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Business in Asia

  1. It is argued that the dominant business model of corporate Asia is changing from relationship-based to rules-based. Discuss the old relationship-based model and the way in which it might have contributed to the 1997 financial crisis. What lessons have been learned and what improvements have been made as a result?

Asian firms are presently developing at such speed that most of our knowledge about them is outdated. In mid-1997 the expectation that Asian management is to some extent different or even superior to Western forms of organizing was exploded, as currencies plunged, financial institutions closed their doors, and quick growth turned to recession, resulting in the failure of numerous Asian firms. certainly, the golden era of Asian management practices has been rather short, as Asia has always recognized periods of intense change in its economic structures. East Asia’s spectacular success after World War II, and its rise to an economic powerhouse, might have led to the assumption that Asian firms were based on an even and consistent model (Backman, M. 1999).

The Asian economic crisis ruined businesses, banks, and reputations with massive efficiency. Between 1997 and mid-1999, instant noodles were among the few products to report growth, a considerable thirty percent growth in some places. Instant noodles in Thailand, for instance—cost about 5 baht, while rice with curry (considered as local fast food) costs 20 baht (Anthony Giddens, 2000). In short, instant noodles became one of the key needs of the economic downturn and are possibly a general indicator across Asia. Variations in potato sales may be a related indicator in Europe.

When Asian economies were rising fast, governments and firms paid little consideration to returns on capital investment. Similarly, as long as labor was economical and export markets were extensively receptive, labor efficiency was not an issue. Asian firms focused on forming growth and less on shareholder value as professed within the framework of Western capitalism. Conglomerates thrived across a wide range of industrial activities, obstructing a clear focus on core competencies.

Today, improved labor efficiency and a clear focus is precedence in every part of business, from R&D to production to sales. The instantaneous steps Asian firms need to take to improve efficiency are standard practices. though, the extent of the improvements they should make represents a massive challenge. Improving their way of doing business is being driven by a simple reason: necessity.

What has changed along with the Asian economic crisis is not just that Asian firms are stressed against a prolonged recession, pressing though it is. these days, the prevailing view is that Western companies had learned everything they desired to know about Asian management, and that it is the Asian companies that at present have to learn again from the West. As globalization gained impetus in the 1970s and the 1980s, Japanese companies, particularly, seemed to be the winners in the emerging global industries such as consumer electronics, computers, semiconductors, machine tools, and automobiles, where they confronted their Western counterparts. throughout this time, Japanese management was believed as a valuable answer to the fading glory of Taylorism and Fordism.

Yet, by the early 1990s, with U.S. and European firms regaining market shares, the challenge seemed to be over and Japanese firms were in fact the losers in some industries. The Asian economic crisis of 1997 caused many Japanese and East Asian firms to crash (Donald K. Emmerson, 1998).

It is observed that Asian financial crisis 1997 was due to relationship-based system. As in this case, the individual that finances is guaranteed a return by being given authority over the financed firm.

Under, relationship-based system, the financial crisis was perceived almost exclusively as an exchange rate problem, being blamed alternatively on governments (for maintaining fixed exchange rates and permitting currencies to become overvalued) or on greedy foreign speculators who, in a matter of days, apparently had undone the hard work of generations of Asians. In the early months of the crisis, commentators cling to the language of the Asian miracle by representing the crisis as temporary, chanting the mantra of the “strong fundamentals of the Asian Tigers” (Lee Kuan Yew, 2000).

At the same time, some Asian nationalists voiced conspiracy theories signifying Asia was being put in its place by wily global capitalists using refined speculative tools to deflate the value of all Asian assets in a plot to buy all Asians had built but at fire sale prices. The frustration and umbrage of Asian nationalism is captured in Mahathir’s August 23, 1997, statement, “All these countries have spent forty years to build up their economies and a moron like Soros comes along” (Loh 1997).

