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Demography, Democracy, and Development: Pacific Rim Experiences.

2002. Edited by R.E. Bedeski and J.A. Schofield. Canadian Western Geographical Series 38, ISBN 0-919838-28-6.

This is a welcome book to scholars and policy makers of the South or the old Third World. Demography, democracy, and development are probably the three most essential themes that need to be addressed by both the North and the South in the 21st century. Contemporary demographic trends including massive international migrations generating anti-immigration policies, political issues involving imposition of democracy and global problems of development especially increasing poverty amidst globalisation and technological advancements mean that this book could not have come at a more opportune time.

The book consists of a collection of papers presented at a symposium held in April 2000 at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It covers the Asian geographic realm, more specifically East and Southeast Asia; however, the lessons contained therein are for all poor countries of the South. The end of the Cold War, the break up of the Soviet Union, the rise of the newly industrialising economies (NIEs) in Asia and Asian Tigers are events that have rendered obsolete the concept of Third World. How did these Asian Tigers and the NIEs succeed in ridding themselves of the derogatory label, Third World, and thus making the concept inapplicable? Why are other Third World countries in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa caught in the so-called lost decades of the 1980s? Can the rapid development in the Pacific Rim and underdevelopment in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa be explained in terms of demography and democracy? These are some of the pertinent questions that are, to a certain extent, addressed in this volume.

After an introduction by Bedeski and Schofield summarising major themes and findings of the papers, the remaining 13 chapters of the book are then organised into two parts. Most of the chapters in Part 1, which covers the theme of demography, are devoted to immigration especially Chinese immigrants in Canada and their changing family structure. The chapter by David Lai provides a survey of changing Canadian immigration policies and their effects on trends, patterns and composition of Chinese immigration. The analysis begins with the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 by Canada and therefore neglects to acknowledge the significant contribution of Chinese immigrants in railway development that played a pivotal role in the settlement and development of the Canadian West. The chapter by Yuen Woon describes "the appalling, oppressive and in-human" working conditions that female migrants endure in South China. These are gross human rights abuses that can be allowed only in a totalitarian society and should have been condemned in a book of this title.

Dan Koenig's chapter discusses problems of aging population and highlights the negative consequences of population control policies such as China's one-child policy. The chapter by Robert Bedeski demonstrates the dilemma of neo-Malthusians; they fail to adduce consistent empirical evidence to affirm the Malthusian theory and also to acknowledge that human population is a resource. The claim is made (p. 54) that "China is no longer a poor and struggling economy ..... But it is overpopulated." No explanation is provided as to why China is overpopulated. What is the threshold population size for defining overpopulation? Which of the following East Asian countries is overpopulated: China with a population density of 353.6 persons per sq mile or South Korea, which has 1,287.1 or Taiwan with 1,804.2? The typical unproven neo-Malthusian view is expressed (p. 50) as "it is very problematic to support" a world population "(around six billion)". It is problematic because 82 % of total income is owned by the richest 20 % of global population (United Nations 1998). It is not enough to consider "support" of global population, it is more important to examine "control of global resources". Who, and how many people, must control the resources of the world? Consider the problem of spatial inequalities and land ownership in former colonised countries in some Third World regions. In Guatemala, for example, 2 % of the population own 63 % of the most productive land (Dodds 2000:65).

Part II consists of a variety of topics under the theme of democracy and development. The chapter by Peter Lin compares the development experience of East Asia to that of Latin America. Contrary to the anti-people view of Bedeski (p. 54) that China has "a redundant 100 million or so persons", Lin points out (p. 122) that the East Asian economic success has "been based, not on abundance of natural resources, but on human resources." The dominant role of China in the East Asian realm is documented in the chapters by Gerard Chow, Jou-juo Chu and Marion Wang. From these chapters, we learn more about the geopolitical importance of the Asia-Pacific region and the special contribution of the US to the economic development of the Asian NIEs. Wang informs us (p. 178) "Nearly all US aid was provided on a grant basis, which made it possible for the ROC to begin its export-led growth in the 1960s without a backlog of debt." This evidence contrasts sharply with the development experience of other Third World countries in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa most of which are debt-ridden.

With the exception of the chapter by Peter Lin in which good governance is mentioned as an important ingredient in successful economic development, the subject of democracy is not discussed elsewhere although it is a major theme and appears in the title of the book. It would have been instructive for example, to provide an analysis of the impact of brutal slaughter of human beings in Tiannamen Square in 1989 to protect a totalitarian regime. One major element of change in the political geography of the world economy is the rising profile of China and, Wang points out (p. 184) that China is emerging as a potential leading economic power in the world. But this is being achieved in an anti-democratic atmosphere. This raises the question that the book ignores to address, that is, to what extent has totalitarianism contributed to economic success in China?

There are a few omissions and typos that are common to most books. For example, on page 29 Table 7.3 is written instead of Table 3.7 and on page 94, Table 7.2 is rendered as Table 2. He and Chen (1997-8) and Fan and Huang (1998) are mentioned on pages 30 and 31 respectively, but are not included in the references. On page 109 we read ".... The 1960s saw a rapid increase in the youth population ..." but on page 111 "Later, as the baby boom gave way to a renewed baby bust in the 1960s". In spite of these minor errors, the book provides leads for research by Third World scholars.


Dodds, K. 2000. Geopolitics in a Changing W. London: Prentice Hall.

United Nations, 1998. UN Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press.

Siaw Akwawua

Department of Geography

University of Northern Colorado

Greeley, Colorado
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Author:Akwawua, Siaw
Publication:Canadian Journal of Regional Science
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2002
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