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ASIAN ECONOMIC HISTORY
Series Two: Economic Development in Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, 1950-1980

Part 1: Files for 1950-1954

Part 2: Files for 1955-1958

Part 3: Files for 1959-1962
Part 4: Files for 1963-1966

Publisher's Note - Part 4

Providing archival documents for the four year period up to the end of 1966, we focus here on economic development and investment policies. These files evaluate economic progress in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, on their path as rapidly emerging and newly industrialised economies (NIEs) by the late 1970s. The project also covers economic developments in Malaysia following the granting of independence and the advances of the gas, oil and petroleum industries in Brunei.

Brunei

This period witnessed the start of an extensive program to exploit the rich petroleum and natural gas fields led by the large multi-nationals. Files include documents on negotiations, maps of areas to be explored or developed, with specifics on US aid, capital investment, particular proposals and construction projects. Also included is the file on the proposed visit of Lord Mountbatten and full documentation of the Brunei development plan for 1962-1966.

Hong Kong

Textiles, clothing, electronics, watches, clocks, plastics and toys were key export commodities. Growth of the manufacturing sector was a direct result of the influx of capital investment and workers for the burgeoning labour force. Labour intensive methods kept manufacturing costs low. Industries were dominated by small and medium scale manufacturing companies. The Hong Kong government gradually became more involved in the promotion of industrial development, including institutional support, technical back-up, manpower training schemes and the provision of low cost land for the industrial sector. From 1963 onwards, this led to a “golden period” for manufacturing industry in Hong Kong lasting over a decade, prior to a significant downturn in the 1980s.

We include files on:

  • Report by Mr Jansen (Head of IBRD) on the economic position of Hong Kong in 1966 and its future development
  • Cotton textiles
  • Factory development
  • The cross harbour tunnel
  • Banking legislation and regulation
  • Social welfare provision and modernising workplace practices
  • Water supplies and water pipeline project
  • Hong Kong trade mission to Europe
  • Policy on US tariffs
  • Economic forecasts for 1965-1970

Malaysia

Japan and the US were key trading partners. Principal export commodities were electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles and chemicals. Malaysia was formed in 1963 through a merging of the former British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. The next few years were dominated by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore’s secession in 1965. Racial tensions continued to hamper economic development.

We include files on:

  • Foreign aid and investment
  • Textiles
  • Employment of expatriates in business
  • Manpower and training assistance
  • Commercial relations with Indonesia
  • Relations with the IMF and World Bank
  • Japanese economic plans in Malaysia and Indonesia
  • Technical Assistance

Singapore

Singapore was granted independence in 1965. The re-export trade was always crucial. The state was active in promoting the economic development of Singapore and kept faith with a free-trade tradition. Singapore continued to expand as an international trade dependent economy with the US and Japan as its most significant trading partners. Key commodity exports included petroleum products, oil bunkers, televisions, radios, electronic components, ships, boats, oilrigs and clothing.

We include files on:

  • Loans and capital aid to Singapore
  • Working Party on Singapore
  • Development and welfare schemes
  • Economic and financial consequences of the independence of Singapore
  • Textiles and other commodities

Korea

With the advent of the President Park administration, foreign investment and loans began to pour into Korea. Again the US led the way. Between 1959 and 1968 total government loans, private loans and foreign investments amounted to US $944 million. Typical exports in the 1960s were silk, tungsten, fish and fish products, animal oils and fats. Foreign capital helped to solve the problem of balance of payments deficits as reflected in the following files:

  • South Korean economic development, 1963-1964
  • Technical assistance and South Korean trade mission to the UK
  • Commercial relations with Japan
  • Annual reviews
  • US aid to South Korea
  • Textiles

Taiwan

These years were still characterised by government intervention and massive US aid. The latter amounted to $706 million for the period 1963 to 1967. Export diversification was a dominant feature from 1963 onwards. The creation of export processing zones helped private enterprise. There were advantages for small and medium-sized concerns with their flexibility to adjust to changing market needs and the ability to draw upon surplus labour from the declining agricultural sector. Industrial production rose by 14% in 1965. We include:

  • Annual reports and a series of bi-monthly economic reviews.
  • Files reporting on US aid and loans
  • Requirements for petroleum products

We also include documents such as:

A Report on Higher Education in Relation to Development in S E Asia covering high-level manpower for Economic Development. This looks at the manpower and education requirements for improving commerce, infrastructure and industry – especially training in modern skill sets. Singapore and Malaysia are covered in detail.

  • Brief on Economic Development in Asia for UK Prime Minister’s visit to Washington DC in July 1966
  • Reports of ECAFE meetings
  • Reports of Colombo Plan Consultative Committee meetings
  • Sir Christopher Cox’s tour of Hong Kong and Singapore in 1965 focussing on Higher Education, Technical Assistance and Colombo Plan Trainees
  • Visit of Mr D H Christie of the Ministry of Overseas Development to Malaysia – papers on training and education in Malaysia and Singapore
  • GATT files on Taiwan, Korea and Singapore
  • US President Johnson’s proposals for economic development in S E Asia

The Foreign Office steering brief for the Nineteenth Session of ECAFE (see FO 371/169793) defined the following objectives:

The main point of sending a delegation to ECAFE meetings is to demonstrate the interest we take in promoting economic development and social progress in the region and the importance we attach to ECAFE as a means to this end.  We are also concerned to exert our influence on Asian economic thinking and, so far as possible, to encourage them to pursue policies compatible with our own.

The Annual Review for 1965 for Taiwan highlights the influence of massive US aid to the region:

American military aid continues on a large scale…  The island’s economy is booming.  Japan granted a loan of US $150 million.  United States economic aid programme which came to an end in June was an outstanding success….”

During 1965 the island’s economy again made impressive progress.  Exports increased by 6 per cent to US $488 million while industrial and agricultural production rose by 14 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.  Due to heavy imports of capital goods and raw materials, there was at the end of the year a small unfavourable balance of trade.  However, the foreign exchange reserves stood at US $200 million.  The influx of foreign investment capital showed a marked increase over the previous year.  Japan remained Formosa’s most important trading partner and the granting of a Japanese Yen loan, equivalent to US $150 million, in April, did much to relieve anxieties about the termination of United States economic aid at the end of June.  During the past 15 years, the total of United States economic aid in grants and loans mounted to US $1500 million.  Although some US $130 million, still in the pipeline, will continue to flow into the economy during the next two years, the fact that Formosa now has a viable economy and is able to stand on its own economic feet is a great achievement and an outstanding success for the American aid programme.  The outlook for the Formosan economy was one of buoyant optimism at the end of 1965.”

 

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