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Four Asian Tigers

Four Asian Tigers
A map showing the Four Asian Tigers
 Hong Kong  Singapore
 South Korea  Taiwan
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 亞洲四小龍
Simplified Chinese 亚洲四小龙
Literal meaning Asia's Four Little Dragons
Korean name
Hangul 아시아의 네 마리 용
Literal meaning Asia's four dragons

The Asian Tigers or Asian Dragons is a term used in reference to the highly free and developed economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. These nations and areas were notable for maintaining exceptionally high growth rates (in excess of 7 percent a year) and rapid industrialization between the early 1960s and 1990s. By the 21st century, all four had developed into advanced and high-income economies, specializing in areas of competitive advantage. For example, Hong Kong and Singapore have become world-leading international financial centers, whereas South Korea and Taiwan are world leaders in manufacturing information technology. Their economic success stories have served as role models for many developing countries,[1][2][3] especially the Tiger Cub Economies.

Despite a World Bank report crediting neoliberal policies with the responsibility for the boom, including maintenance of export-led regimes, low taxes, and minimal welfare states, institutional analysis also states some state intervention was involved.[4] The World Bank report acknowledged benefits from policies of the repression of the financial sector, such as state-imposed below-market interest rates for loans to specific exporting industries. However, it also pointed out free trade and less government spending were the driving force. As a result, these economies enjoyed extremely high growth rates sustained over decades. Other important aspects include major government investments in education, non-democratic and relatively authoritarian political systems during the early years of development, high levels of U.S. bond holdings, and high public and private savings rates.[5] However this is highly debated, and many have argued that industrial policy had a much greater influence than the World Bank report suggested.[6]

A period of liberalization did occur, and the first major setback experienced by the Tiger economies was the 1997 Asian financial crisis. While Singapore and Taiwan were relatively unscathed, Hong Kong came under intense speculative attacks against its stock market and currency necessitating unprecedented market interventions by the state Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and South Korea underwent a major stock market crash brought on by high levels of non-performing corporate loans. As a result and in the years after the crisis, all four economies rebounded strongly. South Korea, the worst-hit of the Tigers, has managed to triple its per capita GDP in dollar terms since 1997.


  • Overview 1
    • 1997 Asian Crisis 1.1
    • 2008 financial crisis 1.2
  • Cultural basis 2
  • Territory and region data 3
    • Demographics 3.1
    • Economy 3.2
    • Politics 3.3
    • Quality of Life 3.4
    • Organizations and groups 3.5
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the growth of these four Asian tiger economies (commonly referred to as, ‘The Asian Miracle’) has been attributed to export oriented policies and strong development policies. Unique to these economies were the sustained rapid growth and high levels of equal income distribution. A World Bank report[7] suggests two development policies among others as sources for the Asian miracle: factor accumulation and macroeconomic management.

By the 1960s,levels in physical and human capital amongst the four countries far exceeded other countries at similar levels of development. This subsequently led to a rapid growth in per capita income levels. While high investments were essential to the economic growth of these countries, the role of human capital was also important. Education in particular is cited as playing a major role in the Asian miracle. The levels of education enrollment in the four Asian tigers were higher than predicted given their level of income. By 1965, all four nations had achieved universal primary education.[8] South Korea in particular had achieved a secondary education enrollment rate of 88% by 1987.[8] There was also a notable decrease in the gap between male and female enrollments during the Asian miracle. Overall these progresses in education allowed for high levels of literacy and cognitive skills.

The creation of stable [9] This active exchange rate management allowed the 4 tiger economies to avoid exchange rate appreciation and maintain a stable real exchange rate.

