Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 27: East Asia and Southeast Asia Today

Chapter Overviews

The region of East Asia and Southeast Asia has experienced economic growth since the late 1900s. Many of the countries in the region have become important trading partners with the United States and other nations around the world. China is one of these countries. China’s government is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Although in recent years China’s leaders have allowed people more economic freedom, they still keep tight control over political activities. Cities are growing rapidly as people leave small villages in hopes of finding better-paying jobs. Because of some economic reform, people can now choose the jobs they want. China’s economy is growing as a result of these reforms. China’s neighbors, Taiwan and Mongolia, have been influenced by their nearness to China. Taiwan has a strong industrial economy despite tensions with China over its independence. Taiwan also has a highly educated workforce and is moving toward democracy. Mongolia’s economy relies on products from herd animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. In the 1990s, Mongolia abandoned its Communist system of government.

Japan, a collection of four large islands and thousands of smaller ones, lies off the coast of East Asia. Its government is a constitutional monarchy without a large military, but Japan is a strong world economic power. Japan’s economy is industrial; it produces cars, ships, cameras, and consumer electronics among other products. The government works closely with business to advance the economy. However, it faces growing competition from other countries in the region and an aging population that will result in a smaller workforce. Because of Japan’s geography and limited amounts of land, people are crowded into urban areas. Daily life in Japan is a mix of traditional and modern ways. Clothing, housing, art, and architecture reflect the traditions of the country and are also influenced by Western ideas.

North and South Korea lie on the same peninsula but are very different countries. North Korea has a Communist government as a result of being occupied by the Soviet Union after World War II. In the 1950s, North Korea attacked South Korea to bring it under Communist rule but was not successful. The United States helped South Korea in this war. After the Korean War, South Korea’s leaders rebuilt and industrialized the economy. As a result, South Korea is now an economic leader and has begun to be involved in world affairs. In contrast, North Korea’s leaders have isolated the country from the rest of the world. Its Communist leaders devote more resources to the military and do not develop industry. North Korea’s government controls the political, economic, and social lives of its people. Poverty is widespread, and many people have left the country in search of better conditions.

Mainland Southeast Asia is a mix of stronger and weaker economies. Countries like Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore have developed industry and have seen economic growth. Most people in Myanmar and Thailand are Buddhists. Myanmar is a socialist country that exports wood products, gas, rice, and beans. Thailand benefits from tourism and some exports. Malaysia, on the southern end of the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo, exports a great amount of raw material and recently has had success exporting goods such as electronics and cars. Singapore, on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s most productive economies, and its people enjoy a high standard of living. Other Southeast Asia countries such as Laos and Cambodia have weaker economies, primarily because of present or past rule by Communist leaders. Vietnam has enjoyed some growth, but its Communist policies inhibit growth. The islands of Southeast Asia have economies that rely on natural resources and agriculture. Indonesia and Brunei have oil and gas reserves, while East Timor people live by farming. The Philippines exports rice, sugarcane, bananas, and other agricultural products.

Glencoe Online Learning CenterSocial Studies HomeProduct InfoSite MapContact Us

The McGraw-Hill CompaniesGlencoe