The paper outlines some of the main aspects of the development and industrialisation of the East Asian countries during the last half century. Up to the beginning of the '90s the flying geese model was relevant to interpret this process. Japan was the leading goose; after rebuilding the basic infrastructures in the immediate post-WWII years the rapid growth period laid down the basis for the Japanese economic leadership in the region. With the years many industrial sectors were relocated outside Japan firstly in the NIEs and later in the ASEAN countries. The Japanese "keiretsu" were instrumental in this process together with local governments and the overseas Chinese networks. In the Nineties two crisis - the burst of the bubble economy in Japan and the July 1997 one - and a new actor - China - changed the scenario. In addition a new wave of innovations resulted in a deep fragmentation of many production processes. These changes are still going on and China is emerging as the future leader in the region and in the world.