonization. Direct imposition of democratic regimes by the West accounts for a large number of the cases of democratization in the second wave and most of the cases at the end of the first wave.

But there are no cases of direct impositon of democracy by foreign powers in the third wave of democratization. And there are few such cases in Latin America which escaped colonialization in the early 19th century and avoided the ravages of the world wars, yet which has swung toward democracy and away from democracy with international tides. There are at least 5 ways the domestic politics of democratization is influenced by international factors: 1) modelling, 2) demonstration effects, 3) foreign support or intervention, 4) bandwagoning with hegemonic powers or challengers to hegemons, 5) militarization of domestic politics which undermines democratic forces and processes.

Nations undergoing transition to democracy are often consciously modelling themselves after existing democracies. The political and economic success of western nations makes their political system seem desirable and feasible to nations with different systems, particularly if these nations are undergoing recurrent political crises. Conscious modelling after the West and EC nations in particular is most obvious in the third wave of democratizations. which began with democratic transitions in Spain and Portugal as these nations made both political and economic changes that paved their way for the entry into the EC they both desired. When the Soviet bloc collapsed many eastern European nations clearly desired to join the EC and NATO and consciously emulated the West in both economic and political transitions away from socialism. But modelling can work in the other direction too. European and Latin American transitions to fascism were clearly influenced by the perception that first Italy and later Germany offered new roads to the modern world. Many states in the 1920s and 30s consciously emulated Italian fascist political institutions. Even more clearly the Soviet Union and its form of socialism provided an alternative model to liberal democracy in the second reverse wave against democracy. The collapse of the Soviet model helped trigger the third wave of democratization.

Successful transitions to democracy provide demonstration effects for nations uncertain of whether democracy is appropriate for their nation. The political and economic successes of the transition regimes in Spain and Portugal in the early part of the third wave encouraged Latin American nations with similar cultural backgrounds to try the same thing. Later, Eastern European nations with cultural affinities, but more importantly, similar goals of integration into the EC and the West, followed suit. If Spain and Portugal had been mired in economic or political crisis early in their transition to democracy, Latin American and Eastern European nations undergoing political crisis might have been more leery of turning to democratic institutions as a possible solution to their problems. By the late 1980s and 1990s, democracy had become almost the international fashion. Any nation undergoing political crisis was tempted to turn to democratization as the answer to their problems.

Hegemonic powers, their allies, and their challengers often provide large scale economic, political, and even military support for regime transitions that favor their political interests.

Direct intervention by great powers is often coupled with bandwagoning by less powerful nations. Victories by the hegemon and its allies in world war or cold war stimulates bursts of international interventions in favor of pro-hegemonic regimes. Many nations are then induced to bandwagon with the victorious powers. Bandwagoning may include not only strategic alliances but also transition of the domestic regime into a form favored by the hegemon. The hegemon serves not only as a positive model for less powerful or less modernized nations, but also as a magnet for states that want to be on the winning side in future international conflicts. Adopting the form of government of the hegemon is a powerful signal of the desire to enter that power's sphere of influence and the depth of commitment to a long-term alliance.

When a new challenger to the hegemon arises, there are also nations that bandwagon around the new power. Like with states that bandwagon with the hegemon, sometimes this reaches as far as transition of the domestic regime into a form similar to that of the new ally. This pattern was most apparent at the beginning and end of the Cold War, although it can be seen in the first half of the 20th century as well.

We have seen how the international system affects the conscious choices of non-democratic nations to attempt to democratize. But the international environment also has less direct and sometimes even unconscious effects on the propensity of nations to democratize. Basically, war and preparation for war is not healthy for democracy, whereas the end of world war or cold war has been a stimulus to democracy. War is the antithesis of democratic decisionmaking. It is deciding politics through bullets rather than ballots. Civil war is the antithesis of the civil peace, which is a necessary precondition for the development of the kind of civil society characteristic of democratic systems. Military values of hierarchy and obedience are the antithesis of egalitarianism, individual conscience, and democratic choice. World war and preparations for world war increase foreign military and paramilitary intervention of great powers in the internal politics of less powerful nations, which is the antithesis of the democratic principle of self-determination. War and the contesting of war blocs often turns domestic politics into civil war.

When there is world or regional war or when the international system is broken into war blocs, the military and militant nationalist forces in all nations are strengthened and democratic forces are thereby weakened. When the international system is more pacific, the military and militant nationalist forces tend to be weakened, and democratic forces are thereby strengthened. Wars and war bloc intervention turn civil conflicts in particular nations into civil wars. Relative international peace lessens international military intervention into civil conflicts, weakens the political clout of the military in domestic politics, and thus indirectly strengthens civil peace and the potential for civil society to flourish.

