“A good read for anyone who wants to understand what actually determines whether a developing economy will succeed.” —Bill Gates, “Top 5 Books of the Year”
An Economist Best Book of the Year from a reporter who has spent two decades in the region, and who the Financial Times said “should be named chief myth-buster for Asian business.”
In How Asia Works, Joe 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.
“Provocative . . . How Asia Works is a striking and enlightening book . . . A lively mix of scholarship, reporting and polemic.” —The Economist
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.