In reality, the instantaneous crises affecting much of Asia are as involved as they are tied to primary problems within the economic structure of every country. Excessive borrowing abroad (primarily by the private sector) is the feature of this crisis. In the five years proceeding to the crisis, the borrowings of banks and non-banks in the affected countries grew very quickly. Particularly, banks in each country rapidly increased their net foreign liabilities by large percentages during the four years prior to the crisis. By the time the crisis broke in mid-July 1997, total outer indebtedness had reached large proportions, exceeding 50 percent of GDP in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines (Manuel F. Montes and Vladmir V. Popov, 1999).

Particularly in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines it was the private sector, rather than the governments, who were accountable for incurring these large overseas obligations (Manuel F. Montes, 1998).

Thus, not simply was the amount of foreign indebtedness large as a proportion of GDP, but in numerous instances there were large amounts of short-term borrowings. As Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand approached the year of crisis, they were burdened by short-term loans equal to 13, 14, and 22 percent of their respective GDPs. In the ensuing era of plummeting currency values, these short-term loans, with principal and interest due in less than one year, became a devastating burden for all countries.

Though external aspects (fixed exchange rates, high interest rates, and excessive borrowing from abroad stemming from relationship-based finance) are amongst the important contributory factors in this crisis, the crisis would not have occurred without internal weaknesses as well: insufficient supervisory institutions, traditional banking practices, and, primarily, poor investment decisions made by the private sector of each country. Foreign borrowing led to a domestic lending boom transversely all of Asia, which generated various asset bubbles, especially in stock markets and real estate.

If it had not been for pre-existing internal weakness all through the private sector, the Asian contagion would never have spread so far or had such a long-term impact in individual countries. The deviations of corporate familism found in Asian businesses, preexisting forms of business-government relations, and a propensity to pursue investment fads rather than market demand created over-capacity in production in similar sectors across Asia.

There was merely too much foreign money chasing too few sound investments that were competent of earning foreign exchange adequate to service the principal and interest on the debt. Instead of exercising restraint, local banks re-lent monies borrowed abroad to tentative investments in real estate (which earned no foreign exchange) or to confined and noncompetitive enterprises such as steel and petrochemicals (J. Pempel, 1999).

The failure of whole business sectors to meet global standards regarding financial regulation, auditing, and corporate governance became decisive in undermining foreign confidence once earnings began to fall quickly as a result of glutted markets in real estate, steel, automobiles, petrochemicals, and semiconductors. Domestic investors were first to react to the downturn.

As they became incapable to meet payments to domestic bank creditors on stalled or unbeneficial projects, they also began pulling capital out of local stock markets. These factors became worsened by capital flight in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, and the Philippines once foreign and domestic investors sensed the deep-seated weakness of the financial sector in each country. Sharply falling stock and property markets resistant one another in a downward spiral that devastated local financial systems.

Asia had profited significantly during the late eighties and early nineties from massive amounts of domestic and foreign investment. crossways the region governments maintained fixed exchange rates diminishing the foreign exchange risk for domestic borrowers and foreign investors. Local banks borrowed offshore at low, short-term rates and lent the money for long terms at a considerable premium to manufacturers and real estate developers (Francois Godement, 1999).

Regrettably, the profusion of inexpensive capital, in combination with local bank loans based on personal relationships to a certain extent than real business plans, resulted in the widespread misallocation of capital into tentative and noncompetitive sectors and enterprises. Returns on investments fell gradually during the nineties in Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand until large numbers of projects no longer generated income sufficient to convene both principal and interest payments.

Asian firms often supposed market share to be the most significant indicator of success. In their search for increased market share, firms borrowed greatly to fund plant expansion and obtained unsustainable debt/equity ratios. Heavy debts meant that a slight downturn in national or regional economic growth (not to mention the possibility of currency devaluation) would mean liquidation. The worst examples of excessive borrowing prior to the crisis are found in Korea, when in 1996 the five largest chaebols (producing 30 percent of the GDP) had debt/equity ratios averaging 3.9. As a group, the top thirty chaebols had even higher debt/equity ratios along with hardly positive returns on capital. High debt/equity ratios, when joint with wafer thin profits, were simply unsustainable. Seven of the chaebols folded throughout the first year of the crisis (Pyo 1999).

