A big, easily read, sparkling discourse on the past, present, and possible future of the East Asian ""dragons"" and ""tigers."" Elegant, who has been telling us for years about China in fat, picaresque novels, now give us an Inside Asia that should be as popular as his fiction. Much of his material is anecdotal, personal, prejudiced, and provocative; but all of it is rooted in a solid historical background, a fluency in Chinese and Japanese, and some 40 years of experience as a reporter in the region. An outstanding section on Japan offers some new and often chilling insights into its complex culture and expansionist directions, and confirms its ascendancy as the number one world power. China, which Elegant knows better, comes off muddier, its directions still mysterious; by comparison, the other countries under his eye--Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, Hong Kong--seem easier to explain. He also spotlights (too briefly) the significance of shifting relationships between Russia and the Orient. He gives weight to the still-respected influence of the US, the prevalence of America-bashing, and the consensus that the US has lost its dominant role, which it is unlikely to retrieve. A major contribution is his emphasis on the enduring cultural influences of Confucianism, Shintoism, and Buddhism in these regions--despite the overlay of Christian conversions--which, he suggests, account for much of the bewilderment of the Judeo-Christian world in contemplating events in Asia. Elegant concludes that the US can at least regain competitiveness, but only if it takes immediate and heroic measures to recapture educational excellence, a more productive work ethic, and a compelling, cohesive national direction equal to wartime unity. A dynamite blast at any remaining Western smugness, and an enthralling, kaleidoscopic assemblage of fact and opinion about the still little-understood Orient.