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10-08-2015, 23:16


In August 1945, Japan was in ruins, its cities destroyed, its vast Asian empire in ashes, its land occupied by a foreign army. A decade earlier, Japanese leaders had proclaimed their national path to development as a model for other Asian nations to follow. But their Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, which had been designed to build a vast empire under Japanese tutelage, had led only to bloody war and ultimate defeat. Half a century later, Japan had emerged as the second greatest industrial power in the world, democratic in form and content and a source of stability throughout the region. Japan’s achievement spawned a number of Asian imitators. Known as the “Little Tigers,” the four industrializing societies of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea achieved considerable success by following the path originally charted by Japan. Along with Japan, they became economic powerhouses and ranked among the world’s top seventeen trading nations. Other nations in Asia and elsewhere took note and began to adopt the Japanese formula. It is no wonder that observers relentlessly heralded the coming of the “Pacific Century.” The impressive success of some countries in East and Southeast Asia prompted several commentators in the region to declare that the global balance of power had shifted away from Europe and the United States toward the lands of the Pacific. When Western critics argued that eastern Asia’s achievements had taken place at great cost, as authoritarian governments in the region trampled on human rights and denied their citizens the freedoms that they required to fulfill their own destiny, Asian observers retorted that freedom was not simply a matter of individuals’ doing what they please but rather represented an opportunity and an obligation to serve their community and achieve the betterment of their fellow human beings. Such views not only reflected the growing selfconfidence of many societies in East and Southeast Asia but also their growing inclination to defend Asian values and traditions against critics in the West.