How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region

Overview


In the 1980s and 1990s many in the West came to believe in the myth of an East-Asian economic miracle. Japan was going to dominate, then China. Countries were called “tigers” or “mini-dragons,” and were seen as not just development prodigies, but as a unified bloc, culturally and economically similar, and inexorably on the rise.

Joe Studwell has spent two decades as a reporter in the region, and The Financial Times said he “should be named chief myth-buster for Asian business.”...

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How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region

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Overview


In the 1980s and 1990s many in the West came to believe in the myth of an East-Asian economic miracle. Japan was going to dominate, then China. Countries were called “tigers” or “mini-dragons,” and were seen as not just development prodigies, but as a unified bloc, culturally and economically similar, and inexorably on the rise.

Joe Studwell has spent two decades as a reporter in the region, and The Financial Times said he “should be named chief myth-buster for Asian business.” In How Asia Works, Studwell distills his extensive research into the economies of nine countries—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and China—into an accessible, readable narrative that debunks Western misconceptions, shows what really happened in Asia and why, and for once makes clear why some countries have boomed while others have languished.

Studwell’s in-depth analysis focuses on three main areas: land policy, manufacturing, and finance. Land reform has been essential to the success of Asian economies, giving a kick start to development by utilizing a large workforce and providing capital for growth. With manufacturing, industrial development alone is not sufficient, Studwell argues. Instead, countries need “export discipline,” a government that forces companies to compete on the global scale. And in finance, effective regulation is essential for fostering, and sustaining growth. To explore all of these subjects, Studwell journeys far and wide, drawing on fascinating examples from a Philippine sugar baron’s stifling of reform to the explosive growth at a Korean steel mill.

Thoroughly researched and impressive in scope, How Asia Works is essential reading for anyone interested in the development of these dynamic countries, a region that will shape the future of the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Americans often imagine that an “economic miracle” is taking place across all of Asia, a region of vast internal differences and contradictions. The truth is more complex and tentative. In his latest book, journalist Studwell (The China Dream), founder of the China Economic Quarterly, surveys nine nations: China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. At a time when ideas of “geographic pre-destination” and “‘nothing-can-be-done’” developmental thinking abound, Studwell reports on the striking differences between these nations. Taiwan, for one, “gives us a powerful reminder that geography is not destiny in development.” The book first reviews land policies, then considers basic manufacturing, including autos, cement, fertilizer, steel, and textiles. Studwell writes gripping country-by-country profiles of companies that together provide ample evidence of the brutality with which economic development is conducted. Dwelling on Hyundai, Studwell admires the “extraordinary success of Korea’s manufacturing development policy” and the prospects for trade there. He concludes with a lucid review of China’s confusing economic policies, arguing that the country remains mired in government inefficiencies and slow institutional development. Readers will find Studwell’s informative and balanced report eye-opening. Agent: Claire Alexander, Aiken Alexander Associates Ltd. (July)
From the Publisher

An Economist Best Book of the Year

“Pithy, well-written and intellectually vigorous . . . Studwell’s thesis is bold, his arguments persuasive, and his style pugnacious. It adds up to a highly readable and important book.”—Financial Times

“Provocative. … How Asia Works is a striking and enlightening book … A lively mix of scholarship, reporting and polemic.”—The Economist

"Very readable.... A fascinating and thoroughly deep account."—Bloomberg Radio

“Gripping … Readers will find Studwell’s informative and balanced report eye-opening.”—Publishers Weekly

“Consistently engaging.”—Booklist

“Studwell paints a vivid picture of business life in the region. If a copy of the Korean edition finds its way across the demilitarized zone to Pyongyang … we may find we have yet another Asian Tiger in our midst.”—Management Today

“A solid blend of the descriptive and the prescriptive, with plenty of lessons that will be of interest to Asia hands, investors and policymakers.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Perhaps my favorite economics book of the year. Quite simply, it is the best single treatment on what in Asian industrial policy worked or did not work, full of both analysis and specific detail, and covering southeast Asia in addition to the Asian tiger ‘winners.’ … Definitely recommended, you will learn lots from it, and it will upset people of virtually all ideologies.”—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

“An interesting analysis of policy decisions that have and haven’t worked . . . a handy guide for anyone interested in one of the world’s fastest developing regions.”—The Economic Times (India)

“Studwell’s latest book, How Asia Works, is also his most ambitions. . . . Declining to make broad pronouncements or dovetail with doctrine, Studwell demonstrates that the way Asia works isn’t quite as simple as we ever imagined.”—Smart Planet

"A landmark work."—Asia Times (Bangkok)

“Bold and insightful. . . . Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the ingredients for economic success.”—The News International (Pakistan)

Kirkus Reviews
China Economic Quarterly founder Studwell (Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, 2007, etc.) delivers a sometimes-contrarian, sometimes-counterintuitive look at the fortunes of Asia's economies, for better or worse. One of those success stories is Taiwan, which benefits from a tropical climate and the abundant rain and heat that come with it, making the island nation a vast garden as compared to much of neighboring mainland China. It benefits more, Studwell writes, from having undergone a program of land reform that preserves the "labor-intensive gardening approach" while rewarding individual ownership through an incentivized market structure. By contrast, tropical Philippines is hampered by a land tenure system that concentrates ownership in a few hands, notably an "estranged first cousin" of Corazon Aquino, who had been a former crony of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. For all the success of places such as Taiwan, Kerala and West Bengal, Studwell writes that "a country cannot sustain growth on agriculture alone" and then moves on to discuss the development of profitable (and sometimes not-so-profitable) industries and innovative financial sectors. The author also examines all of the lessons learned from throughout Asia in the light of how China has fared, with extremely mixed results: The country, he observes, has failed to truly serve its private sector and maintains a financial system "that has almost certainly been unnecessarily inefficient." Removing such hindrances and encouraging freely moving institutional systems can only further China's growth, he adds. A solid blend of the descriptive and the prescriptive, with plenty of lessons that will be of interest to Asia hands, investors and policymakers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802119599
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/25/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 461,513
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Joe Studwell is the founding editor of the China Economic Quarterly. A freelance journalist in Asia for over twenty years, he has also written for the Economist Intelligence Unit, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Asian Wall Street Journal and the The Far Eastern Economic Review. He is the author of The China Dream and Asian Godfathers.
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