Nihon Hustle

Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs Interested in Business throughout the APAC Region

(Informative, instructional books about business and life in Japan, China, Southeast Asia… the entire APAC region.)

The Definitive Book List About Business in and Concerning Asia

Last Updated: May 31, 2021 (JST)

It's a funny thing about business books. Most of the best books you'll read that are relatable to business, aren't even about business. The same holds true for this list of the best Asian business books… many of the books I've read that have helped me adopt well to my new home country of Japan weren't even about Japan. Many were not even about Asia. Or, business. They were about life, about people, about interacting with others. About growth. About pulling back on one's ego, about recognizing the benefit of boundaries, the weakness of boundaries, and when it's proper to dismantle them.

Such is the case with this list.

I've structured as a Top 100 list because it's a nice round number from which you can draw from, and because I'm certain I'll want to make it longer. I'll add a few books a week in the first quarter of 2021 until its complete. A note. Many of these books I'll list are ones I've read, or am reading now. I'll note that below so you can get a feel for my own personal business book recommendations. Business books about Asia that aren't just about Asia… or business… comin' right up. Enjoy. —Doc

Nihon Hustle is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Top 100 Asian Business Books (New for for 2021)

1. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture

(Ruth Benedict)

“One of the best books ever about Japanese society . . . [A] thoughtful, nuanced study of the Japanese character.”—U.S. News & World Report

“A classic book because of its intellectual and stylistic lucidity . . . Benedict was a writer of great humanity and generosity of spirit.”—from the foreword by Ian Buruma

Essential reading for anyone interested in Japanese culture, this unsurpassed masterwork opens an intriguing window on Japan. The World War II–era study by the cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict paints an illuminating contrast between the people of Japan and those of the United States. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is a revealing look at how and why our societies differ, making it the perfect introduction to Japanese history and customs.

“A classic of Japanese cultural studies . . . With considerable sensitivity, she managed both to stress the differences in Japanese society of which American policy makers needed to be aware and to debunk the stereotype of the Japanese as hopelessly rigid and incapable of change.”—The New York Times

“An absorbing account of Japanese culture . . . almost novel-like readability.”—The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology

—from the publisher.

Check today's price

2. Assignment Vietnam: Coming Full Circle As A Soldier, Diplomat And Businessman

(Christopher Runckel)

Vietnam – for a generation of Americans it is a country and a name that holds a certain fascination and a host of baggage – much of it negative and full of remorse.  It is the name of a war that the U.S. experienced from 1955-75 that energized a generation of Americans and led to nearly 60,000 American deaths plus the wounding and damage to hundreds of thousands more.  For the rest of the region, the damage was even worse.  Some 200-300,000  Cambodians,  possibly 200,000 Laotians and from nearly 800,000 to over 3 million Vietnamese died and even greater numbers were wounded, declared missing or affected by the violence.  Chris Runckel experienced the war and the aftermath and then nearly 20 years later was chosen to open U.S. diplomatic relations with Vietnam.  The story of his involvement with Vietnam is a true modern American history of the U.S. relationship with Vietnam both for good and for bad.  The difference in his story was that he always looked forward and always looked to make his experience with Vietnam positive and something both he and his country could be proud of.  Assignment Vietnam:  Coming Full Circle as a Soldier, Diplomat and Businessman tells this unique story.  A story that starts in the U.S. West and takes Runckel to Vietnam, the White House, the U.S. Department of State, to multiple U.S. Embassies and ultimately back to Vietnam time and again as Runckel helps the U.S. to build a new relationship with its former adversary.  In Vietnam, Runckel builds bridges and works with U.S. and Vietnamese diplomats, businessmen and others to build a new path for both countries.  This is a great read and a great story, one all Americans, Vietnamese and many others need to read and to appreciate. 

—from the publisher.

Check today's price...

3. The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III

(Peter Baker & Susan Glassman)

Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune and Bloomberg

From two of America's most revered political journalists comes the definitive biography of legendary White House chief of staff and secretary of state James A. Baker III: the man who ran Washington when Washington ran the world.

For a quarter-century, from the end of Watergate to the aftermath of the Cold War, no Republican won the presidency without his help or ran the White House without his advice. James Addison Baker III was the indispensable man for four presidents because he understood better than anyone how to make Washington work at a time when America was shaping events around the world. The Man Who Ran Washington is a page-turning portrait of a power broker who influenced America's destiny for generations.

A scion of Texas aristocracy who became George H. W. Bush's best friend on the tennis courts of the Houston Country Club, Baker had never even worked in Washington until a devastating family tragedy struck when he was thirty-nine. Within a few years, he was leading Gerald Ford's campaign and would go on to manage a total of five presidential races and win a sixth for George W. Bush in a Florida recount. He ran Ronald Reagan's White House and became the most consequential secretary of state since Henry Kissinger. He negotiated with Democrats at home and Soviets abroad, rewrote the tax code, assembled the coalition that won the Gulf War, brokered the reunification of Germany and helped bring a decades-long nuclear superpower standoff to an end. Ruthlessly partisan during campaign season, Baker governed as the avatar of pragmatism over purity and deal-making over division, a lost art in today's fractured nation.

