[KS] KSR 2004-13: _The Foreign Economic Policies of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan_, by Christopher M. Dent

Stephen Epstein Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz
Fri Sep 10 21:07:14 EDT 2004

_The Foreign Economic Policies of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan_, 
by Christopher M. Dent, 2002. Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward 
Elgar. 330 pp. (ISBN 1-84376-271-4).

reviewed by Ruediger Frank
Univesity of Vienna
rfrank at koreanstudies.de

	Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have attracted significant 
attention because of their remarkable economic success, and, more 
recently, the democratic transition in their political landscapes. In 
all three cases, external economic relations have played a key role 
in successful development.

	Christopher Dent, in The Foreign Economic Policies of 
Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, wants to understand how these have 
engaged in the international economic system, and to what extent 
their success can be attributed to their respective foreign economic 
policies (FEP). The book develops its analytical framework in the 
first two chapters, continues with three chapters on the single 
country cases, and ends with a section that offers a comparative 
summary. As the author notes, the book is the product of three years 
of work, during which over two hundred people from 147 agencies were 

	Research on the economic development of Singapore, South 
Korea and Taiwan is anything but an academic niche; numerous studies 
have been written on each case, as well as from a comparative 
perspective. Dent concentrates on the role of FEP within the 
developmental paradigm and claims to have developed a new analytical 
framework whose relevance extends beyond the three countries under 

	The author follows standard academic procedure in first 
critically examining the existing literature on FEP analysis, which, 
according to his assessment, is mostly descriptive and lacks a 
consistent methodology. He does not, however, elaborate on the 
possible application of new institutional economics - which is much 
more than just transaction cost theory - to FEP analysis, although 
"network dynamics" are briefly mentioned (p. 36). Such an application 
might have been helpful in refining the methodological framework.

	Dent distinguishes between FEP protagonists (actors), powers 
(nation-states), formation (structure) and stake-holding 
constituencies. He points at the difficulties in defining a proper 
empirical domain for an analysis of FEP, and criticizes the indeed 
overwhelming dominance of U.S. case studies in both the specific 
field of FEP analysis as well as in international political economy 
more generally. He concludes that despite useful first steps, no 
comprehensive macro-framework of FEP analysis has yet been developed.

	Dent's conclusion leads him to present his own framework, in 
which FEP analysis "is viewed from the perspective of its various 
interactive functions that co-exist dynamically within wider 
'environment' and 'development' contexts." (p. 7). This co-existence 
is shaped by environmental factors (e.g. market conditions, 
contesting norms and ideas, international economic structures) and 
developmental factors (economic paradigms, position in the 
inter-national economic structure). Dent's interactive functions 
consist of (1) technical policy realms (e.g. trade, FDI, 
international finance, development assistance, human resource 
development, infrastructure, fiscal and monetary policy), (2) 
cognitive-ideological approaches (various "-isms", value-system 
traditions, etc.), (3) generic 'economic security' objectives (e.g. 
socio-economic paradigms), (4) contesting 'actor-based' influences 
(domestic politics, bureaucratic power, economic nationalism, etc.), 
and (5) economic diplomacy. Dent's analytical framework seeks to 
highlight and explain the interactions between these five functions. 
Although such analysis is by its very nature highly complex, and 
could easily occasion a separate volume, Dent's twenty-three pages on 
this matter (pp. 7-29) provide a helpful introduction to this 
important topic.

	The second chapter sets out to specify how this general 
theory operates with regard to Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. 
Dent identifies five major commonalities between Singapore, South 
Korea and Taiwan: all adhere to developmental statism, possess a 
semi-peripheral status, qualify as NIEs, favor export-oriented 
industrialization, and contain key elements of contemporary East 
Asian dynamism (p. 34). In emphasizing "the central role of the state 
as the key determining factor of East Asia's economic miracle" (p. 
36), Dent reflects the most commonly held perspective on East Asian 
economic development. He then turns to neo-liberalism's challenge to 
this paradigm, and asks whether this challenge means an end to the 
central role of the state in these economies or simply represents a 
factor that will cause the state to adapt. By characterizing the 
three countries as part of the "semi-periphery" (p. 52), Dent assigns 
them a structural position within the global economic system that 
highlights their historical progress inward from the periphery toward 
the center. He acknowledges that neither developmental statism nor 
the "semi-periphery" is a new or uncontested concept. His 
determination to utilize them nevertheless, instead of following the 
most recent academic fashion, deserves to be encouraged, particularly 
so since, as the following chapters show, this approach produces 
valuable results.

	The following three chapters concentrate on each individual 
country case. They are more extensive than the preceding parts and 
provide a comprehensive summary of each country's FEP. In particular, 
those readers whose familiarity is with only one of the case studies 
under question will benefit from the book's comparative perspective. 
Dent's application of a unitary methodology in analysing each case 
gives it an advantage over many edited volumes on similar topics. 
Chapters Three through Five help the reader isolate which FEP 
characteristics are shared by all three countries, which are shared 
by two, and which are country-specific. The earlier specification of 
the macro-model proves very helpful in guiding the reader through 
this process.

In the final chapter, Dent summarizes the results of his comparative 
analysis. Given the complexity of his research subject, the twelve 
pages he devotes here are too few for this important chapter, in 
particular since the study was conceptualized and executed as 
analytical, not descriptive. For the sake of consistency, it would 
have been helpful if the single sections in the conclusions followed 
the sequence developed in Chapter One (technical policy realms, for 
example, appear first in the introductory chapter, but fourth in the 

	Academics who well know the difficulty of acquiring a fair 
understanding of even one country, given the need to master language, 
culture and a multi-faceted societal reality, will greet attempts by 
a single researcher to provide a comparative perspective of three 
countries with caution. Furthermore, ambitious, comprehensive 
macro-economic theoretical models and methods are only rarely 
accepted when developed by area specialists. Dent's attempt to 
en-gage in both tasks in one book represents a very courageous 
undertaking. Time will tell whether the academic community will 
accept his case study analyses here and whether his theoretical model 
can be fruitfully applied to other cases. The result notwithstanding, 
Dent has highlighted a number of desiderata in international 
political economy: the delineation of universal, regional and 
country-specific characteristics, the application of a coherent 
analytical framework in a comparative approach, and the need to test 
hypotheses based on Western experience on other economies, including 
those of East Asia. Throughout the book, and particularly in the 
first two chapters, Dent profitably draws on decades of extensive 
research by well-established scholars.

	This attractively produced volume is to be recommended 
primarily for readers with at least basic knowledge of East Asian 
political economy. Given its focus on FEP, the book would make good 
supplementary reading in classes on East Asian economic policy, or as 
a case study in international political economy courses. A 
combination with similar works on Japan would prove fruitful in the 
classroom, as Dent repeatedly refers to Japan throughout.

Frank, Ruediger 2004
_The Foreign Economic Policies of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan_, 
by Christopher M. Dent (2002)
_Korean Studies Review_ 2004, no. 13
Electronic file: http://koreaweb.ws/ks/ksr/ksr04-13.htm
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