Export policies have been the de facto reason for the rise of these four Asian tiger economies. The approach taken has been different among the four nations. Hong Kong, and Singapore introduced trade regimes that were neoliberal in nature and encouraged free trade, while South Korea and Taiwan adopted mixed regimes that accommodated their own export industries. In Hong Kong and Singapore, due to small domestic markets, domestic prices were linked to international prices. South Korea and Taiwan introduced export incentives for the traded-goods sector. The governments of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan also worked to promote specific exporting industries, which were termed as an export push strategy. All these policies helped these four nations to achieve a growth averaging 7.5% each year for three decades and as such they achieved developed country status.[10]

1997 Asian Crisis

The 1997 Asian financial crisis had an impact on all of the four Asian tiger economies. South Korea was hit the hardest as its foreign debt burdens swelled resulting in its currency falling between 35-50%.[11] By the beginning of 1997, the stock market in Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea also saw losses of at least 60% in dollar terms. However, four Asian tiger nations recovered from the 1997 crisis faster than other countries due to various economic advantages including their high savings rate (except South Korea) and their openness to trade.[11]

2008 financial crisis

The export oriented economies of the four Asian tiger nations which benefited from American consumption, were hit hard by the financial crisis of 2007-2008. By the fourth quarter of 2008, the GDP of all four nations fell by an average annualized rate of around 15%.[12] Exports also fell by a 50% annualized rate.[13] Weak domestic demand also affected the recovery of these economies. In 2008, retail sales fell 3% in Hong Kong, 6% in Singapore and 11% in Taiwan.[13]

As the world recovers from the financial crisis, the four Asian tiger economies have also rebounded strongly. This is due in no small part to each country’s government fiscal stimulus measures. These fiscal packages accounted for more than 4% of each country's GDP in 2009.[14] Another reason for the strong bounce back is the modest corporate and household debt in these four nations.[14]

A recent article published in Applied Economics Letters by Financial Economist Mete Feridun of University of Greenwich Business School and his international colleagues investigates the causal relationship between financial development and economic growth for Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, India and Singapore for the period between 1979 and 2009, using Johansen cointegration tests and vector error correction models. The results suggest that in the case of Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, China and India financial development leads to economic growth, whereas in the case of Thailand there exists a bidirectional causality between these variables. The results further suggest that in the case of Malaysia financial development does not seem to cause economic growth.[15]

Cultural basis

The role of Confucianism has been used to explain the success of the Four Asian Tigers. This conclusion is similar to the Protestant work ethic theory promoted by German sociologist Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The culture of Confucianism is said to have been compatible with industrialization because it valued stability, hard work, and loyalty and respect towards authority figures.[16] There is a significant influence of Confucianism on the corporate and political institutions of the Asian Tigers. Confucianism was taught in Singaporean schools until the 1990s. Confucian seminars were offered by South Korean companies like Hyundai for company management. Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew advocated Asian values as an alternative to the influence of Western culture in Asia.[17] This theory was not without its critics. There was a lack of mainland Chinese economic success during the same time frame as the Four Tigers, and yet China was the birthplace of Confucianism. During the May Fourth Movement of 1919, Confucianism was blamed for China's inability to compete with Western powers.[16]

Territory and region data


Country or
Area km² Population Population density
per km²
Population of capital city
 Hong Kong 1,104 7,219,700 6,540 7,219,700
 Singapore 710 5,399,200 7,605 5,399,200
 South Korea 100,210 50,423,955 503 10,140,000
 Taiwan 36,193 23,386,883 646 2,688,140


Country or
GDP nominal
millions of USD (2013)
millions of USD (2013)
GDP nominal per capita
USD (2013)
GDP PPP per capita
USD (2013)
millions of USD (2011)
millions of USD (2011)
millions of USD (2011)
 Hong Kong 274,027 382,529 37,955 52,984 944,800 451,600 493,200
 Singapore 297,941 425,251 55,182 78,762 818,800 432,100 386,700
 South Korea 1,304,468 1,696,996 25,975 33,791 1,084,000 558,800 525,200
 Taiwan 489,089 970,909 20,925 41,539 623,700 325,100 298,600


Country or
Democracy Index
Property rights index
Press Freedom Index
Corruption Perceptions Index
Current Political Status
 Hong Kong 6.42 7.7 26.16 77 Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China
 Singapore 5.88 8.1 43.43 87 Parliamentary Republic
 South Korea 8.13 6.4 24.48 56 Presidential Republic
 Taiwan 7.57 7.2 23.82 61 Semi-Presidential Republic

Quality of Life

Country or
Human Development Index
Global Well Being Index
(2010), % thriving[18]
 Hong Kong 0.891 (15th) 19%
 Singapore 0.901 (9th) 19%
 South Korea 0.891 (15th) 28%
 Taiwan 0.882 (2011, 22nd) [19] 22%

Organizations and groups

Country or
 Hong Kong Red XN Green tickY Red XN Red XN Green tickY Green tickY Red XN Red XN Red XN Green tickY
 Singapore Green tickY Green tickY Red XN Red XN Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Red XN Green tickY Green tickY
 South Korea Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY (APT)
 Taiwan Red XN Green tickY Red XN Red XN Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Red XN Red XN Red XN

See also


  1. ^ "Can Africa really learn from Korea?". Afrol News. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  2. ^ "Korea role model for Latin America: Envoy". Korean Culture and Information Service. 1 March 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  3. ^ Leea, Jinyong; LaPlacab, Peter; Rassekh, Farhad (2 September 2008). "Korean economic growth and marketing practice progress: A role model for economic growth of developing countries". Industrial Marketing Management (Elsevier B.V. (subscription required)).  
  4. ^ Derek Gregory, et al.; Ron Johnston; Geraldine Pratt; Michael J. Watts; Sarah Whatmore (2009). Derek Gregory, et al., ed. The Dictionary of Human Geography (5th ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell. p. 52, "Asian Miracle/tigers".  
  5. ^ "East Asian Tigers- Definition". 1 February 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-01. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ John Page (1994). Stanley Fischer; Julio J. Rotemberg, eds. "The East Asian Miracle: Four Lessons for Development Policy". NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) 9: 219–269 [225].  
  8. ^ a b John Page (1994). Stanley Fischer; Julio J. Rotemberg, eds. "The East Asian Miracle: Four Lessons for Development Policy". NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) 9: 219–269 [247].  
  9. ^ a b John Page (1994). Stanley Fischer; Julio J. Rotemberg, eds. "The East Asian Miracle: Four Lessons for Development Policy". NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) 9: 219–269 [239].  
  10. ^ Anonymous (2009). "Troubled Tigers; Asian Economies". London, US: The Economist Intelligence Unit. pp. 75–77.  
  11. ^ a b Pam Woodall (1998). "East Asian Economies: Tigers adrift". London, US: The Economist Intelligence Unit. pp. S3–S5.  
  12. ^ Anonymous; Stanley Fischer (2009). Julio J. Rotemberg, eds., ed. "Troubled Tigers; Asian Economies". London, US: The Economist Intelligence Unit. pp. 75-77 [76].  
  13. ^ a b Anonymous (2009). "Troubled Tigers; Asian Economies". London, US: The Economist Intelligence Unit. pp. 75-77 [76].  
  14. ^ a b Anonymous (2009). "Crouching Tigers, stirring dragons; Asian Economies". London, US: The Economist Intelligence Unit.  
  15. ^ Mukhopadhyaya, Bidisha, Pradhana, Rudra P. and Feridun, Mete (2011) Finance-growth nexus revisited for some Asian countries. Applied Economics Letters, 18 (6). pp. 1527-1530. ISSN 1350-4851 (print), 1466-4291 (online) (doi:10.1080/13504851.2010.548771)
  16. ^ a b Lin, Justin Yifu (27 October 2011). Demystifying the Chinese Economy. Cambridge University Press. p. 107.  
  17. ^ DuBois, Thomas David (25 April 2011). Religion and the Making of Modern East Asia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 227–228.  
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Statistical Bulletin conditions" (in Chinese). General Statistics Office, Taiwan. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 

John Page, "The East Asian Miracle: Four Lessons for Development Policy". The World Bank. National Bureau of Economic Research. Vol. 9. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994).

"Troubled Tigers; Asian Economies". The Economist. Vol.390. Issue 8616. (London, US:The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2009)

Further reading

  • Ezra F. Vogel, The Four Little Dragons: The Spread of Industrialization in East Asia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).

External links

  • BBC report on the Asian Tigers in the aftermath of the 1997 Financial Crisis (includes map of the Asian Tigers)
  • ASEAN tigers
  • China Economic ReviewThe Elephant at the Gate in
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