Before the currency crisis struck the region, inadequately conceived investments turned into non-performing loans, efficiently curtailing the capability of banking systems to retain the economic expansion through sustained lending. In Thailand, Indonesia, and Korea the proportion of bank loans that became nonperforming skyrocketed, probably reaching more than twenty percent of the total loan portfolio of many banks and finance companies, and rendering them officially insolvent prior to the advent of the currency crisis.

The combination of unhedged foreign liabilities, non-performing domestic assets, and the dearth of institutions capable of supervising the banks and protecting small depositors created near great conditions for a classic banking panic. Basically, most of the banks in Asia were precisely insolvent before the run on the baht in mid-1997. The oversupply of Asia’s export markets in the late-1990s also contributed to the Crisis of 1997. Three factors account for this oversupply:

  1. Capital from Western Europe, North America, and especially Japan, flowing into Asia as foreign direct investments intended to produce exports;
  2. The postulation of foreign and domestic investors that expansion of interAsian trade would persist to boost exports at double digit figures for the foreseeable future; and
  3. A belief that the marketplace could take in an almost infinite supply of shoes, textiles, semiconductors, petrochemicals, steel, automobiles, and automobile parts. J. A. (Kregel, 19998)

The apparently endless export boom began having problems in the mid- 1990s. Thailand was the first country in Southeast Asia to experience almost zero growth in its export markets, signaling to speculators the susceptibility of Thai foreign exchange reserves that had become dependent on foreign borrowings to a certain extent than on foreign trade earnings.

Corporate governance refers to the behavior of company owners and managers, and their accountability to outer investors, which is influenced by external and internal incentives, rules and norms. Increased antagonism in products, services, labor and financial sectors is a significant external source of discipline for all corporations in a market economy which supports efficiency and innovation and maximizes consumer welfare.

This is consecutively achieved through deregulation of trade barriers, opening up sectors formerly closed to investment (both domestic and foreign) and shortening investment procedures, deregulating and strengthening the financial sector to gather together domestic funds, privatizing state-owned enterprises and encouraging export growth and technological progress.

The effectiveness of corporate governance systems might change depending on the sufficiency of the contractual infrastructure for defending investors. In the absence of passable protection, investors lean to be worried with management control, which often leads to a relationship-based system of corporate governance in pre crisis, mainly where capital is scarce relative to accessible investment opportunities to make price signals for guiding investment less significant. This specifies that as an economy matures with capital buildup and better investor protection, better work with relationship-based model (Hansmann and Kraakman 2000).

The 1997 Asian financial crisis served as a influential break from path reliance as numerous family-based business groups went bankrupt or underwent considerable restructuring or ownership intensity. The resultant wide-ranging legislative and regulatory reform of corporate governance itself symbolizes a major break from the past. The crisis has likely given a rare prospect to move to a new system that can be the relationship-based model. Yet, core elements of the past system remain mostly intact, namely, the intense ownership structure and the non-separation of ownership and management. Thus a elemental change from the insider control model with dominance by a controlling owner will be hard (Gilson 2000).

Whereas the internal set of incentives persuades corporate behavior, such behavior is as well shaped by the presence of external and foreign creditors. For corporations wanting to get recognition or capital, the disclosure and performance requirements forced by banks, creditors and capital markets should put pressure on companies for better information revelation and efficient performance. The behavior of managers is, consecutively, controlled by rules governing the relationship between managers and owners and investors.

  1. Discuss the ways in which greater economic collaboration/integration has been demonstrated in recent years between Taiwan and China. Pay particular attention to government policy and marker drivers, in addition to broader political considerations.