Regional war and war preparations are also hostile to democratic transition. It is just that regional conflicts have mostly regional consequences. They rarely have global impacts unless they affect the strategies of hegemons or potential challengers. Thus the end of the cold war unleashed regional conflicts in the Balkans and the Islamic periphery of Russia that had been suppressed by the Soviet war bloc. These regions remain almost as unhospitable to democratization as they had been under Soviet rule. But unless and until these clashes provoke hostile relations between the West and Russia or some other potential challenger to western hegemony, such regional conflicts are unlikely to affect global trends of democratization.

The question remains as to how to reconcile theories using international factors to explain waves of democratization and the correlates of democracy literature which shows a strong relationship between democratization and certain domestic indices of development, particularly levels of income. Perhaps one can begin with P+'s article stressing the difference between establishing and maintaining democracy. P+ argues that the relationship between the initiation of democratic regimes and level of income is actually weak. Instead, they argue that the level of income has its most significant effect on whether democratic regimes succeed or are replaced by dictatorships. If their analysis is correct, then one could argue that international effects like modelling, demonstration effects, bandwagoning with hegemons, support from hegemons, and the general global climate etc. play an important role in the decision to attempt democracy, but domestic factors like level of economic development play a greater role in determining whether transitions toward democracy will survive.

Of course, the relationship between domestic and international factors is more complex than this simple hypothesis. The level of a nation's economic development is a factor in the attempt of the West to fully incorporate a state. One need only to look at the differences in the EC's responses to Spain and the Czech Republic as potential members vs. its responses to Turkey or Balkan states as candidates to see that the attractiveness of a potential member is related to its level of economic development. Similar differences can be seen in U.S. policy toward Mexico vs. Haiti. Mexico was incorporated into NAFTA while Haiti was treated like a virtual colony, largely because of the different levels of economic development in those nations.

The level of economic development is also related to the ability of a state to survive and prosper under the rules of the game favored by the hegemon. In other words, liberal capitalism and democracy are more likely to work without provoking a massive regime crisis in states like Spain or the Czech Republic than in states like Turkey or Bulgaria, and both western powers and non-western states recognize this. States that are confident of successful integration into the hegemon's sphere are more likely to initiate and maintain the domestic democratization that is part of this process of integration than those that are not so confident of success.

The level of economic development is also correlated to racial and cultural factors which in and of themselves make states more or less attractive candidates for full incorporation into the West. Historically, the level of a nation's economic development has been highly correlated with its geographical closeness to the industrial powers of northern Europe and its percentage of northern European settlers. Southern European and Eastern European neighbors of Germany have generally been more economically advanced than the Balkans and non-European states. English settler states like North America and Australia have matched European levels of development and Latin American countries with higher ratios of European settlers have outstripped neighbors with higher rations of Native Americans.

But even if the Turkish economy were as advanced as Germany's, it is unlikely Turkey, as an Islamic nation, would be accepted as a full partner in the EC. Balkan states fall into a more gray area of cultural differentiation. As slavic nations with closer historical and cultural ties to Russia than the West, they are suspect. But because they are white Europeans, they may eventually be accepted. Democratization will certainly be one cruical test. If they fail to democratize along the EC model, that will most likely be taken as proof that political and cultural differences are too great for full incorporation into the EC.

 

III. Democratic and Anti-Democratic Waves in East Asia

 

Like in the rest of the world, democratization has proceeded in waves in East Asia. East Asia missed the first international wave of democratization. Huntington classifies Japan as the only case of democratization in East Asia as of the 1920s and there is reason to question putting early 20th century Japan in the ranks of democracies. In any case, whatever democratization Japan acheived was erased with the rise of the fascism during the first international reverse wave of anti-democratic regimes.

Democratization really begins in East Asia during the post-World War II decolonization in the second international wave of democratization. In the 1940s and 1950s regimes modelled after western democracies were formed in the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and to a more limited extent in South Korea. However, corresponding to the global reverse wave against democracy, in the 1960s most of these regimes failed and were replaced by military autocracies.

A second wave of democratization swept through East Asia in the 1980s and 1990s, beginning with the "people power" movement which overthrew the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Most of the democratic regimes that were established in the 80s and 90s are still intact, although they face many difficult challenges. One sign that a new wave of anti-democratic reaction may be brewing can be seen in elements of the recently emerging "Asian values" campaign, which is strongest in Malaysia and Singapore, but which also has begun to resonate in key states like China, Japan, and Indonesia.

