LOOKING AT THE SUN by James Fallows


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 While capitalism may have bested communism in the Cold War, Fallows (More Like Us, 1989; National Defense, 1981, which won the American Book Award) fears that the West does not realize that the world's balance of economic power is shifting from the North Atlantic to the Pacific Basin and, further, that Asian economic success is based on a system of free enterprise that diverges in crucial ways from that of the West. Fallows (who has lived and traveled in Asia as a reporter for the Atlantic Monthly) presents both an anecdotal and an analytic appraisal of the challenges that East Asia (notably Japan, but also coastal China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand) poses to the US and its allies. To illustrate, he shows that Japan (an economic colossus whose lead many neighboring nations follow) gauges success not by what the country can purchase but by what it can make. By contrast, prevalent Anglo-Saxon economic theory measures a society's wealth in terms of consumption levels and reckons cutthroat competition (which eliminates inefficient suppliers) a necessary evil. In addition to discussing the consensus assumptions underlying Tokyo's trade and industrial policies, Fallows examines Japan's cultural and historical legacies: a late start in industrial development, the homogeneity of its population, residual xenophobia, clear political objectives, and perdurable grievances dating back to the postwar Allied occupation. By failing to grasp how and why East Asia's guided, nationalistic version of capitalism varies from the Western paradigm (which places particular value on individual rights), Fallows asserts, the West risks pursuing pointless goals in relations with the area's bellwether countries. Rather than engaging in acrimonious debate about what's fair or not, he argues, the US should learn from the economic achievements of the Pacific Basin nations, applying such principles as can be gainfully adapted from their systems to its own education, industrial, investment, and trade policies. An astute observer's provocative response to what he deems the large-scale economic challenges posed by Asia to the West. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 18th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-42251-X
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994


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