From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists and authors of China Wakes comes this insightful and comprehensive look at Asia on the rise.The recent economic crisis in Asia heaped devastation upon millions. Yet Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that it was the best thing that could have happened to Asia. It destroyed the cronyism, protectionism, and government regulation that had been crippling Asian business for decades, and it left in its wake a vast region of resilient and determined millions poised to wrest economic, diplomatic and military power from the West. Thunder from the East is a riveting look at a complex region, a fascinating panoply of compelling characters, and a prophetic analysis from arguably the West's most informed and intelligent writers on Asia
HAbout a third of the way through this eye-opening book, a 13-year-old Cambodian girl describes her mixed feelings about her parents, who sold her into prostitution to raise money for her now-deceased mother. "Mom was sick and needed money. I don't hate her," the girl says. This simple description of the awful choices faced by many of the participants in Asia's economic revolution is just one of the many devastating portrayals in this deftly woven and gracefully written book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning husband-and-wife team (authors of China Wakes) who were longtime Asia correspondents for the New York Times. Using individual lives to examine countries ranging from Japan to Singapore, Kristof and WuDunn convincingly argue that Asia's current economic crisis is just a blip in the continent's more-than-half-century ascent toward economic power. The crisis is "an imposed breather, a forced opportunity to recuperate and regroup." And instead of viewing this growth with fear and hostility, as many authors have previously, Kristof and WuDunn approach it with curiosity. Part history, part anthropology and part journalism, the book describes the factorsDmainly isolationism and bloated bureaucracyDthat held Asia back and helped Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries and how these factors continue to prevent some countries, whether Malaysia or India, from reaching their full economic potential. Nor do they shy away from the difficult questions posed by globalization and expansion. They describe an Indonesian woman who speaks glowingly about the possibility of her son working some day in a local sweatshop: it would be a step up from her employmentD trawling through a local dump. Despite these obstacles, the authors believe that the entrepreneurial spirit of Asians like Sirivat Voravetvuthikun, who launched his own sandwich stand in Bangkok, provide evidence of their optimism: "[T]he center of the world may be shifting... and eventually it will settle in Asia." Whether the reader agrees with them or not, images of Sirivat and the others will remain with the reader long after this gem of a book is placed back on the shelf. 66 b&w photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 09, 2001
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Excerpt from Thunder From the East by Nicholas D. Kristof
He must have been a raffishly handsome young man, with his bushy eyebrows, large coal-black eyes, high-cheekboned face, and thick mop of black hair dangling over his ears. He looked pale but improbably serene, showing no sign of the torture he had endured, and those eyes were still wide open and frozen in a final instant of surprise. He had a strong, projecting chin, but his head ended a few inches below that chin in a jagged eruption of blood, tissue, and bone. His head had been hacked off with a machete and was impaled on a bamboo stake, and he seemed to be staring at me.
I stared back. That abrupt transition from human flesh to bamboo stake wrenched my gut and paralyzed my legs. I was scared stiff. The mob that had killed him was in front of me now, the killers waving machetes and screaming Allahu akbar, God is great. There were about two dozen of them, mostly men in their twenties and thirties, all riding motorcycles slowly down the main street of the little farmtown of Turen, Indonesia.
It was a typical warm afternoon in what seemed a bucolic, prospering community. A tropical drizzle had created a shine on the beautifully paved blacktop road, but there were plenty of trees to shield people from the rain. Comfortable one- and two-story homes lined the road, their walls neatly whitewashed, their roofs made up of pleasant red tile. A few repair shops and small restaurants competed for business, and a billboard advertised "Sun Silk Shampoo" with an image of a young woman with thick, beautiful, black hair. A few bicycle rickshaws were waiting for rides and several pushcart vendors were selling fried rice and noodles. Townspeople were emerging by the side of the road to see what was causing the racket.
It seemed like any of Indonesia's tens of thousands of little villages, except that it had abruptly tumbled into savagery. Some motorcyclists were waving S-shaped machetes, two feet long and bloody, while others wielded sickles that were equally grisly. A few were clenching their fists in power salutes of victory, and they were all grinning happily, cheering and shouting, while the fast-forming crowd on the sidewalk waved back and roared its approval. In the middle of the cluster of motorcycles was a glossy black one, and its driver smiled proudly at the responsibility he had been given. Behind him on the same motorcycle was a long-haired younger man, perhaps twenty years old, his black shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his face gleaming with excitement. Black Shirt was standing up on the footrests, holding on to the driver's shoulder with his left hand, and with his right he was holding up the bamboo stake. Exultantly, he waved it all around, as if he were exhibiting a doll's head on a handle, so that everyone could admire it. Black Shirt was small and skinny, shining with his eagerness to please, and he looked less like a killer than like a proud high-school kid in the center of a homecoming parade.
I was standing under a tree to keep out of the drizzle, and the motorcyclists did not see me at first. But now the cries faded as the mob became aware of the presence of a foreigner. Black Shirt frowned, switched hands and thrust the severed head toward me, he too shouting Allahu akbar. The head was raised high, and my eyes locked on the bloody tissue, jagged and ragged, where the neck ended.