WAVES OF DEMOCRATIZATION AND ANTI-DEMOCRATIC REACTION IN EAST ASIA

The First East Asian Wave of Democratization: 1945-1960

1945: Korean independence from Japan

Occupation of Japan, beginning democratization process

1946: Filipino independence under liberal democratic regime

1949: Indonesian independence under liberal democratic regime

19??: End of American occupation of Japan

1954: Independence of Indochina: North and South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos

1957: Malaysian independence under liberal democratic regime

1959: Singaporean independence under liberal democratic regime

1960: democratic regime briefly established in South Korea

at peak of first wave in 1960: 5 functioning democracies:

Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore

plus new democratic regime in South Korea

Wave of Anti-democratic Regimes in East Asia: 1961-1972

1961: military regime established in South Korea

1966: military regime established in Indonesia

1969: Malaysian parliament suspended

1972: martial law declared in the Philippines

by 1972 only Japan and perhaps Singapore remained liberal democracies

Second Wave of East Asian Democratization

1986: democracy restored in the Phillipines

1987: liberalization begins in Taiwan

democratic constitution in South Korea

1989: democracy movement in China

1992: liberalization in Thailand

The Colonial Legacy

Like the rest of the world, most of East Asia was subjected to European colonialism. The British ruled what is now Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Burma. The French ruled Indochina, what is now Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Dutch ruled what is now Indonesia. The Phillipines were orginally conquered by the Spanish, but were transferred to the U.S. it won the Spanish-American War in 1898. China escaped complete conquest, but was carved into spheres of influence by the western powers. Only Japan and Thailand escaped the imperialist onslaught. Korea became a Japanese colony in the early 20th century.

Western occupation spurred aspirations for political freedom. It also inculcated aspirations for democracy in many local elites. Local elites were ambivalent about the West. On the one hand, they resented their subordination. But on the other hand, they coveted the advanced technology and institutions they associated with the West. They looked for ways to gain their political independence, affirm their national identity and cultural traditions, and at the same time modernize their nations. Many thought that independence under western-style democracy was the best way to achieve these often conflicting goals.

The Japanese occupation of most of the western colonies in Southeast Asia and much of China during the second world war spelled the end of the old European empires. When the Americans and their allies defeated the Japanese, many nations experienced a brief respite from foreign control. The European powers tried to return to rule their old colonies as before, but they had been exhausted by the war, and their home economies lay in ruins. The Dutch gave up hopes to reoccupy Indonesia, which gained independence in 1949. In 1954 the French withdrew from Indochina. The British followed through on their war time promise of Indian independence and by the 1960s they had let go of all their East Asian possessions except Hong Kong.

However, the old European powers and the new hegemon the U.S. were not without their influence over the independence process. They maneuovered hard to keep the newly independent nations pro-western, or at least out of the Soviet bloc that arose at the end of the war. They iced leftist forces out of independence negotiations and pursued campaigns to eradicate communist influence before they turned over control to "responsible" natives."

Military Rule and the Eclipse of East Asian Democracy

The new liberal democratic regimes established during the postwar decolonization had many difficulties. The Cold War made the international environment increasingly hostile. The communist revolution in China, the subsequent Korean War pitting the U.S. and its allies against China, and the conflict between French imperialists and Vietnamese communists polarized East Asia into two camps. Korea and Vietnam were divided into pro-western and communists halves, and Chinese anti-communist forces set up in Taiwan. In the new democracies of Southeast Asia internal conflict did not take democratic forms, but often tended toward civil war, with opposition forces gravitating toward Soviet or Chinese style communism, and pro-western governments increasingly relying on military coercion to maintain their power. Guerilla wars and counterinsurgency campaigns broke out in varying degrees in several states, the most intense in Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Vietnam. The niceties of liberal democratic theory had little to do with these bloody power struggles.

 

The Economic Resurgence of East Asia

Post-World War II East Asia was one of the poorest regions in the world. A century of intense European colonial exploitation had actually driven down living standards for most of the people in the region. China, which until a couple centuries earlier had enjoyed greater economic development than Europe, lay in ruins from a hundred years of foreign invasions beginning with the Opium Wars and culminating with the devastation of the Japanese onslaught. Japanese industry was reduced to rubble by American fire bombing, which left most Japanese cities in not much better shape than the nuclearly bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet by the end of the 20th century East Asia was emerging as a third center of the world economy, comparable to North America and western Europe in size and scope.

Japan, the first non-western nation to become a great industrial power, again led the way. The postwar Japanese economy grew at double digit or near double digit rates for a generation. Growth slowed in the 1970s but continued at rates nearly double that of western Europe until the early 1990s, until by the late 1980s the Japanese economy second only to the U.S. in size.