With the lately gained economic independence after financial crisis 1997, the bureaucratic entrepreneurs in China have become the most significant agents for Taiwanese investors in southern China. While the other foreign multinationals in China had to deal with red tape in Beijing, smaller Taiwanese investors had been negotiating with local decision makers who were endowed through economic resources, political authority, and social connections. The economic devolution in post-MaoChina has provided the institutional framework for this extremely localized process of transnational capital flows (Ross Garnaut, 1998).

This localized transnational capital inflow was not inevitably demonstrated in establishing local production networks. As, most Taiwanese manufacturers in China imported more than eighty percent of the inputs. They did not set up extensive backward or forward linkages with local industries. On the other hand, the Taiwanese have restricted their overseas investment by exploring human resources in southern China, including the large pool of low-skilled workers as well as young managers and professionals. The cultural and linguistic similarity between the Taiwanese investors and their Chinese employees was well integrated into the management and disciplinary schemes in the factories.

The partnership between Taiwanese and the Chinese technical entrepreneurs is another element of localized transnational capital flows. The social and cultural linkages between Taiwanese investors and the Chinese bureaucrats were not simply localized but also personalized. The interpersonal relationships, or guanxi, have interfered in various areas in the procedure of their negotiation: interpretation and implementation of the centrally forced regulations on foreign investment; allocation of the locally controlled resources such as land, raw materials, and marketing channels.

The Asian financial crisis also revealed that government-controlled banks can engender serious moral hazard problems (Ross Garnaut, 1998).

Basically, a result of the South East Asia financial crisis was that the contribution of China’s exports to economic growth fell, and a fall in external demand for China’s goods slowed down its economic growth. As a rough estimate, the South East Asia financial crisis brought concerning a 2 per cent drop in China’s economic growth rate (Richard Hu, 1997). In order to stimulate economic growth, the government had to loosen its monetary policy. China’s central bank lowered the interest rates three times in 1998, and at the same time, it enthusiastically developed a housing credit scheme to promote the growth of the housing sector and to drive the economy up.

But the result of the monetary policy proved to be limited and not enough, hence the government has begun to adopt an active fiscal policy since August 1998. This integrated issuing 100 billion RMB (or US$12 billion, 1.4 per cent of GDP) treasury bills and increasing investment on infrastructure. When we took into account the corresponding investment by the local governments and banks and the multiplying effect of investment, an expansion of public investment used a great influence on domestic demand expansion. This helped China’s economic growth rate to reach up to 7.8 per cent at last (Mahathir Mohamad, 1999).

In the first half of 1997, there still existed great apprehension about too much foreign capital inflows, and the government was primed to cancel its duty-free policy for foreign-funded enterprises’ equipment imports as investment. But the economic developments in 1998 were moderately different, and the government had to resume this duty free policy (Mahathir Mohamad, 1999).

First, the inflow of external debts was slowed down, and the outflow went up. As an effect of the South East Asia financial crisis, China’s financial institutions had to lower their Asian credit ratings and began to indenture their loans to the Asian market (using such steps as stopping signing expansion contracts, asking for advance payments of interest and principal, and so on).

The central bank closed the GITIC (Guangdong International Trust and Investment Company) in October 1998. Certainly, this measure could help China to control its financial risks and to normalize its financial orders, and show to the world the government’s confidence and declaration in carrying out its financial reform. But this measure would also pessimistically influence foreign capital inflows to non-banking financial institutions (Hardev Kaur, 2000).

Second, investment from Asia to China was stridently reduced. As a result of the Asia crisis, the majority financial institutions and enterprises of the Asian countries suffered from a shortage of liquidity, and their investment abroad dropped or almost stopped. The real direct investment from ten Asian countries and regions, including Japan, Korea, the ASEAN, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, went down by about 9.3 per cent in 1998. At the same time, it became more hard for China to issue its stocks to the world capital market. This development slowed down capital inflows (Pyo, H. K. 1999, Hardev Kaur, 2000).

