AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 249

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Session 249: Democracy and Development in East Asia

Organizer: Benjamin Reilly, Australian National University, USA

Discussant: Andrew MacIntyre, Australian National University, Australia

Over the past decade, East Asia's new and emerging democracies - from Mongolia, Korea and Taiwan in Northeast Asia to Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor in Southeast Asia - have introduced a succession of political reforms. At the same time, the success of China and other authoritarian regimes offers an alternative political model. This panel examines the developmental impact of these different political trajectories. What have been the impacts of political reforms across the region? Have changes to political institutions led to demonstrable variation in economic growth, the provision of public goods, budget policies, or the development of the welfare state? Or have they essentially represented ‘institutional tinkering’ in which the rules of the game change but the deeper forces driving political outcomes remain the same? This panel examines this issue from a variety of disciplinary lenses, including both political science and economics, but always within a clearly comparative framework that ranges across both Northeast and Southeast Asia.

The Nature of Asian Politics
Bruce Gilley, Portland State University, USA

This paper considers three well-known general theories of the nature and dynamics of Asian politics: cultural, statist, and developmental. Each has been articulated by a range of scholars in different ways, and each establishes a core set of assumptions and claims about what makes politics in Asian countries (considered here as the 16 countries of East and Southeast Asia) distinctive from politics in other regions. The well-known paradigms of "developmental state", "Asian Values", and "Asian economic miracle" are in fact dyadic hybrid creations of these three approaches. I use this paper to interrogate the comparative evidence for each general theory and their hybrids, showing their strengths and weaknesses. I propose an alternative general theory of Asian politics that subsumes these other theories.

Electoral Governance in East Asia
Benjamin Reilly, Australian National University, USA

My previous work has investigated one of the most distinctive aspects of democratization in Asia over the past decade: ambitious political reforms to electoral systems, political parties, and parliaments. I argue that, across the region, these reforms have been motivated by common aims of increasing government stability, reducing political fragmentation, and promoting more centrist and cohesive political parties. But what are the causes and consequences of these reforms? This paper argues that Asia's emerging model of electoral governance reflects an increasing reconciliation between elite and mass attitudes towards democracy in Asia, both of which are strongly instrumental in character.

East Asia’s Democratic Developmental States and Economic Growth
Michael T. Rock, Bryn Mawr College, USA

There is substantial evidence that political elites in East Asia have pioneered a distinct brand of democracy. Unlike their counterparts in the rest of the developing world, they have opted for a set of democratic institutions—particularly electoral and party systems—with a strong majoritarian bias that privileges efficiency and accountability over representativeness. Some have labeled these democracies ‘democratic developmental states’ or growth oriented democratic governments. Because the political architects of East Asia’s democratic developmental states have met at least some of their objectives it is time to ask: Have these developmental democracies delivered on their growth promise? The simple answer is yes. In fact, the empirical evidence that follows demonstrates that the contribution to growth from majoritarian democratic institutions is as large at that from the developmentally oriented authoritarian governments who ushered in East Asia’s economic miracles.  

Democracy, Regime Stability and Welfare Regimes in Southeast and Northeast Asia
Aurel Croissant, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Comparative studies of the welfare systems in East and Southeast Asia and of processes of democratic change have been undertaken by Western researches and, even earlier, by Asian scholars. These two strands of comparative research on democracy and welfare in Asia however, have largely developed in isolation of each other. Therefore, our knowledge about the impact of political change on welfare regimes and the role of welfare policies for regime stability or instability in East and Southeast Asia remains underdeveloped. This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of the democracy-autocracy-welfare nexus in the region. It examines the relationship between political change, the transformation of welfare regimes in seven countries and the patterns of social (in)justice in seven East and Southeast Asian countries. The countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Firstly, the paper discusses three comparative perspectives on Asian welfare systems. Second, it undertakes a systematic review of the development, the structures and the outcomes of different welfare regimes in the region. Then, we explore if and when, how, democratization has had an impact on the development of welfare regimes in South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. In contrast to these “emerging democracies”, we will analyze how welfare politics have contributed to the stability of “semi-democratic” regimes in Malaysia and Singapore.