Comparative Asian Capitalisms: Organizing Market Economies Across East and South Asia
The new research direction will build on the solid work on demographic dynamics and human capital development already completed or still ongoing at the JYP CARC. It broadens the Centre’s core comparative research themes to tackle a “big question” that remains as one of the most fundamental development issues confronting East and South Asian countries – the divergent market organization of capitalist economies. A quick comparison of China and Japan (Northeast Asia) with India (South Asia), Indonesia and Thailand (Southeast Asia) will yield immediate, albeit cursory, observations on their different political-economic dynamics, legal and institutional systems, state-firm relations, innovative capacity, human capital development, and corporate and financial governance. These critical dimensions of their contrasting capitalisms can impact significantly on their current and future developmental trajectories.
Over a programme period of 3-5 years, a theoretically grounded comparative approach to analyzing this fundamental issue is likely to bring new insights (1) to enrich existing debates on different forms of global capitalisms; (2) to advance empirical understanding of Asian economies; and (3) to develop evidence-based policy recommendations for governments and business communities in Asia. Drawing upon diverse research talents in different schools and faculties of NUS, the research programme aims to develop the CARC into one of the world’s premier centres for comparative Asia research. Key research foci for funding support are:
(1) Political-economic dynamics of state and non-state institutions in capitalist development
(2) Comparative analysis of firms and institutions in industrial transformation
(3) Changing knowledge and innovation systems at the national and regional scales
(4) Human capital, migration, and labour market dynamics
(5) Governance: corporate governance, legal and regulatory systems, and financial market development
These research foci provide fertile ground for cross-national comparative studies that can enrich our understanding beyond studies based on single country cases. While the focus is preferably placed on the key development issues in China, India, and Indonesia, experience in other Asian countries will also be drawn upon in enhancing our comparative understanding of market organization and economic development.
Three strategic considerations for this CARC-led research programme are paramount, as Asia gains more economic clout in the new millennium, more Asian economies become market-oriented, and these economies are becoming more integrated into global production networks through cross-border trade and investment. These considerations will be at the forefront of the research investigations funded by the Centre.
First, theglobalization of Asian economies has fundamentally challenged the empirical accuracy and theoretical relevance of existing social science explanations developed during the last two decades of the 20th century. In particular, forms of market organization in Asia are rapidly changing and show strong tendencies of converging towards advanced industrialized economies in North America and Western Europe. This convergence is particularly evident in national economic development strategies, legal systems and intellectual property regimes, national R&D policies, technological change, financial market development, labour market restructuring, environmental policies, and so on. Yet, there remain unique distinguishing features in how Asian economies operate, even in this era of accelerated economic globalization. For example, intra-regional economic integration in Asia works very differently as compared to the European Union and North America. Comparative research insights into these ongoing processes of the dynamic transformation of economic organization in Asia are needed.
Second, a comprehensive understanding of this transformation can provide immensely important insights into the processes and outcomes of development, particularly but not limited to investment decisions, business strategy, R&D activities, market development initiatives, state policies, institutional change, and intra-regional economic integration. Although these processes and outcomes are being studied in different disciplines and in independent research projects throughout the world, these critical dimensions of transformational change in Asia have not often been brought together in a truly comparative and multidisciplinary setting.
Third, the rise of Asia and its dynamic economies has led to the greater importance of developing research capabilities based in Asia. Growing Singapore’s national research capacity requires a strong comparative understanding of Asian economies, which can be achieved by rigorous research conducted in Asia and for Asians. This reorientation of social scientific research towards Asia calls for new and comparative research that will enable Asia-based researchers to play a significant role in the world of social science, including business, law, and public policy schools.
The CARC’s programme on comparative economic organization in Asia can contribute significantly to the existing academic perspectives pertinent to the core issues at hand. These conceptual perspectives are highly influential in a wide range of cognate disciplines in the social sciences, such as economic sociology, political science, development studies, economic geography, strategic management and organization studies, and public policy.
