Originally published in 1993, 'The Four Little Dragons' is a brief overview of the political and economic policies responsible for the breathtaking speed with which four seemingly no-hopers (some more than others) caught up to, and in some cases surpassed, the developed West. By the same writer as the best-selling but now somewhat quaint 'Japan as Number One,' this short book does not go into excessive detail, but does provide a solid enough beginning for anyone interested in understanding the subject.
The first half of the book consists of short chapters focussing specifically on Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, though the latter two get much less attention. At the forefront is of course the role of technocrat-led, (more or less) benevolent dictatorships in accomplishing the countries' respective economic miracles (and until I read this, I didn't know how much Korea's growth in particular was truly deserving of that supernatural term).
The second half is titled 'Towards an Explanation', and attempts to make its way to just that. Together with a largely meritocratic bureaucratic system that thereby gained people's respect and consent to rule, and could thus put in to effect their grand schemes, Vogel points out five 'situational factors' that came together to give a powerful advantage to these East Asian nation(state)s. These are "US aid, the destruction of the old order, a sense of political and economic urgency, an eager and plentiful labour force, and familiarity with the Japanese model of success."
Being only a short book Vogel does not go into depth to demonstrate and back up his arguments or viewpoints, but I suppose that is somewhat beside the point here. All in all it is an easy read, and a good foundation to build upon (well, apart from the almost non-existent section on Hong Kong...). Now I'm off to get Ha-Joon Chang's treatment of this subject.