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[Editorial] Any Breakthrough in Lee Kuan Yew’s “Declining Four Asian Dragons” ?

[Editorial] Any Breakthrough in Lee Kuan Yew’s “Declining Four Asian Dragons” ?

Posted April. 10, 2005 23:23,   


Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore, said that the era of the four Asian Dragons-South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong-is coming to an end, and that China and India are the next emerging powers. This remark is consistent with the Korea Development Institute’s (KDI) concerns that the Korean economy will lag behind that of India and Russia as well as China within a decade. Amid this situation, it concerns us how the vision of “Northeast Asia balancer” will affect the Korean economy.

“China and India, accounting for 40 percent of the world’s population, will change the axis of power by posting growth rates of eight to 10 percent and six to seven percent, respectively,” Lee asserted on April 7. “The four Asian Dragons no longer have the influence to change the world.” According to his words, it is a matter of time before China, the world’s factory floor, and India following right behind it become economic superpowers. Moreover, the ways in which Singapore and Korea respond to this huge transformation in the global economic map are very different.

Singapore is boldly investing not only in China but also in India. It is buying companies, research institutes, and banks in India, and is making aggressive attempts to attract Indian companies to do business in Singapore. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong puts its U.S. military alliance on top of his foreign policy priorities and is making efforts to build on it.

Last year, of its 18.7 billion dollars of mobile phone exports, Korea imported 43 percent of core components from the U.S. and Japan. Exports to the U.S. and Japan represent as much as 25 percent and 34 percent, respectively, which shows that the two countries remain major buttresses of the Korean economy. It would be no exaggeration to say that the flow of foreign money surrounding Korea is under the influence of the U.S. Given the complexity of dynamics with neighboring countries, the lax Korea-U.S. alliance and security instability will certainly have a far bigger negative impact on the Korean economy than the Singaporean factor.

While the Korean government has been engaged in a series of debate on issues as distribution, history problems, and independent foreign policy, Singapore has been pursuing growth-focused, forward-looking, and practical diplomacy. The different paths were reflected in the economic growth rate of Singapore and Korea: 8.3 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia also recorded much higher growth rates than Korea. Lee Kuan Yew’s remarks on the declining four Asian Dragons may only apply to Dragon Korea.