The author, who in 1994 was forced to leave Singapore to avoid lawsuits and imprisonment after writing a newspaper article critical of the government's political leadership, now strikes back. His argument is that all the talk about the "Asian Century" is excessively optimistic and that the conservatism, authoritarianism, and inflexibility of East Asia's economic and political institutions will interfere with the processes necessary for sustaining the high growth rates of the past. Corruption and rising crime are, he says, reaching "epidemic proportions," partly because of the moral void that authoritarian and socialist regimes create. Also, according to the author, many Asian economies are distinguished by an institutional bias against individualism. Although the book suffers from overgeneralization, the basic argument is an important one. In the information age, is rapid economic development handicapped by authoritarian institutions?
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.