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Nigel Harris

Quite Useful

(Winter 1964/5)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.19, Winter 1964/5, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Economic Development of China and Japan
Ed. C.D. Gowlan
Allen & Unwin, 35s.

This is a welcome addition to the useful collections published in this series, mainly concerned to date with issues in economic history and politics in South, South-East and East Asia. This volume, an introduction followed by six essays on aspects of Chinese economic development and three on Japan, has appeal mainly for the specialist, but contains useful summaries of some current work in the field. To some extent, it does not hang together as a book since it lacks in the essays on China (which dominate it) any general perspectives or attempts to generalise on Chinese experience or knit the work on China into that on Japan.

Mancall examines the fascinating history of Sino-Russian commercial relations in the eighteenth century, comparing it to Western ones through Canton, and two case studies follow of nineteenth century Chinese entrepreneurship – the China Coast Steam Navigation Company and the Hanyehping Coal and Iron Company. Chesneaux summarises his work on the Chinese labour force before 1949 (a case where comparisons with other underdeveloped countries could have been illuminating), and Eckstein offers a rigorous and cautious evaluation of Sino-Soviet economic relations, a useful corrective to rasher estimates. Finally Walker analyses the writings of the economist. Ma Yin-ch’u, his critique of Chinese planning made during the Hundred Flowers phase, and the subsequent ‘replies’ of the orthodox. It will readily be seen that these contributions presuppose a background of knowledge of the Chinese economy. This is less the case with three essays on the development of Japan which proceed from a wider and deeper tradition of intensive modern research. Allen describes some of the key factors and stresses the relative peculiarity of Japan’s growth; Rosovsky summarises some of his earlier work on the process of capital formation, and Shinchara discusses the role of foreign trade in stimulating (or retarding) domestic growth, a crucial issue in comprehending Japanese development. The brief introduction which is also used to introduce the companion volume on South-East Asia, cannot unfortunately compensate for the diversity which follows. However, for those with a working knowledge of the Chinese economy, there are useful insights; for those familiar with Japan, these essays are important although there are weightier books by the same authors on the topics covered. Each essay is followed by a brief but useful bibliography.

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