This paper develops a taxonomy of government–firm relations in the electronics industries of four countries within East Asia. The paper analyses the strategies, behaviours and functions of firms (local and foreign), suggesting that the effectiveness of direct government–firm interventions may be overstated in the policy literature. By focusing on electronics, the largest export sector, the paper makes inter-country comparisons between government policy approaches, corporate strategies, technological trends, product specialisations, and the effectiveness of government-funded technology institutes and government–firm partnerships for technology. Firm-level case findings are used to provide a detailed understanding of emerging East Asian corporate strategies and technological strengths and weaknesses. The paper confirms the remarkable degree of technological progress over the past three decades but warns against simple extrapolations into the future. By examining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the paper touches on issues raised by the economic crisis in East Asia, supporting the view that the primary role of government is to secure macroeconomic stability, rather than to intervene in support of specific firms or sectors. The empirical evidence is used to assess and extend conceptualisations of the East Asian developmental state, arguing that the conventional market to state continuum fails to capture important features of the region's development. The paper also comments on the relevance of the findings for modern resource-based theories of the firm and neo-Schumpeterian models of innovation.
- Electronics industry
- East Asia