The economies of Hong Kong and south-east Asia are dominated by only forty or fifty families. Their interests range from banking to property, from shipping to sugar, from gambling to lumber. At their peak, eight of the world’s two dozen richest families were south-east Asian, yet they are largely unknown outside the region. A complex mythology surrounds them, one which informs Asian views on culture, entrepreneurialism and economics. In this explosive account, Joe Studwell finds that the facts are even more remarkable than the myths, as he lifts the lid on a world of hypocrisy, power and enormous wealth.
Through the hidden lives of some mysterious and fascinating men, Studwell explores the broader economic and political issues facing a region of 500 million people: how the Asian tycoons took such a strong hold over their local economies, how they survived the Asian financial crisis that began in 1997, and what their endurance teaches us about the real state of the countries they live in. Joe Studwell has been a contributing writer to The Economist and was based in Beijing with The Economist Intelligence Unit. He is the founder of The China Economic Quarterly.
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