• Bleona Rexha

East vs West: models of development

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

The difference between East and West comes partly from their different paths of development. One started to develop relatively early and evolved rapidly, like in the case of Great Britain; but the other development began later, as for instance in the countries of East Asia, more precisely, in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, etc. As one can imagine, this more recent development is tied partly to the predominant role of colonization.

From a historical standpoint, different countries from different regions of the world went through different stages of development at different rhythms at equally different time periods. Europe’s economic and social development, more precisely, is largely due to globalisation, to the multiplication of commercial exchange networks and to price convergence, which is becoming more and more important. The financial exchanges between Europe and America are much more important than the ones between Europe and Asia.

According to S. Broadberry and B. Gupta (1), the "great divergence" between East and West arose in the 19th century, because before then, the development levels of the two regions were more or less similar. From the 1900s onwards, a difference between developed and less developed countries (LDCs) began to be observed, which was reflected in different food needs and wage differentials.

The United Kingdom is very often used as an example to illustrate the Industrial Revolution. This period in history was characterised by a change in production methods and laid the foundations for the capitalist ideology that emerged after the 1880s. At that time, the United Kingdom began to distinguish itself from other European countries, foreshadowing the divergence between East and West. The United Kingdom's development model was then adopted by the other European countries and the North American countries, which in turn benefited from advances in production techniques (food, printing, finance, etc.). The United Kingdom developed relatively rapidly, process facilitated in particular by the opening up of trade through its colonial links with India and the Dominions, for example. At that time, the development of the textile industry was a priority for the country.

In general, colonisation had important consequences on the development of colonised countries. South Korea is a good example of this. According to several authors’ theories, the Japanese colonisation of the country actually had a good influence. When it comes to this topic, there are three schools of thought: the Occidental (Western scholars, sprout theory and economic growth), the Japanese and the Korean, also known as “the revisionists” (Jonghoe, 2004). The time between 1945 and 1965 was crucial for South Korea as the country moved to an economy based on exportation (Jonghoe, 2004). From that moment on, South Korea joined the “Four Asian Dragons”, a group of countries that enjoy a prosperous economic and social development. Meanwhile, countries in Latin America also began experiencing important growth, but it did not rival that of the Asian Dragons.

In short, before the beginning of the 19th century, the East and the West were developing at a similar pace. From the 1800s onwards, the situation changed: each of the poles, at different times, adopted a different strategy and pace of development.

Written by: Bleona Rexha

Three elements for Instagram

Main idea : The distinction between East and West is partly rooted in their mode of development. Focus on the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom (19th century) and on the "Four Asian dragons" (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore); question of the colonisation of South Korea.

Key word : The "great divergence" between East and West took place in particular after 1800, because before then the levels of development of the two regions were more or less similar.

Key sentence : Generally speaking, colonisation had profound consequences on the development of the colonised countries.


Jonghoe, Yang, Colonial Legacy and Modern Economic Growth in Korea: a critical Examination of their Relationships, 2004

Stephen Broadberry and Bishnupriya Gupta, The early modern great divergence: wages, prices and economic development in Europe and Asia, 1500–1800 1, in Economic History Review, LIX, 1, 2006 pp. 2–31.

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