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Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia Paperback – October 9, 2001

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Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia + China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power + Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 377 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703010
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists for The New York Times and authors of China Wakes, return with an eclectic collection of reportage from Asia. Thunder from the East lacks an overarching thesis, except perhaps the claim that Asia is an incredibly important part of the world whose influence will only grow in the 21st century. (Toward the end of the book, in an amusing speculation about the year 2040, the authors wonder about "the Indian landing on Mars, the Kim's Riceburger acquisition of McDonald's, and now this basketball loss" of the Americans to the Chinese in the Olympics.) Kristof and WuDunn are a husband-and-wife team who split up their writing duties; every chapter is individually bylined, with the exception of the jointly authored final one. They refuse to offer a grand unified theory of Asia, a region, they write, that is "a bit like the weather: so diverse that it is difficult to generalize about." Instead, they paint chapter-length portraits of various Asian subjects, and often in the first person. In an opening set of remarks, Kristof describes how he and WuDunn have lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and Japan: "Our experience across Asia was in the form that the Chinese call qingting dian shui, meaning the way a dragonfly skits superficially about the surface of a pond."

There's nothing superficial about their reporting--it probes deep and isn't afraid to draw large lessons. Kristof, for example, discusses how China and India's historic insularity have kept those two countries from achieving all they might--cases of "imperial understretch," he calls them, in a nice phrase--and suggests the United States may be entering a similar period. Thunder from the East sparkles with this kind of analysis: provocative, debatable, and worth thinking over. Its riches aren't apparent from a cursory examination, but only through a page-by-page reading. Those who make the effort will be glad they took the time. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Fantastic Book from A plus writer!
Jack Keller
One very strong aspect of the book is that the authors avoid the descent into moralizing.
Charles Ashbacher
This is one of the most fascinating books that I have ever read.
Y. Fazili

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My college chemistry professor, a man of Chinese descent who grew up in the Philippines and was a young boy during the Japanese occupation, once told me that Asians were the most ethnically biased people you could find. Furthermore, he added that one could not understand the politics of the region or presuppose to predict the future in that part of the world unless that fact was kept foremost in mind. Nearly all of the ethnic hostilities between groups such as the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese predate the formation of the United States and some the founding of the modern nation states of Europe. Given these complex histories, any attempt to project what will happen in that region would seem to be a foolish exercise.
However, there are times when megatrends make predictions easy and that is the case here. The projections made in this book concerning the major forces driving Asia are too obvious to be wrong. Shed of stifling ideologies such as Communism or socialism, most countries in Asia, but particularly the massive countries of China and India are revamping their economies and growing at impressive rates. It seems clear that if these two can successfully manage their internal ethnic diversity and hostilities, they will be the two global economic powerhouses of the late 21st century. In fact, it is argued, correctly but not too strongly that the major superpower rivalry of the next decade will be between India and China. The emphasis for decades has been the rivalry between India and Pakistan, which is even more dangerous, given the potential for nuclear conflict. However, with the current and clear future differences in population and economic growth, Pakistan could soon be a dwarf when compared to its powerful neighbor.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Gallipo on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Kristoff and Ms. WuDunn have written a very interesting and engaging book about one of the most important areas of the world. The strength and weakness of the book derives from the authors' close contact with average people in the areas the write about. This puts a wonderfully human face on an area that for too many Americans becomes a faceless mass of statistics. But sometimes I think the authors are too quick to jump from anecdote to larger societal truth.
I found some of the early history of the region especially fascinating having never been exposed to that before. Like the authors, I spent time afterward thinking about what might have been had China not destroyed its 15th century navy. It is a useful counterpoint to the common argument that the triumph of the West over the past several centuries was inevitable.
The book also provides many good insights into Asia's potential for the future. I was also impressed that the authors seemed very cognizant of the limits of their predictive powers and often pointed the wide variety of things that could happen to change their overall outlook. I would recommend this book for all but the most serious scholars of Asia.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
While I didn't find this book as edifying as "China Wakes," it's still a good read. Its greatest strength is the vignette format, with anecdotes, history, and statistics from various countries in the region and chapters divided by topic. The authors admit, rightfully, that with the breadth of territory they cover in this book the treatment is bound to be superficial to some degree, but it makes for a much more engaging read for someone interested in Asian studies in a broad sense, rather than the usual academic "fine-toothed-comb" treatment of a narrow topic. Their writing style is nonacademic, which is both highly engaging and very refreshing, and helps this book to appeal to a wide audience, not just ivory-tower types.
There are a few problems with the book, which can take something away from its enjoyability. First, there is a tremendous amount of editorializing. The authors may have felt this was necessary to tie together the disjunctive stories and histories they discuss, but I have a firm belief that the intelligence of the reader and the topic-as-chapter format would have made a much better tie than so much author opinion. That excessive editorializing and the overuse of "the upshot is" to explain things to the reader detracts from the maturity of the writing style. Additionally, the writers obviously consider themselves much more well-versed in Asia-related topics than most Americans. This is fine, but at certain points in the book the reader can't help but think that the authors mistake Americans for idiots. They assert, for example, that most people think of pastoral rice-paddy scenes, and not urban overcrowding, when they think of Asia. Who thinks that? I don't know anyone who doesn't tie overpopulation with India and China!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul Mckenney on September 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The authors write of their experiences and observations in a number of Asian countries. Their story is greatly helped by conversations with people from all walks of life, from world leaders to the desperately poor. Their story is very well told, and is consistent with my experiences in Asia.
Anyone who aspiring to "think globally and act locally" needs to read this book. Opponents of globalization are especially advised to read this book -- the world looks a lot different on the ground in parts of Asia than it does from the comfort of a North American or Western European armchair. High-minded ideals can cause a lot of real damage to the poorest of the poor, to those in most need of help.
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