Developmental state: Originating from the comparative studies of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore in the late 1980s, this perspective explains the superior economic performance of rapidly industrialized Asian economies through the strong administrative guidance and targeted industrial policies of their respective developmental states.
Global production networks and global commodity chains: Since the late 1990s, these interrelated perspectives account for the diverse economic development processes and outcomes in Asian economies in relation to their differential roles in global production networks (e.g. clothing and electronics) that are coordinated by global lead firms from North America, Western Europe, and Japan.
Varieties of capitalism and business systems: Since the late 1990s, this perspective explains the strategic management, organization, and performance of national firms in relation to their domestic political-economic configurations and business systems (e.g. institutional structures, labour relations, legal systems, and capital markets). Similar to the developmental state perspective but contrary to the global production networks perspective, this approach affords more explanatory power to internal or national factors in individual Asian economies.
Organizational networks and institutional analysis: Developed in the 1990s, this approach focuses primarily on how inter-organizational networks are formed and organized in specific Asian economies. It differs from the business systems approach because state and non-state institutions assume a less prominent role. Instead, strategic and management processes are deemed more critical to the formation of these networks.
Market transition perspective: Linked closely to institutional analysis, this perspective focuses on the political and organizational dynamics, such as property rights, governance structures, labour and financial markets, and so on, in the emergence of and transition to marketized economies in China and Eastern Europe.
National/regional innovation systems: This approach explains the nature and organization of scientific research, R&D capabilities, and technological change in advanced industrialized economies and developing Asian countries. This explanation is based on favourable government policies towards innovation, legal and institutional frameworks, and firm-specific activities.
The CARC’s research programme serves as not only a hotbed for these intellectual ideas and theory development, but also a unique “laboratory” for the empirical testing of these competing ideas. The Centre provides an appropriate organizational platform to bring together a critical mass of researchers based in NUS, who are interested in the market organization of East and South Asian economies.
Approaches and Expectations
Competitive research grants starting at $100,000 (up to $1 million) are open to NUS faculty to pursue multidisciplinary comparative research in these areas. Principal investigators of large grants (over $300,000) should be tenured faculty. There is no deadline for grant calls. Interested researchers should contact the CARC directly for further information and discussion.
Projects are expected to make fundamental contributions to one or more of the above conceptual perspectives in understanding comparative Asian capitalisms. These contributions should take the form of high-quality and high-impact publications and regular disseminations in major international conferences.
Grant holders and their team should conduct empirical studies and fieldwork in two or more Asian countries. This empirical research can take the form of large-scale quantitative analysis based on secondary databases and surveys AND/OR qualitative analysis based on interviews, case studies, and archival work.
Researchers are expected, if relevant, to work in consultation with business and policy makers in the host countries in order to facilitate the dissemination and application of their research findings.
Workshops and forums can be held to brainstorm ideas and bring together key researchers and/or policy makers from Asian countries to engage in debates and enrich national understandings of the issues through cross-national exchange.
Funding for visiting scholar appointments may be provided to stimulate knowledge exchange and international collaboration.
Dr Samir K.C.
Leader of Modelling Human Capital Project, World Population Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis & Vienna Institute of Demography Research Theme: Methodology of Education Projections; Sub-national level projections Webpage
Dr Christophe GUILMOTO
(January - April 2013)
Senior Fellow in Demography at Center for Population and Development (CEPED), Paris Research Theme: Fertility trends in India from the 2011 census; Social and demographic preconditions for distorted sex ratios in East and South Asia; Co-organized conference ‘40% of the World: Population Change, Human Capital and Development in China, India and Indonesia’ Webpage
Dr Bilal BARAKAT
(January - May 2013)
Research Scholar, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) & Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) Research Theme: Literacy and educational development in India from the 2011 census Webpage
Professor Wolfgang LUTZ
(September 2012, January 2013)
Founding Director, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital
NUSS Distinguished Professor Webpage