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How Asia works: two kinds of economics and the rise of a divided continent

Joe Studwell's Book

This talk explained that the story of East Asian development is the means to understanding the nature of economic development worldwide. Joe Studwell dissected the region’s history to show how, for many years, heady economic growth rates masked the most divided continent in the world – a north-east Asian group of states that is the most extraordinary developmental success story ever seen, a south-east Asian group that proved to be a paper tiger.

Studwell talked about why land reform and complementary policies to maximise agricultural yields, an acute focus on manufacturing industry combined with what he calls ‘export discipline’ to extract high returns from industrial subsidies, and financial repression and controlled capital accounts, were the keys to successful accelerated economic development. He answered Charles Kindleberger’s famous question about whether there is more than one kind of economics by concluding there are at least two: the economics of development and the economics of efficiency that countries require a er they achieve a certain level of economic development. What that level is remains open to debate, but East Asia provides us with clues. Finally, Studwell argued that the ‘north-east Asian model’ of development remains as valid, and as possible, today as ever. He talked about China’s current structural adjustment process, about Jokowi’s little-reported efforts to refocus development efforts in Indonesia on high-yield household agriculture, and about the remarkable transmission of ideas about development from north-east Asia to Ethiopia, where he has recently been working.

Joe Studwell has worked as a freelance writer and journalist in East Asia for more than 20 years. He has written for the Economist Intelligence Unit, e Economist, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Observer Magazine and Asia Inc. From 1997 to 2007, Joe was the founding editor of the China Economic Quarterly (CEQ), the recognised English-language journal of the Chinese economy. He was also a founder and director of the Asian research and advisory rm Dragonomics, now GaveKal Dragonomics.
His previous books include Asian Godfathers: money and power in Hong Kong and south-east Asia and e China Dream: the quest for the last great untapped market on earth. His latest book is How Asia Works: success and failure in the world’s most dynamic region. As well as writing and researching, Joe is a frequent public speaker. Recent public sector speaking engagements included the keynote for the 10th anniversary of the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, and a keynote as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Joe’s latest research focuses on the learning process in the energy equipment manufacturing sector in China since 1980. is work will be published rst as a PhD thesis at the University of Cambridge, and subsequently as a book.
is event is cosponsored by the Southeast Asia Center.