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What the Tigers Teach (2/98)

Am I the only one who takes some pleasure from the shake-up of the "Asian Tiger" economies? Perhaps it’s because I can’t count the number of times I’ve been taunted by Westerners about Africa’s economic problems. "Look at Asia!" they would say. "Two decades ago, they were in the same position as many African countries. Today, they are called the Asian Tigers. Why can’t Africa do the same?"

But consider the peculiar circumstances under which the Tigers flourished. As the engine of growth in the region, for example, Japan exported technology to its client states, even if it was "second-hand" tech. As a result, Japan’s own economy grew astronomically, partly because guilt-ridden US dollars poured in to make up for the ruthless atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Meanwhile, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong benefited from the fear of communism that dominated US thinking for over 50 years. No effort was spared to make the Tigers a showpiece on the doorsteps of their deprived communist neighbors. read more