Institute of Commonwealth Studies
University of London
28 Russell Square
London WC1B 5DS
This project had been undertaken by a thirteen-member team, over
a three-year period commencing 1 May 1995. This report covers
our efforts during calendar year 1996.
The team of researchers is divided into two groups. The first
consists of scholars doing single-country cases studies. The second
group is engaged in work on cross-national comparative themes.
Year one of the project (up to mid-1996) was mainly devoted to
the preparation of drafts of country studies. They were discussed
at an annual workshop of the entire team in London in July 1996.
Year two of the project (from mid-1996 to mid-1997, so that it
embraces the second half of the year covered by this report) is
mainly devoted to the production of drafts by cross-national,
comparative specialists. That has proceeded satisfactorily. Their
drafts will be examined an another workshop in mid-1997.
The main collective event of 1996 was thus the July workshop,
a two-day meeting. The quality of the papers presented was high,
and the discussion was quite superb -- as the Director of the
Pacific Asia Programme (who was present) can attest. The cases
covered were Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and
Guangdong Province of China. Paper givers received useful criticisms
from other team members, which should enable them to offer revised
texts in year three which should add up to a worthwhile volume.
(The papers on cross-national themes are expected to comprise
a second volume.)
The inter-disciplinary nature of the team has not prevented it
from working well as a unit -- partly because its members are
well skilled at making themselves intelligible to non-specialists.
The decision to permit each country study author to provide not
only a broad overview of the project's themes, but a deeper analysis
of a particular issue on which he or she is well-informed appeared
justified by the content of both the papers and the discussion.
Three personnel changes occurred during 1996. Tim Dyson, who had
intended to do a cross-national study of demographic issues, was
forced to withdraw when the London School of Economics imposed
fresh burdens on him over the next few years. We have, however,
persuaded John Sidel of the School of Oriental and African Studies
to join us, to do a cross-national study explaining the presence
of absence of "local bossism" in a number of countries
in the region. That study will dovetail interestingly with several
other cross-national papers, and can be achieved within our budget.
The third change involved a switch by Jomo K.S. of the University
of Malaya from the cross-national group to the country-study group.
He found evidence on his original topic sorely lacking for several
countries, and therefore turned his attention to the case of Malaysia
-- on which he wrote a find draft paper. This change brings greater
balance to the project, since the country study specialists had
previously been heavily outnumbered by comparativists.
Discussions are proceeding about the possibility of taking some
or all of the members of this team to Bangkok and/or Beijing and/or
Australia during the latter part of the project. But we have no
breakthroughs to report at this time.
We end this year both excited and intimidated by the complexity
of our task -- which is to develop a well-rounded understanding
of the interactions of politics, economic development and state-society
relations in the region. A great deal of work will be needed,
especially in year three (starting 1 May 1997) to integrate our
findings on hugely varied countries and themes.
We began our work with a clear understanding of the diversity
within the Pacific Asia region -- we stated that the differences
between, say Korea and Indonesia were as great as those between
Sweden and Turkey. But our studies so far have brought home to
us just how remarkable this diversity is -- and how difficult
it will be to depict and explain it intelligibly. We are nonetheless
confident that we can achieve some success at this, and at plotting
the changes that have occurred within this varied region in recent
times. It is important that we do so, because it is far too common
in the West to see Pacific Asia as a relatively undifferentiated
amalgam of dynamic economies with rather similar political outlooks.
Return Pacific Asia Programme Page