The speedy and successful industrialization in a significant number of East Asian countries has generated a discussion about the political changes that came before the economic transformations (Laothamatas 113). In the recent years, news headlines of global newspapers were filled with news of violence that engulfed many East Asian countries. The citizens of these countries have become increasingly vocal on the role of the government and the citizen's role in the government. Democracy is not the main form of government in the majority of East Asian countries. However, as the nations progressed, social changes and economic developments have put progressively more pro-democratic forces in the vanguard. Evaluating the economic growth and social democratization forces and their contribution to democratization provides a valuable study topic.
The international politics of East Asia are extremely powerful. This occurs due to the political divisions between nations. Korea is split into North and South Korea while China is divided politically. Historically, the divided East Asia had been labeled as a non-democratic region. However, after the Second World War United States occupation of Japan led to its democratization. Japan acted as the fortification of democratization in the following years despite the onset of Cold War in East Asia. The study of the East Asian economies poses a few mysteries to the students of democratization. East Asian countries have defied the global call for democratization. Over 80 countries have adopted democratization since the commencement of the present wave of democratization in 1974. However, a significant number of East Asian countries have maintained authoritarian and semi-democratic regimes. As per 2005, only six out of the eighteen sovereign states in the region were free (Freedom House 424). To understand the impacts of political and social democratization on economic development in East Asia, it is critical to look at three countries: China, Japan, and Korea.
China's economy has been growing at an unprecedented rate. It is projected that it will overtake the United States economy in the next two or three decades. However, despite the sensible economic reforms in China, the political system has remained as a significantly one-party state. Democracy is unachievable due to the ban on the formation of a political party that contests the ruling Communist Party. However, the Chinese population is increasingly becoming adapted to economic growth and urbanization. As the middle class, occupy the most prosperous town and education levels rise progressively in the country, it is anticipated that the demand for an increased say in government will grow. Additionally, Chinese leaders have prioritized democratization as their ultimate goal.
Over the last two decades, China has experimented on the process of democratization with the democratization of the local government (Wang 20). The rising tensions between the local governments and the citizens, an increasing demand for improved public services, and deteriorating levels of corruption led to the implementation of democratic reforms. The core of China's democratic experiments has been the initiation of competitive elections at the township level; this is the lowest level of the Chinese government. Commencing in the late 1990s, Sichuan, the most populated province in China introduced the direct election of township chiefs. Other provinces in China have followed suit. It is anticipated that democratic reforms at the local level can result to improved quality of governance and aid in renewing the authenticity of the Chinese political system.
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Japan has outstanding differences with the other East Asian countries. For instance, Japan commenced the modernization of its social institutions and political systems and industrialized its economy earlier than the other East Asian countries. Additionally, the post war Japan possessed a stable and democratic system, as opposed to the authoritarian governments, unstable multi-party politics, and widespread political violence and revolutions, witnessed in other East Asian nations (Kesselman, Krieger, William, Ervand and Christopher 224). Thus, there are various lessons that the other East Asian nations can learn from Japan's industrialization, modernization, and democratization.
The modern day Japan has been characterized by an interventionist state throughout its history. This means that the government has played a significant role in the country's economic progress. The earliest leaders aimed at establishing Japan as a wealthy nation with a strong army. In the subsequent decades, Japan thrived with an economy that grew at a steady rate. However, after the World War I, the economy fell into a severe and prolonged slump. This led to political turmoil. The economic distress was aggravated by the global depression that saw Japan implement a harsh authoritarian rule locally and a militarist expansion abroad. This resulted into the World War II. After the war, Japan abandoned the strong military agenda and concentrated on the rich nation agenda. The policy led to a prolonged period of economic growth and political stability under the Liberal democratic Party rule (Kesselman, Krieger, William, Ervand and Christopher 224).
Economic development in Korea can be linked to the advent of democracy in the country that occurred in the 1980s. Economic development resulted in societal disequilibrium. The demands for democracy that occurred in Korea in the 1980s comprised the efforts that were targeted at re-synchronizing the country's value structure with its division of labor and eradicating the sense of injustice that was prevalent among the citizens in the 1980s (Chalmers 63). Korea's economic development strategy was a replica of Japan's model. It resulted in a pattern that was highly marked with imbalances in development: high levels of economic growth, noteworthy levels of economic growth, and low levels of political development. The imbalance was significant for Korea since it produced great success when it was initially implemented.
The unintended result of the strategy was the collapse of the societal equilibrium, which is the loss of consistency between the societal values and the division of labor. Depending on the aptness or inappropriateness of the measures that are implemented to correct the disequilibrium, a revolutionary situation may result. This was the case of Korea after Chun's military repression policies and the 24th Olympiad. The outcome of Korea's revolution was the installation of a political democracy (Chalmers 64). A positive correlation exists between democracy and economic growth. Economic growth promotes democracy; economic progress cannot be sustained in the long run without relaxing political restrictions. Thus, the economic progress of Korea can be attributed to the relaxation of political restrictions and the installation of democracy.
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