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Internet and Case Study Resources on Asian Economic Issues

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In a keynote address to Asian Studies instructors, economist Linda Lim suggested that too many Asian Studies courses are not relevant to contemporary Asian issues. (note 1) Students often leave an Asian Studies course with a thorough understanding of traditional cultures, but little grasp on the driving force behind the tremendous changes in Asian societies in recent years. To help instructors address Lim’s critique, this article examines how Internet resources and the case study method can be used in Asian Studies courses. These practical tools serve as excellent vehicles for students to develop their understanding of the social, institutional, and political aspects of rapid Asian economic development in recent years. These methods have been applied in an undergraduate economics seminar specific to the East and Southeast Asian economies and the role of government intervention in their structural transformations. (note 2) Although the article utilizes examples that focus on economics, the instructional resources have other fruitful applications in Asian Studies courses, at both the secondary and university levels.

ASIAN ECONOMIC RESOURCES ON THE INTERNET

Combining Internet resources with other materials can make classroom teaching and research more interesting and effective. Internet-based instruction strengthens students’ perceptions that the course material is relevant to real-world issues, refines their analytical abilities, and develops their computer skills. The Internet, through the Gopher and World Wide Web, offers a rapidly expanding source of Asia-related data sites, some of which are reported in Table 1. These sites provide economic analyses and a battery of descriptive statistics on Asian income, trade, finance, government budgets, investment, and other useful macroeconomic indicators. (note 3) The table classifies the Gopher and World Wide Web locations according to three categories, and includes directions for how to work through the indices. To maintain focus, I have limit Additional Asia-related information may be obtained by exploring other Gophers at Asian sites, found in a search of international Gophers, or by utilizing the net search tools for Gophers and the Web.

The first category, Asian Studies Internet Sites Abroad, includes locations for extensive information specifically on Asia. For example, one can find links to Korean universities and libraries, corporate home pages, and news clippings within the Korean index of the Australian National University’s (ANU) Asian Studies virtual library server. The ANU also has virtual library servers for Demography and Population Studies, Pacific Studies, and Social Sciences, which one can access using the same Gopher and Web addresses (with the final index choice differing from “Asian Studies Facility” as indicated in Table 1). (note 4) In addition, the ANU’s “What’s New in WWW Asian Studies Newsletter” provides valuable tips for locating Asian Studies information on the Web, and it offers regular updates on new servers and materials.

A search using Gophers at universities in the United States, the second category of Table 1, results in comprehensive international economics indicators that are not limited to Asia. Here one will find cross-country data and reports in the CIA World Factbook, the State Department’s Country Reports on Economic Policy and Trade Practices, and the State Department’s Background Notes. One can also find materials specific to business conditions across countries in the International Business Practices Guide, the Overseas Business Reports, and the International Market Insight Reports. These Gophers also contain annual issues of the Economic Report of the President, which offer useful information on U.S. economic relations with other countries. Finally, most of these Gophers provide access to the Army Area Handbookseries, book-length studies for individual countries that currently include China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea. Of the four U.S. university Gophers listed, I have found the Gopher at Rice University most helpful in providing the largest range of international resources. (note 5)

NOTES

1. Linda Lim, “Between Asian Reality and Asian Myth: Some Challenges Facing Asian Studies Today,” (paper presented at the ASIANetwork Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1994). Lim has written extensively on foreign investment, industrial policy, and workers in Asian countries, and she is editor of the Journal of Asian Business.

2. I have taught the course three times as a sophomore tutorial at Harvard University and twice as an undergraduate seminar at the College of William and Mary.

3. See William Goffe, “Computer Network Resources for Economists,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 8, no. 3 (1994): 97–119 for more extensive economic resources on the Internet.

4. An alternative Gopher address for the ANU is gopher://info.anu.edu.au/The Electronic Library Internet Resources by Subject/Country and Region-specific Information/Asian Studies Facility.

5. Because the universities’ World Wide Web sites proved less helpful in locating international economics resources