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The Asian Economies in the Twentieth Century

Author(s):Maddison, Angus D.S.
Rao, Prasada
Shepherd, W.F.
Reviewer(s):Olds, Kelly

Published by EH.NET (May 2002)


Angus Maddison, D.S. Prasada Rao, and W.F. Shepherd, editors, The Asian Economies in the Twentieth Century. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2002. xi + 250 pp. $85 (hardback), ISBN: 1-84064-045-6.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Kelly Olds, Department of Economics, National Taiwan University.

This book is a collection of eight papers arising from the editors’ COPPAA project (Comparison of Output, Productivity and Purchasing Power in Asia and Australia). These papers contain growth statistics and analysis that will interest some scholars. Readers familiar with the work of Maddison or the ICOP group will feel at home with this research. The book begins with a short introduction and a paper by Maddison and Ark that is intended as a short refresher course in ICOP methodology and a restatement of some previous ICOP results. Of the seven papers that follow, three are comparative studies of (1) the farm sector in seven Asian-Pacific economies, (2) the manufacturing sector in Australia and the U.S. and (3) factors behind South Korean and Taiwanese economic growth. The four remaining papers are country studies dealing with economic growth in China, India, Indonesia and Japan. Besides the general theme of twentieth-century Asian economic growth, the papers have little in common and are best treated separately.

1. Rao, Maddison and Lee compare farm sector performance in the U.S., Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. They focus on the year 1987 and have data for the years 1961-1994. They try to extrapolate results back to 1900. Most of the text actually deals with the theoretical pros and cons of using Geary-Khamis methods compared to EKS methods. The estimates seem to have been done competently, but explanation of how their actual figures were derived is quite short. For example, in calculating value added, they forget to explain how their estimates of non-farm inputs were derived.

2. Shepherd and Rao look at manufacturing in the U.S. and Australia over the period 1970-1995. They focus on various measures of productivity and their main result is that Australian productivity may have been lower relative to the U.S than previous studies have shown.

3. Ark and Timmer use a growth accounting framework to compare the rapid economic growth of South Korea and Taiwan. Their results are similar to others who use this approach — most growth is due to capital accumulation but improvement in total factor productivity has been substantial particularly in Taiwan. Their estimates of the increase in total factor productivity are lower than that of some previous studies.

4. Pilat gives a good overview of Japan’s twentieth-century economic performance in his paper, but as he states it is an updating of his earlier work. Not much has been added.

5. Wu examines change in industrial output and labor productivity in China from 1949 to 1994. His work confirms that the Chinese data for this period are very poor and that official statistics probably overstate industrial output.

6. Sivasubramonian estimates the GDP of the Indian subcontinent for the period 1900-1946. His estimates are largely based on his Ph.D. dissertation. He then combines his estimates with official economic statistics for the state of India after 1948. He does not explain why he ignores post-independence production in Pakistan and Bangladesh. His estimates show economic stagnation before independence.

7. Van der Eng opens his review of the growth of the Indonesian economy in the 20th century with an indecipherable tangle of prose that leads one to wonder how much editing and critical review COPPAA gave to these papers before publication. Van der Eng’s paper improves from this point on, however, and a competent exposition of Indonesian economic growth is one reason one might purchase this book.

In sum, this collection of papers contains some useful data and analysis but it resembles an intermediate good more than a finished project. Researchers who focus on Asian economic growth might want to have a copy in their institution’s library.

Kelly Olds’ research on Taiwanese history has been (or will be) published in the Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics and Social Science History.

Subject(s):Economywide Country Studies and Comparative History
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII