Confucianism and Japanese Growth

Many factors helped aid in the dynamic growth that occurred
in Japan and the four little dragons during the post-World War 2
period. Some of these factors were situational factors unique to the
time but some of the factors were cultural. The legacy of Confucianism
in Japan and the four little dragons helped to further the goals of
industrialization that these nations had. The traditions of
Confucianism provided for Japan and the four little dragons both a
pliant public and a model for choosing competent leaders.
Confucian traditions placed an emphasis on the values of the
group over the individual. This helped industrialism by creating a
pliant populace who were willing to accept long hours and low wages
and not question government policies. The traditions of Confucianism
taught workers not to question authority. These traditions carried
over into the post war period and allowed authoritarian regimes in the
four little dragons to go unquestioned by the public. This lack of
dissent allowed the four little dragons to have stable governments
which were critical to investment and industrialization. The stability
of these nations was a direct result of Confucian values being
indoctrinated into the population. Confucian placement of the group
over the individual and strong belief in filial piety also caused
families and local communities to accept social responsibility for
members of their community. This safety net that was provided by
communities and families allowed the government to limit it's spending
on social welfare programs and thus channel more funds into
infrastructure and industry. Confucianism also placed an emphasis
on self-cultivation which has helped East Asian Countries to have a
skilled and ambitious work force. The tradition of self-cultivation
like the work ethic that Max Weber credited Proteeztism of producing
lead people to strive to acquire new skills, speak foreign languages,
and in the offices and businesses of Japan, drive workers to strive
with in their firms to improve group performance.
Confucian traditions also placed emphasis on the creation of
a meritocratic elite and the use of entrance exams. These traditions
were in place before World War 2 in the East Asian countries but they
helped aid in the carrying out of the industrial policies of the
post-war government of Japan and the little Dragons. The traditional
system of a meritocratic elite was adopted in the post war years in
the form of meritocraticly chosen bureaucracy that made and carried
out many government policies. This elite was free from many of the
strains of politics and thus was able to carry out policies that
democratically elected leaders might not be able to pursue do to the
changing feelings of the electorate. Also these bureaucrats because
they were meritocraticly chosen were the most able members of society
and thus very skilled at handling industrial policies. The system of
entrance exams in Asia countries helped to create skilled and
proficient workers for industry. The entrance exams were able to
target the most able young people and channel them into higher
learning, and the entrance exam system was also able to create
intense competition among young people spurring students to both
acquire knowledge and disciplined work habits. These disciplined and
knowledgeable workers were critical in providing the workers that made
East Asian Industries successful.
Confucian traditions were not the sole cause of
industrialization in Japan and the four little dragons. An analysis of
other Asian nations such as Thailand, China, Vietnam, Burma, and Laos
show that many nations with the same shared history of a Confucian
values have not yet industrialized. Confucianism along with other
circumezces such as situational factors, timing, domestic industrial
policy and luck played key roles in allowing Japan and the four little
dragons to industrialize. Some of the situational factors were the
presence of U.S. aid and leadership which gave many nations such as
Japan a jump start on industrialism, the feeling of urgency among
countries such as Taiwan and South Korea who felt that if they were
not able to build up their economies they would be over ridden by the
communists, the presence of the Japanese model of industrialization
which aided Taiwan and South Korea in what types of economic policies
to follow. But these factors alone also do not account for the rapid
rates of growth in East Asia. A large role was played by the
traditions of Confucianism which