Pacific Rim and Economic Tigers

Map of the Pacific Ring of Fire


Many of the countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean have helped to create an economic miracle that has become known as the Pacific Rim.

In 1944 the geographer N.J. Spykman published a theory about the "rim" of Eurasia. He proposed that the control of the rimland, as he called it, would effectively allow control of the world. Now, more than fifty years later we can see that part of his theory holds true since the power of the Pacific Rim is quite extensive.

The Pacific Rim includes countries bordering the Pacific Ocean from North and South America to Asia to Oceania. Most of these countries have experienced major economic change and growth to become components of an economically integrated trade region. Raw material and finished goods are shipped between Pacific Rim states for manufacture, packaging, and sale.

The Pacific Rim continues to gain strength in the global economy. From the colonization of the Americas to just a few years ago, the Atlantic Ocean had been the leading ocean for the shipment of goods and material. Since the early 1990s, the value of goods crossing the Pacific Ocean has been greater than the value of goods crossing the Atlantic. Los Angeles is the American leader in the Pacific Rim as it's the source for the most trans-Pacific flights and ocean-based shipments. Additionally, the value of United States imports from Pacific Rim countries is greater than the imports from NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) member in Europe.

Economic Tigers

Four of the Pacific Rim territories have been called "Economic Tigers" due to their aggressive economies. They have included South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Since Hong Kong has been absorbed as the Chinese territory of Xianggang, it is likely that its status as a tiger will change. The four Economic Tigers have even challenged Japan's dominance of the Asian economy.

South Korea's prosperity and industrial development are related to their production of items from electronics and clothing to automobiles. The country is about three times larger than Taiwan and has been losing its historical agricultural base to industries. South Koreans are quite busy; their average workweek is about 50 hours, one of the world's longest.

Taiwan, which is not recognized by the United Nations, is a tiger with its major industries and entrepreneurial initiative. China claims the island and the mainland and island are technically at war. If the future includes a merger, hopefully, it will be a peaceful one. The island is about 14,000 square miles and has a focus on its north coast, centered on the capital city of Taipei. Their economy is the twentieth largest in the world.

Singapore started its road to success as an entrepot, or free port for the transshipment of goods, for the Malay Peninsula. The island city-state became independent in 1965. With tight governmental control and an excellent location, Singapore has effectively utilized its limited land area (240 square miles) to become a world leader in industrialization.

Hong Kong became part of China on July 1, 1997, after being the territory of the United Kingdom for 99 years. The celebration of the merger of one of the world's outstanding examples of capitalism with a major communist nation was watched by the entire world. Since the transition, Hong Kong, which had one of the highest GNP's per capita in the world, continues to maintain its official languages of English and the Cantonese dialect. The dollar continues to be in use but it no longer bears the portrait of Queen Elizabeth. A provisional legislature has been installed in Hong Kong and they have imposed limits on opposition activities and have reduced the proportion of the population eligible to vote. Hopefully, additional change won't be too significant for the people.

China is attempting to foray into the Pacific Rim with Special Economic Zones and Open Coastal Areas which have special incentives for international investors. These areas are scattered along China's coast and now Hong Kong is one of these zones which also includes China's largest city, Shanghai.


The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organization is composed of 18 Pacific Rim countries. They are responsible for the production of about 80% of the world's computers and high tech components. The countries of the organization, which has a small administrative headquarters, include Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States. APEC was formed in 1989 to promote free trade and economic integration of the member nations. The heads of state of the member nations met in 1993 and in 1996 while trade officials have annual meetings.

From Chile to Canada and Korea to Australia, the Pacific Rim is definitely a region to watch as barriers between the countries are loosened and the population grows not only in Asia but also along the Pacific coast of the Americas. The interdependency is likely to increase but can all of the countries win?

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Your Citation
Rosenberg, Matt. "Pacific Rim and Economic Tigers." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Rosenberg, Matt. (2020, August 27). Pacific Rim and Economic Tigers. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "Pacific Rim and Economic Tigers." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).