Four smaller East Asian economies, the so-called 4 tigers or 4 dragons--South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, grew at similar rates to Japan during the second half of the 20th century. With the exception of the disastrous Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, Maoist China also grew at more rapid rates than most nations. Chinese economic growth really took off in the post-Mao liberalization which spurred a generation of double digit or near double digit economic expansion. By the 1980s three Southeast Asian members of ASEAN--Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia--were also posting extraordinary rates of growth.

Reform, Liberalization, and Democratization

The changing economic conditions in East Asia and its changing position in the world division of labor brought on signficant political changes as well. Rapid industrialization and rising incomes altered East Asian societies and the alignment of political forces. The nations of Southeast Asia increasingly coalesced, as ASEAN became a force for political integration and economic liberalization. Many East Asian economies began to run large trade surpluses with the U.S. and other western powers, bringing complaints of closed markets and unfair trading practices. APEC was formed as a forum to discuss trans-Pacific economic issues, indicating the increasing importance of trade, investment, and other economic issues to nations on both sides of the Pacific.

The Cold War had dominated the political landscape in the Pacific Basin, and the end of the Cold War transformed East Asian politics. As China came out of its isolation in the 1970s and 80s, it became a major economic and political force in the region. Slowly, as its trade decifics mounted and its concerns with Russian military power diminished, the U.S., which had long subordinated trade and human rights matters to security issues, came to see its interests in East Asia as more multidimensional.

Economic and political reform accompanied economic growth. The changes were most dramatic in China which with the death of Mao abandoned much of Maoist dogma and embarked on a course of market socialism. The Marcos dictatorship was ousted in the Philippines and the Taiwanese and South Korean military autocracies were liberalized. ASEAN states, with the exception of Thailand, generally resisted political liberalization but pursued economic liberalization and political integration as a means of improving their competitive power.

The wave of liberalization and democratization which swept through East Asia in the past decade is consistent with both the correlates of democracy literature and the theory of international waves posited earlier in this chapter. East Asia certainly experienced rising national and personal income, increasing rates of literacy, and a growing middle class.

However, in addition, the rising economic power of East Asian nations was based on their greater integration into the global system of production and division of labor. The greater the dependence on East Asian nations on exports to the West, the greater their incentives to adopt at least the forms of liberalism and democracy which would ensure them full participation in the international institutions of global capitalism. It is also worth noting that the East Asian wave of democratization coincides neatly with the decline and fall of the Soviet bloc. The end of the Cold War and the rise of democracy in East Asia are nearly coterminus.

The Asian Values movement

The rise of East Asia as a global economic force has been dramatic, but its integration with western economies has not always been smooth. Trade friction between western and eastern nations have become endemic. The squabbles between the U.S. and Japan gain the most attention because they are the two largest national economies in the world and the biggest trans-Pacific trading partners, so whatever happens between them sets the tone for the entire global economic system. But the U.S., the EC, and individual European nations have all sparred with most East Asian nations over trade barriers.

Human rights is another contentious issue. The stand-offs between the U.S. and China over human rights in China and Hong Kong have taken center stage because of the importance of relations between these two contending powers. But Indonesia has drawn criticism from European nations, led by Portugal, over its conquest and continuing repression of East Timor and its suppression of opposition political parties. Singapore has drawn criticism for its treatment of Catholic missionaries and international journalists. As it joined the OECD, South Korea was severely critcized for suppression of its trade union movement in violation of OECD conventions. Western nations' requests to put the rights of organized labor on the table at the WTO and other international forums have been stoutly resisted by most East Asian nations. All the nations of ASEAN have been criticized by the U.S. and western human rights activists for allowing Burma to join ASEAN without first ending its repression of its domestic opposition.

The U.S. is still the largest single export market for most East Asian nations, and most industrial production in East Asia is still geared to western markets. But East Asian nations must also accommodate themselves to rising Japanese and Chinese economic and political power. East Asian nations experience difficulties penetrating the Japanese market, but Japan is a major trading partner for all states in the region. Significantly, Japan has replaced the U.S. as the leading foreign investor in virtually every East Asian nation. China's massive population still has little effective purchasing power, so China is not an important export market at present, but its future potential is large, not only economically, but politically. Already China has become a major magnet for investment from newly industrialized Asian nations. Trade between Asian nations is increasing much more rapidly than trade with nations outside the region. While the East Asian economies are not nearly as integrated as the EC or the Atlantic economies, they are integrating rapidly.

The combination of East Asian resentment of western pressures for economic liberalization and expansion of human rights and the growing economic integration of the region has spawned the so-called Asian values movement. The most visible proponents of the Asian values movement on the international scene are Prime Minister Mohamed Mahathir of Malaysia and former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew.