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Pacific Rim

  A geographic region that is generally considered to include Japan, Australia, the coastal cities of East Asia and the westernmost cities of North America, as well as selective smaller islands in between. The \'selectivity\' as to which cities and which islands are generally included in this regional formation is not based on any kind of geographical logic or integrity, but rather on their position within a restructured economic order that promotes and reproduces new kinds of \'cross-Pacific\' trade and financial linkages. The recent intensification of these interlinked areas indicates a movement away from Cold War allegiances and rivalries and the formation of a powerful new economic domain, also known as the Asia Pacific. The establishment of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1989 heralded the increased interest of Canada and the United States in participating in this primarily \'Asian\' economic engine, and in guiding its growth and development.

The burgeoning political and economic interest in the Pacific Rim has spurred a voluminous scholarly literature on the area. Numerous theories purporting to explain the reasons for the region\'s recent economic success have appeared, often employing widely diverse analytical frameworks. These include studies extolling the vindication of laissez-faire markets, those emphasizing the key role of the state (see e.g. Johnson, 1982; Appelbaum and Henderson, 1992), and others reflecting on topics such as neo-traditionalism, Confucianism, and the vital impact of Chinese business networks operating across the Pacific (e.g. Hamilton, 1996; Deyo, 1987; Redding, 1990).

The literature on this region has employed so much hyperbole (e.g. the \'Asian Miracle\' and the \'Pacific Century\') that a number of scholars have begun to argue that the \'region\' is itself merely a literary creation — one that has served the economic agendas and geopolitical visions of a largely Euro-American audience (see also critical geopolitics; geopolitics). The critique of Pacific Rim as \'Region\' ties into larger debates in post-structuralism and post-colonialism concerning the social construction of place and Identity, and most particularly of the social (re)construction of Asia (see also Orientalism). The intensity of the Pacific Rim\'s creation, its rapid growth as hegemonic discourse (cf. hegemony) and its new-found role as \'geo-political imaginary\' has prompted cultural critics such as Wilson and Dirlik (1995, p. 2) to ask, \'whose “Asia-Pacific” are we talking about, whose interests are being served, and when and how did this discourse of knowledge and power historically emerge?\'

In this critical view, the idea of the Pacific Rim that has energized western politicians and scholars in recent years has taken shape as something abstracted away from the actual economic, social and cultural processes occurring in daily interactions and in particular, contingent spaces within and between this clearly defined and essentialized formulation. Wilson and Dirlik have argued that the emphasis on the region as an abstract, yet all-encompassing economic space, \'whose circumference is everywhere and center nowhere\', has led to the complete elision of local cultural politics and anything that may be potentially oppositional to the production and ongoing reproduction of the region as economic miracle. They argue further that the focus on contemporary military-economic ties has blinded both scholars and policy-makers to the temporal fluidity of transcultural innovation and to the socio-cultural networks that have existed in the region for thousands of years.

The impact of the severe financial recession in East and Southeast Asia beginning in 1997 has yet to be analysed by either the region\'s economic boosters or those determined to reframe the area with a focus on its micro-politics and resistant cultures. (KM)

References Appelbaum, R. and Henderson, J., eds, 1992: States and development in the Asian Pacific rim. London and New Delhi: Sage. Deyo, F., ed., 1987: The political economy of the new Asian industrialism. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. Hamilton, G., ed., 1996: Asian business networks. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter. Johnson, C. 1982: MITI and the Japanese miracle. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Redding, S. 1990: The spirit of Chinese capitalism. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Wilson, R. and Dirlik, A. 1995: Introduction. In R. Wilson and A. Dirlik, eds, Asia /Pacific as space of cultural production. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Suggested Reading Dirlik, A., ed., 1993: What is in a rim? Critical perspectives on the Pacific region idea. Boulder: Westview. Palat, R.A., ed., 1993: Pacific-Asia and the future of the world-system. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. Winchester, S. 1991: Pacific rising: the emergence of a new world culture. New York: Prentice-Hall.



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