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Power and Primacy

A History of Western Intervention in the Asia-Pacific

A.B. Abrams

Today the Asia-Pacific region stands on the verge of major change, with centuries of western dominated regional order being seriously challenged and quite possibly nearing its end. The emergence of a potential new order dominated by regional rather than extra-regional powers - an «Asia for the Asiatics» in the words of Japan’s pan-Asian scholars - means it is now more than ever essential to understand the history of the current western-dominated system, the full implications should it continue and the nature of the West’s intentions towards the region.

This book undertakes the task of elucidating the complex and little-known history of western intervention in the Asia-Pacific, providing information critical to understanding contemporary developments

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Chapter 14: Economic War on Asia: South Korea and the Asian Tigers

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Chapter 14

Economic War on Asia: South Korea and the Asian Tigers

A market is not politically neutral; its existence creates economic power which one actor can use against another.1

— Robert Gilpin

A leading cause of leading Western powers’ newfound focus on the Asia-Pacific region has been its increasing economic prosperity since the end of European and American colonial rule.‡ While the West once held a monopoly on the modern industrialized economy, the undermining of this monopoly by the Japanese Empire, and more so later by the USSR, posed a serious threat to the West’s nations’ global primacy in the mid-twentieth century. Asia’s economic rise has particularly since the 1990s, with the Soviet challenge to Western dominance settled, thus been perceived as a key threat to the West’s position as a global center of power.

Though the importance of a retention of Western military primacy has been repeatedly emphasized by analysts and policymakers, it is at least as important if not more so for the Western Bloc to maintain economic primacy – the latter being a key facilitator of the former. Western policy towards the Asia-Pacific has long sought to ensure that the region cannot rival the West in its economic prowess. This was referred to by renowned American scholar George Kennan, chair of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, who stated that the policy goal of the United States in the←483 | 484→ region should be to maintain its ‘position...

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