His story is a case study in the acquisition, exercise, and preservation of power in late twentieth-century America and the story of Washington and the world in the modern era–how it once worked and how it has transformed into an era of gridlock and polarization. This masterly biography by two brilliant observers of the American political scene is destined to become a classic.

—from the publisher.

Check today's price...

4. The Business Reinvention of Japan: How to Make Sense of the New Japan and Why It Matters

(Ulrike Schaede)

“A gem! Schaede links corporate culture to incentives and outcomes, and shows how Japanese firms have kept the tight corporate culture that makes things right, but add elements of the loose culture that makes the right things. She gives concrete examples of Japanese firms that got it right and how they did it.” — Robert Alan Feldman, Tokyo University of Science

 

After two decades of reinvention, Japanese companies are re-emerging as major players in the new digital economy. They have responded to the rise of China and new global competition by moving upstream into critical deep-tech inputs and advanced materials and components. This new “aggregate niche strategy” has made Japan the technology anchor for many global supply chains. Although the end products do not carry a “Japan Inside” label, Japan plays a pivotal role in our everyday lives across many critical industries.

This book is an in-depth exploration of current Japanese business strategies that make Japan the world's third-largest economy and an economic leader in Asia. To accomplish their reinvention, Japan's largest companies are building new processes of breakthrough innovation. Central to this book is how they are addressing the necessary changes in organizational design, internal management processes, employment, and corporate governance. Because Japan values social stability and economic equality, this reinvention is happening slowly and methodically, and has gone largely unnoticed by Western observers. Yet, Japan's more balanced model of “caring capitalism” is both competitive and transformative, and more socially responsible than the unbridled growth approach of the United States.

—from the publisher.

Check today's price...

5. No Longer Human

(Osamu Dazai / Translator: Donald Keene)

The poignant and fascinating story of a young man who is caught between the breakup of the traditions of a northern Japanese aristocratic family and the impact of Western ideas.

Portraying himself as a failure, the protagonist of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human narrates a seemingly normal life even while he feels himself incapable of understanding human beings. Oba Yozo's attempts to reconcile himself to the world around him begin in early childhood, continue through high school, where he becomes a “clown” to mask his alienation, and eventually lead to a failed suicide attempt as an adult. Without sentimentality, he records the casual cruelties of life and its fleeting moments of human connection and tenderness.

—from the publisher.

6. Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China

(Leslie T. Chang)

China has more than 114 million migrant workers, which represents the largest migration in human history.

In Factory Girls, Leslie Chang tells the story of two such workers: two young women who she befriends over the course of three years. Interspersing their account of life and migration with the story of her own family's migrations, Chang paints a vivid portrait of world where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a cellphone; where lying about your age, your education, and your work experience is often a requisite for getting ahead; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Factory Girls offers a previously untold story about the immense population of unknown women who work countless hours, often in hazardous conditions, to provide us with the material goods we take for granted.

A book of global significance, it demonstrates how the movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and the fates of families, transforming our world much as immigration to America's shores remade that society a century ago.

—from the publisher.

7. Tech Titans of China: How China's Tech Sector is challenging the world by innovating faster, working harder, and going global

(Rebecca Fannin)

Sliver award winner in International Business/Globalization 2020 Axiom Business Book Awards

The rise of China's tech companies and intense competition from the sector is just beginning. This will present an ongoing management and strategy challenge for companies for many years to come. Tech Titans of China is the go-to-guide for companies (and those interested in competition from China) seeking to understand China's grand tech ambitions, who the players are and what their strategy is. Fannin, an expert on China, is an internationally-recognized journalist, author and speaker. She hosts 12 live events annually for business leaders, venture capitalists, start-up founders, and others impacted by or interested in cashing in on the Chinese tech industry. In this illuminating book, she provides readers with the ammunition they need to prepare and compete.

Featuring detailed profiles of the Chinese tech companies making waves, the tech sectors that matter most in China's grab for super power status, and predictions for China's tech dominance in just 10 years.

—from the publisher.

8. Building Startup Ecosystems: Introducing The Vibrancy Rating

(David Michael Shelters)

As we progress further into the information age technology, online businesses, e-commerce and innovation play an increasingly larger impact on economic growth, social development and the personal lives of human beings throughout the world. Tech entrepreneurship provides the propulsion for such progress.

As individual nations and international organizations increasingly recognize and embrace the vital importance entrepreneurship and innovation has become the need for greater understanding and focused study on the development of start-up ecosystems supportive of tech entrepreneurs has urgently assumed greater proportions.

This is the first book to treat the topic of start-up ecosystem development from both an academic and practical perspective. The book will commence with an introduction to the Vibrancy Rating, a qualitative methodology to evaluate and track the progress of the development of local start-up ecosystems. The existing methodologies that rate start-up ecosystems are primarily quantitative, thus, only record current status and results. They do not offer a proper conceptual framework nor actionable information to assist the various participants in a start-up community to make informed decisions throughout the stages of development a local start-up ecosystem progresses through.

