Regional development and the competitive dynamics of global production networks: An East Asian perspective

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The debate on the nature and dynamics of regional development in both academic and policy circles has now moved on from the earlier focus on endogenous regional assets to analyzing the complex relationship between globalization and regional change. This position paper attempts to engage with this debate through the experience of regional development in East Asia. The paper shows that regional development cannot be understood independently of the changing dynamics of global production networks. While the existing literature on East Asia tends to focus on the state as the key driver of economic development at the national and regional levels, it is argued that the developmental state is a necessary but not sufficient condition for regional development to take place. Instead, one needs to study the complex strategic coupling of those economic actors, particularly large business firms, operating in specific regions in Asia with their lead firm counterparts orchestrating production networks on a global basis. To illustrate these strategic coupling processes and their impact on divergent regional development trajectories, the author draws upon his own primary data and other papers to be published in this special issue of Regional Studies. The paper concludes with some major implications for theorizing regional development and strategic regional policy options.