Confucian Values and Japan's Industrialization
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 Protestantism 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 circumstances 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 created a pliant and stable populace, skilled and eager workers, and a meritocratic bureaucracy that were skilled at formulating and carrying out economic policy. Confucianism's traditions are manifested not only in the temples of East Asia but also in the rapid rates of growth this region has experienced.