A Tale of Two Dictatorships

Myanmar and Pakistan are both Asian countries whose military rulers are in trouble. But they are heading in opposite directions, because, whereas Pakistan understands why Asia is rising, Myanmar does not.

Asia is rising because Asian countries are increasingly opening their doors to modernity. Starting with Japan, this modernizing wave has swept through the four “Asian Tigers” (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore), some ASEAN countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam), and then to China and India. Now, it is moving into Pakistan and West Asia.

I was in Pakistan during one of its more exciting weeks. Exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought to return, but was promptly sent back into exile. The world expected a political eruption. Instead, the country carried on calmly.

Pakistan did not erupt because Pakistan’s elite is focused on modernization. Led by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who was formerly with Citibank, the country has carried out dramatic structural reforms, matching best practices in leading emerging-market economies. This explains high economic growth rates.