The South East Asia financial crisis brought about several alarms to China, and pushed China to intensify its on-going economic reforms. Why these reforms are so important to China and what are they? First, China must reform its investment management system; particularly it should get rid of repetition investment at the lower level, promote competition amongst the diverse regions, and pay more attention to improving the industrial structure. Second, the government must deepen its financial reform, reduce non performing loans, and enhance its capability to fight against financial risks. Finally, the government must activate the state-owned enterprises, step up the speed of restructuring corporate capital, and develop economic efficiency and product competition so as to better China’s economic growth measures.

Moreover, China is, of course, also a significant international actor. In the present context, however, it is commendable of note that China is reluctant to defy international public opinion. Its leaders comprehend the connection between good relations with the international community and its successful economic growth. China has in modern years become trade-dependent. It is also borrowing from international financial institutions. And businesses investors are obviously are vital to China’s economic health and prosperity. Traders as well as lenders favor nations with a good global image. Finally, Chinese leaders know by recent experience (the Tiananmen Massacre) how their image can persuade their economy. (Economic growth declined noticeably for some months after the massacre.) Escobar, Arturo. 1995.

Beijing, however, is symbolized in the United Nations and the other most visible global political organizations; Taipei is not. Beijing also has the veto in the U.N. Security Council. Thus, it is improbable that Taipei will be able to gain membership in the U.N. or even be able to take part in a meaningful way for quite some time. China, meanwhile, is increasingly renowned as a major actor in international relations. Many nations, including, some say, the United States, are afraid to challenge China, a global power, especially on the Taiwan issue.

Finally, Taiwan’s future will surely be influenced by the fact that it is economically penetrated and reliant upon trade for its economic viability and growth. Thus, Taiwan will not likely turn inward, try to resist international opinion, or ignore the world in setting its own course or in dealing with roughly any important issue. On the other hand, Taiwan’s economic success gives it increased influence in global financial matters. This means that it is improbable that Taiwan can long be excluded from international economic institutions.

Yet the People’s Republic of China is also growing in financial power and persuade faster than Taiwan is, and it is being viewed more and more as a critical economic player in world affairs. This inclination will continue, as it has in the last decade or so, to undermine Taipei’s efforts to develop its international status when the two are in conflict.

Taiwan is developing its own identity. This process, at times called nationalism, will likely prompt Taiwan to attempt to remain separate from China in the short term, assuming external variables do not come into play. The Taiwanese majority is now playing a much greater role in education, social organizations, the economy, and politics.

The rising influence of locally born Chinese in education has already resulted in the writing of “revisionist” histories of the island. Taiwanese historians typically emphasize its separation from China, its uniqueness, and a sense of national identity. The Mainland Chinese who came to the island with Chiang Kai-shek in 1949 stressed the island’s Chinese heritage and its links with the Mainland (Chung, Chin. 1994).

The end of their dominance in education, especially in teaching history, and the truth that most of the Mainlanders’ descendants view ties with China as less significant than do their parents, means that this view is fading and will persist to do so. In short, a “Taiwanese” view of the island’s history is beginning to reign and will no doubt dominate in the future. Likewise, Taiwan’s culture will become more Taiwanese as the majority ethnic group gains influence with democratization.

Mainland Chinese in Taiwan usually accept this reality. In fact, many, notwithstanding their past and present influence on Taiwan’s society and culture, identify with Taiwan. There has also been joining of Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese culture and especially their perceptions about Taiwan’s place in the world and its future–hence the popular notion of a “new Taiwanese” that embraces the whole population of the Republic of China. Clearly ethnic identification is waning, as is ethnic tension.

These trends, however, will be counteract or balanced by an increasing interest in China by the population of Taiwan. numerous people are looking for their roots. Many share a desire to see China restored to its once-dominant role in the world. Many, when trying to make a case for Taiwan’s uniqueness, recognize that Taiwan is too small to make an impact on world history.

