I end every single class that I teach with a request to my students: ask me five random questions. The topic can be anything under the sun, but please get into the habit of asking me (and indeed everybody else!) questions.
One question that usually pops up in the course of a semester is this one: “If you could recommend only one book that all of us should read, which would it be?”
It is impossible to answer a question like this, of course. But still, it is a fun game to play. And if the class comprises of an Indian audience (which is usually the case), my answer almost always is How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell. It is an eye-opener of a book about growth in North-Eastern Asia (Japan, Taiwan and South Korea) during the latter half of the twentieth century, and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. I’m not the only one to be head over heels in love with that book – here’s exhibits A, B and C.
But the reason I bring up Joe Studwell today isn’t such a happy one. He also writes a blog1 – updated only sporadically, it is true – and the blog is full of useful articles to read about topics that he is interested in. And today’s post is about a New Yorker piece about Xingjiang that he shared the other day.
And it is not, to say the least, pleasant reading.
Usually, I would have excerpted from it and added my own takes, but not today. Please, go ahead and read the whole thing.
Speaking of those random questions, “Why can’t we be more like China?” is also usually one of them. My usual answer is to say “be careful what you wish for”. The New Yorker article only serves to reinforce that point.
Again, please. Read the whole thing.
- the intro to the blog is exemplary writing. And what is it with economists and homes in Italy? First Mundell, now Studwell.[↩]