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 created a pliant and stable populace,

skilled and