Many think that if Taiwan were to be part of China, it would make a difference! Finally, if Taiwan is, as many in Taiwan and elsewhere suggest, a model that the People’s Republic of China implements in its economic and political development (which seems to be happening), there will no doubt in convergence and eventually the basis for a smooth, peaceful reunification. Which of these trends will prevail? In the short run, probably Taiwanese nationalism. But possibly not in the long run.

In the future there will certainly be less cause for Taiwan to copy slavishly from the West. Many people in Taiwan, particularly Taiwanese, see Taiwan as instead following in Japan’s footsteps economically, communally, and politically. Others speak of Taiwan as having its own identity, like Singapore–a Chinese nation, but not part of China. Some local scholars refer to Taiwan as “the Switzerland of the East,” thinking Taiwan must be culturally unique, politically neutral, yet socially activist (Anthony Giddens, 2000).

Thus the ingredients that made corroboration between China and Taiwan successful, planning, technology, research and development, and perhaps most of all, human resources one can logically expect solid, sustainable economic growth well into the future. This, together with Taiwan’s high levels of savings and investment and its quality of labor, management, and innovation, will conserve the island’s economic health for some years in the future–assuming a healthy international economy. However, the double-digit annual GNP growth of the 1960s into the 1980s clearly is a thing of the past. The GNP increases of the 1990s–5 to 7 percent–should be considered normal. Growth rates higher than the world’s average can possibly be sustained for some time.

Rapid economic growth in the past thirty years, on the other hand, has provoked problems that China and Taiwan now should solve. Attention must continue to shift from high growth rates to a better environment, more leisure, and a higher quality of life. The population of China and Taiwan is quickly becoming more interested in the good life than high GNP growth figures. Fewer are keen to sacrifice as their parents did or as they themselves did in the past. The environment and the people’s quality of life will be increasingly important.

Still, most of its population realizes that China and Taiwan must remain productive to survive. It must export. Thus, though the work ethic might decline somewhat, it will not likely fade quickly or disappear. In fact, it will probably decrease more slowly than in most other rapidly developing countries.

China and Taiwan ‘s only real resource is the human one. Its lack of natural resources makes it essential to sell abroad in order to buy raw materials. Its population density makes its economic vitality more important than in other countries. Consequently, they will probably not witness public outcries for no growth or slow growth anytime soon. Workers’ organizations are similarly not likely to become considerably stronger. Environmentalism will probably not become an ideology, as it has in some Western nations, but will rather be a call for cooperative action.

In the future, more of China and Taiwan ‘s gross national product will be generated by services than by goods, particularly from the manufacturing sector. Meanwhile, industry will become increasingly capital- and knowledge-intensive. Research and development will play a bigger role in production, and Taiwan-made goods will continue to go up market and will rise in quality and price.

Very early in the next century, probably a decade or so from now, China and Taiwan ‘s per capita income, given present trends, will raise to about that of the United States today. Sometime thereafter, the standard of living in China and Taiwan will be close to those of the United States and the nations of Western Europe and will then pass many of these countries. Social and political change will probably lag only to some extent, perhaps not at all (Pyo, H. K. 1999, Anthony Giddens, 2000, ).

Work Cited

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  • Chung, Chin. 1994. “The changing pattern of division of labor across the Strait: macro overview and sectoral analysis of the electronics industry.” Paper presented at the Conference on The China Circle, organized by Institute of Global Corporations and Conflicts, December 8-10. University of California at San Diego, Hong Kong.
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  • J. A. Kregel, “East Asia is Not Mexico: The Difference between Balance of Payments Crises and Debt Deflation,” in Tigers in Trouble: Financial Governance, Liberalisation and Crises in East Asia, edited by K. S. Jomo (London: Zed Books, 1998), pp. 44-62
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  • Nelson Graves, “Malaysia has only itself to blame, says Najmuddin,” SunBiz, 7 June 2000, p. 1.
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