I will be presenting this paper at Stamford University’s 2nd National Conference on Management and Higher Education: Advances in Agricultural Production in East and Southeast Asia.
Abstract: At the end of the Second World War and prior to the period of rapid economic development, just about every East Asian economy remained dominated by agriculture and the majority of people relied on subsistence agriculture for survival. Agricultural societies are very closely related to the land on which they live. This close relationship is often accorded a powerfully emotional or at least sentimental value in the minds of East Asian people: in Japan, for example, the word furasato is used to describe a rural heartland from which the whole nation arises and, associated with that, a set of moral values that are related to small community living that has changed with the increasing importance of globalization and modernization. Since farmers are subsidized in different ways in nearly every East Asian society, this represents a mixture of different emotions, particularly among the urban populations, in which farmers are at the same time possessors of inherited virtue and, also, reminders of backwardness and lack of sophistication. These contradictions are evident throughout the treatment of agriculture and farmers in the region. The earliest use of settled agriculture probably took place in China and, owing to the below-average availability of water in the northern part of the China region, featured often extensive use of irrigation to ensure that food crops – millet, wheat and rice, for example – grew properly. When agricultural practices spread to Southeast Asia and other parts of the region, therefore, farmers tended to adopt the Chinese patterns familiar elsewhere. The preference for rice-growing and, specifically, wet paddy-rice farming, made water management a particularly important issue and one which became central to the legitimization of the state and its rulers. Rice farming supplemented existing forms of food production, including fishing, hunting and foraging, which remain important for many people today. Fishing in both fresh and sea water in particular remains an important industry and a means of feeding people. The export of seafood products, prawns and shellfish for example, represents significant streams of income for a number of countries and recent emphasis on cash crops such as coffee and macadamia nuts offers new and often lucrative opportunities for some groups of people, including ethnic minority groups, who might otherwise have been marginalized. This paper examines the importance of agriculture in helping develop East Asian economic growth and, also, its continuing relevance as an industry in its own right that provides employment and numerous opportunities to add value to local resources. It continues with an evaluation of the continued importance of agriculture to East Asia and then continues with analysis of various aspects of agriculture and business.