Despite setbacks, the economic "miracles" achieved by many Asian countries in the latter 20th century have been impressive. This entertaining and thoughtful book invites the reader to consider East Asia's other miracle: its dramatically low rates of crime, divorce, drug abuse, and other social ills. T.R. Reid, an NPR commentator and former Tokyo bureau chief for the Washington Post, lived in Japan for five years, and he draws on this experience to show how the countries of East Asia have built modern industrial societies characterized by the safest streets, the best schools, and the most stable families in the world.
Reid credits Asia's success to the ethical values of Chinese philosopher Confucius, born in 551 B.C., who taught the value of harmony and the importance of treating others decently. This is not a new perception--Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and others have rather heavy-handedly invoked it to claim moral superiority over the West--but the author's vivid anecdotes strengthen its relevance. Public messages constantly remind Asian citizens of their responsibilities to society. To enhance a sense of belonging, civic ceremonies encourage individuals' allegiance to a greater good; across Japan, for example, April 1 is Nyu-Sha-Shiki day, when corporations officially welcome new employees, most of whom remain loyal to their company for life. Citing Malaysia's ideas of a "reverse Peace Corps," Reid sees a case for Asians coming to teach the West in the same way that Westerners have evangelized in Asia for over four centuries. --John Stevenson