The countries of East and South Asia provide a unique development experience. While Japan has joined the group of developed countries much earlier than other countries in the region, China, South Korea, Malaysia, and Taiwan were acknowledged as the miracle of East Asia or newly industrialized economies in the 1990s and with a distance from Japan. The development experience in these countries is not the same, and each has taken a different path. All of these countries have implemented development plans, but their strategies differ. However, the development oriented government, a serious and fierce fight against corruption, reduction of discrimination and need-based policies, is the common point of these countries. In fact, the institutional structure and performance of the East Asian countries, unlike the developed countries, are not the same in terms of scientific and technological progress.
Taiwan has performed better than the other three in terms of fierce local competition, intellectual property rights, quality of science and math education, quality of schools, technology development, university-industry research and technology collaboration, and corruption control. South Korea also has a better position than Malaysia and China in attracting technology, exporting superior technology, the rule of law, fierce local competition, protecting intellectual property rights and quality science and math education. Although China has the highest citations in scientific journals, it is weaker than other countries in terms of technology uptake, corruption control, rule of law and protection of intellectual property rights.
For a comparative understanding of the current state of development of these countries, we can refer to internationally valid statistics and indicators. The Competitiveness Index is one of the most comprehensive indicators to assess a country’s development status. It compares the institutional, political, social, economic, and individual dimensions of development in countries and enables them to understand the effectiveness of country policies, underlying characteristics, and development performance.
According to the latest report, China accounts for 18.69% of the world’s GDP and its average annual growth rate was 6.7% in the last decade. It has a Gini coefficient of 38.6% and ranks 28th in the world in terms of competitiveness. It ranks below 40 in terms of macroeconomic stability, adoption of ICT and infrastructure, but is ranked 65th in the world in terms of institutions (such as social capital, transparency, property rights and security). Taiwan also accounts for 0.93% of global GDP and has averaged 3% for a decade. It ranks 13th in global competitiveness and has the best record in macroeconomic stability (1st) and worst in health (27th).
Japan accounts for 4.14 percent of the world’s GDP, averaging 1.2 percent a decade, and its Gini coefficient is 32.1 percent. It is the 5th country in the world in terms of competitiveness and, with the exception of macroeconomic stability (ranked 41), is in a position better than the 27th in the world in terms of competitiveness poles. It is among the top 4 countries in terms of ICT adoption, health and market scale.
South Korea accounts for 1.58% of the world’s GDP, with a 10-year average growth of 3%. It has a Gini coefficient of 31.6 and ranks 15th in global competitiveness. South Korea is the best country in the world in terms of ICT adoption and macroeconomic stability, but it has the poorest performance in terms of product market ranking 67th.
Malaysia accounts for 0.74 percent of the world’s GDP, with a 10-year average growth of 4.8 percent, but its Gini coefficient stands at 41 percent, which means more inequality than other East and South Asian countries. It ranks 25th in global competitiveness, with its best performance in macroeconomic stability (first) and worst performance in health (62nd).
Singapore generates 0.42% of the world’s GDP and its average ten-year economic growth is 4.6%. It ranks first in the world in terms of infrastructure, health, and product markets, but its worst performance is in macroeconomic stability (42nd), skills (20th) and market scale (27th).
Although these countries are different in some respects, such as macroeconomic stability, they are in a good position in terms of infrastructure and adoption of state-of-the-art technology and have the ability to innovate their businesses.