This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Studwell explored how moguls in Hong Kong , Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea get super wealthy not because of individual genius, but by harnessing export-led booms. By suavely ingratiating themselves with new, post-colonial leaders, they won monopolies in commodities, real estate, power and gambling. Yet left corporate godfathers better off at the expense of the masses. It was clearly timed to shame the nabobs currently cavorting at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Locally, they can appear god-like for their uncanny ability to bend adversity and political upheaval to their advantage.
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Some of the bigger names you may have heard of include Hong Kong property magnate Li Ka-shing and Malaysian hotels and plantations boss Robert Kuok. Studwell explores how these families slid quietly into their positions of economic power, largely thanks to the colonial and then post-colonial politics of the region. We couldn't help thinking of the fictionalised account of some of these families in Crazy Rich Asians ; we strongly suggest reading them in conjunction with each other.
Against an illuminating historical backdrop, Studwell explodes various myths surrounding the rise of the often silent and reclusive tycoons. More was at play here, including a system that favoured political strongmen working in cahoots with a few trusted businessmen; one maintained power, the other made money.
And readers will learn how tycoons have manipulated their images by creating rags-to-riches stories that are simply untrue, but help keep them cosseted in their bubbles of wealth. Plenty has happened since , and yet very little has changed when it comes to breaking up the conglomerates that wield so much economic power in Southeast Asia. We've seen this book described as "the best business book about Southeast Asia ever written", and although we don't as a rule delve into business books this is more historical political economy we reckon this is probably a pretty spot-on description.
Asian Godfathers is a fine book to deepen, or kick-off, your understanding of Southeast Asia's political economy. Read past issues. Where are you from? Subscribe to the Mekong Review Travelfish. We do. It focuses on the shifting fortunes of a non-Burman family swept up in the turmoil, as they take advantage of the good times and face tragedy during the bad. Drawing on a vast array of resources, and writing evocatively, Strangio creates a colourful and multi-layered portrait of Cambodia that will add to the knowledge of even the most avid kingdom-watcher.
Chudori Pulang in Indonesian is a colourful and illuminating novel tracing the lives of Indonesian political exiles in Paris from onwards and, several decades on, their children both there and Jakarta during the upheavals and violence of British correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry brings the roiling turmoil of the era to life with his snappy but sensitive reportage.
Lawrence Blair will fill your bucket list with incredible places to go. But Afterland by Mai Der Vang is an extraordinary collection of powerful poems that excavate the humanity of those swept up in the war and the subsequent exodus of some , Hmong refugees to the United States.
But nothing is as straightforward as it first seems. Trudging up with an assistant on the eve of the new millennium, he reflects on his life and its highlights and lowlights along the way. Countless cultural intricacies will surface if you read this before a trip to Bangkok. Somtow A novel not easily defined by genre, S. It tells the story of English-educated Justin, or Little Frog, mysteriously left by his parents with his extended family in a sprawling compound in Bangkok.
R Kukrit Pramoj The late M. Is there any chance I would make these at home? Pretty much no. But when it comes to being pleased at holding this hot little published recipe book in my hand, does it matter?
Good news: the lengthy book is an utterly compelling and stunning read. Spanning war, the fall of Saigon, gay love, families and much more, the poems may traverse sometimes familiar ground, but they offer fresh perspectives using language that sparkles as if its very words were diamonds.
Then this is the Vietnam book for you. We admit to thinking this on hearing about The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, but given it won the Pulitzer prize for fiction earlier this year and being suckers for literary prizes , we had to give it a read.
And: wow. What a refreshing, shocking, beautiful, thought-provoking read. Published in , the book shows a snapshot of Asia back then, a meandering and enjoyable read for those particularly interested in the region.
The pieces touch on a raft of issues, such as backpacker culture, overtourism, press trips and ecotourism and are an interesting and at times very funny page turner. Top of page. All rights reserved. Please don't steal our content Built on Skeleton.
It must have cost Joe Studwell a good deal of work to integrate his knowledge of Asian business and politics and produce this exceptional book. He has a facility for gaining access to Asia's rather Joe Studwell. The author of How Asia Works follows the money.
Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and South East Asia
A richly reported study of power and stunted economic development. Mysterious, shrewd, and ruthless, these tycoons represented eight of the twenty-five wealthiest people on the planet in the s and they continue to command multibillion-dollar personal fortunes, controlling everything from banking and real estate to shipping and gambling—yet their names would not be familiar to regular readers of The Wall Street Journal. Who are they and how do they do it? That is the question Joe Studwell, author of the acclaimed book The China Dream , answers in this incisive behind-the-scenes exploration of the outsize figures behind the veil. Studwell has spent fifteen years as a reporter in the region and uses his unprecedented access to debunk one myth after another while simultaneously painting intimate and revealing portraits of the godfathers—who they really are and how they make, build, and maintain their fortunes. He also examines the political and economic environments in which the godfathers operate, which are remarkably similar to the ones exploited by turn-of-the-century American tycoons.
Samsung Exposes ‘Asian Godfathers’ Problem
True, a few of them might feel at home with Tony Soprano. Tommy Suharto, the playboy son of former Indonesian president Suharto, did time in prison for ordering the murder of a Supreme Court judge, and others are rumored to have underworld connections. They do deals. Until the system that creates tycoon economies changes, most godfathers will remain untouchable — just as their American equivalents were at the start of the Twentieth Century. Then there is the legendary stinginess, as when one tycoon en route to clinching a deal abroad decided to save a few pounds by making his investment banker and colleagues take the London underground to the airport instead of a taxi. Some of the tycoons highlighted by Studwell have a knack for selling companies to the public, and then, when these perform poorly, buying them back at a substantially lower price.
Business Books: Asian Godfathers--money, bets, and sex