McKenzie Wark on Wed, 30 Jul 1997 01:19:00 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Soros as media virus

Whatever else he may be, it seems clear to me that Soros 
is a media virus. His name just pops up anywhere in 
connection with anything now. For example: its quite
plausible that his company trades in SE Asian currencies,
but i hardly think he's a major influence in the region.
That his name is a convenient scapegoat for Dr Mahatir
indicates to me that the extent of Soros the media virus
is now amazingly global. 

Dr Mahatir's comments seem to me remarkably like blaming
your country's economic problems on "Jewish bankers". His
remarks have been received with the contempt they deserve,
at least on this list. Pointing out what might be going on
in SE Asia is not the same thing as "defending Soros". I
think the point is rather that on this side of the world
there are far more interesting things to talk about that
Soros -- be that Soros the man, the banker, the philanthropist,
-- or the media virus.

As Steve pointed out, Malaysia has an ambitious program of
public investment in getting an information industry going. 
The Malaysians realise that the remarkable rates of economic
growth they've experienced can't be sustained unless they
get into the most rapidly growing industries. Its clear now
that there's a problem with manufacturing-based growth
strategies. People in Europe and America have watched their
industrial jobs disappear over the last few decades. Far
from heralding the beginnings of an "information society",
what was really happening was a global redistribution of
parts of the value-added cycle. Those industrial processes
were the basis of economic growth, first in Japan, then
Taiwan and Korea, then Malaysia and Thailand. Part of ASEAN's
strategy, it seems to me, is to create a regional political
and trade environment in which businesses based in the more
affluent ASEAN countries can exploit the cheaper labour and
market growth in the poorer ASEAN countries, which now includes
Vietnam and is envisoned as including Burma, Laos and Cambodia.
Or at least that was the plan until Cambodia came unstuck

But for the middle rank developing countries like Malaysia and
Thailand, there's limits to how much gorwth can be based on
manufacturing. Its been a brief and small window of opportunity
for them. Capital moves much more quickly than it did 20
years ago. So the Malaysian strategy is to follow the lead of
Singapore, per capita the richest of the ASEAN countries, and
develop industries in the information industry. The advantages
Singapore has are that English is widely spoken, the 
communications infrastructure is good, and the level of education
is approaching 1st world standards. Malaysia doesn't really
have any of those advantages, but they're going to move aggressively
towards information industries anyway. After all, neither
Japan nor Korea had any "comparative advantage" in heavy
manufacturing in the 50s and 60s, and yet state driven industry
policies worked very well there in those sectors.

The reason i think all of this is of more than regional interest
is that its the growth in the Pacific rim economy that's driving
economic growth worldwide to some extent. Malaysia is only a
small part of that picture, but its a picture made up of small
parts -- its not like America or the EC where there's a high level
of political integration. 

"We no longer have roots, we have aerials."
 -- McKenzie Wark 

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