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The economics of isolation, trade and investment: case studies from Taiwan & apartheid South Africa

Kerby, Edward (2016) The economics of isolation, trade and investment: case studies from Taiwan & apartheid South Africa. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.1k0wy6s8mous


This dissertation studies the economic history of South Africa’s industrial decentralisation policies, which led to greater trade and foreign investment with Taiwan during the closing phases of apartheid. These large industrial schemes sought to increase exports of finished goods, diversify manufacturing from urban centres, and develop the African homelands, while continuing the status quo of racial segregation. In examining (1) bilateral trade, (2) foreign investment and (3) business network agglomeration, I illustrate the role Taiwanese firms played in fulfilling important aims of the industrial decentralisation policy. The three interrelated topics explain how the diplomatic relationship developed, the effects to bilateral trade, and why Taiwanese investors came to be the largest group of industrialists in the apartheid-era homelands. However, the research agenda presented in this thesis is not merely a narrow analysis of trade and investment. It also provides a broader perspective of key questions in South Africa’s economic history: specifically, the rise and fall of apartheid, the contradictory forces of regional industrial decentralisation, which shaped Africa’s most industrialised economy, and the roots of persistent inequality stemming from the homeland system. The period between 1975 and 1994 was turbulent with both countries facing different degrees of political and economic isolation. Prior scholarship has focused on the diplomatic relationship between the two countries, as international sanctions made quantitative data difficult to access. The introduction of new qualitative and quantitive data on the apartheid economy highlights the economic motives for this large wave of Asian foreign investment, especially those in the rural African homelands. Moreover, it draws lessons from the historical patterns of apartheid industrial and spatial development, which are analogous to current African special economic zone policies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Edward M. Kerby
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Ma, Debin and Gardner, Leigh

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