To illustrate the methodology, a narrative of the untold story of the development of the Thai start-up ecosystem will be presented. In 2008 when the author decided to make Thailand his home there was no start-up community. Now it has rapidly developed into one of the most vibrant start-up communities in the world. Thailand is rated #1 globally in social media usage and the top global destination for digital nomads. It is a global leader in women and social entrepreneurship. Thailand is renowned for its vast network of well-designed and vibrant co-working spaces and is positioned in the heart of ASEAN, the fastest growing region in the world. It has become the preferred launching pad for the biggest global e-commerce players targeting the Southeast Asian market and is leading the way in ASEAN in developing crowd funding regulations.

The book reveals how this happened since the very beginning from the perspective of an observer and participant. The book finishes with a review of the proper roles of each start-up participant during each development stage. Start-up participants include entrepreneurs, early-stage investors, media, start-up organizations, universities, corporations and government.

The review is intended to answer the following question: How can each start-up community member optimally contribute to and benefit from the start-up community in which it is based? The final chapter of the book will present the Innovative Venture policy proposal for governments to consider in support of the development of their local start-up ecosystem. The Innovative Venture is a designation granted to a start-up venture for successfully demonstrating that they would be introducing an innovation to the local economy whether it be an innovative technology, business model or process. It is structured as both a regulatory and branding vehicle that serves as a drop box for specific regulatory relief and incentives to be enjoyed by both founders and investors of local start-ups. The government may also market their Innovative Venture program both domestically and abroad to attract new participants to the local start-up ecosystem.

For the first time start-up ecosystems can now be properly evaluated and compared by all the major start-up community players so they may optimally contribute and benefit.

—from the publisher.

9. Taiichi Ohno's Workplace Management: Special 100th Birthday Edition

(Taiichi Ohno)

COMMEMORATING THE 100th BIRTHDAY OF TAIICHI OHNO

Businesses worldwide are successfully implementing the Toyota Production System to speed up processes, reduce waste, improve quality, and cut costs. While there is widespread adoption of TPS, there is still much to be learned about its fundamental principles.

This unique volume delivers a clear, concise overview of the Toyota Production System and kaizen in the very words of the architect of both of these movements, Taiicho Ohno, published to mark what would have been his 100th birthday. Filled with insightful new commentary from global quality visionaries, Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management is a classic that shows how Toyota managers were taught to think.

Based on a series of interviews with Ohno himself, this timeless work is a tribute to his genius and to the core values that have made, and continue to make, Toyota one of the most successful manufacturers in the world.

“Whatever name you may give our system, there are parts of it that are so far removed from generally accepted ideas (common sense) that if you do it only half way, it can actually make things worse.”

“If you are going to do TPS you must do it all the way. You also need to change the way you think. You need to change how you look at things.” — Taiichi Ohno

“This book brings to us Taiichi Ohno's philosophy of workplace management–the thinking behind the Toyota Production System. I personally get a thrill down my spine to read these thoughts in Ohno’s own words.” — Dr. Jeffrey Liker, Director, Japan Technology Management Program, University of Michigan, and Author, The Toyota Way

Based on a series of interviews with Taiicho Ohno, this unique volume delivers a clear, concise overview of the Toyota Production System and kaizen in the very words of the architect of both of these movements, published to mark what would have been his 100th birthday.

INCLUDES INSIGHTFUL NEW COMMENTARY FROM:

Fujio Cho, Chairman of Toyota Corporation

Masaaki Imai, Founder of the Kaizen Institute

Dr. Jeffrey Liker, Director, Japan Technology Management Program, University of Michigan, and author

John Shook, Chairman and CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute

Bob Emiliani, Professor, School of Engineering and Technology, Connecticut State University

Jon Miller, CEO of the Kaizen Institute

—from the publisher.

10. The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy

(Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani)

“If you're as interested in Japan as I am, I think you'll find that The Power to Compete is a smart and thought-provoking look at the future of a fascinating country.” – Bill Gates, “5 Books to Read This Summer”

Father and son – entrepreneur and economist – search for Japan's economic cure

The Power to Compete tackles the issues central to the prosperity of Japan – and the world – in search of a cure for the “Japan Disease.” As founder and CEO of Rakuten, one of the world's largest Internet companies, author Hiroshi Mikitani brings an entrepreneur's perspective to bear on the country's economic stagnation. Through a freewheeling and candid conversation with his economist father, Ryoichi Mikitani, the two examine the issues facing Japan, and explore possible roadmaps to revitalization. How can Japan overhaul its economy, education system, immigration, public infrastructure, and hold its own with China? Their ideas include applying business techniques like Key Performance Indicators to fix the economy, using information technology to cut government bureaucracy, and increasing the number of foreign firms with a head office in Japan. Readers gain rare insight into Japan's future, from both academic and practical perspectives on the inside.

Mikitani argues that Japan's tendency to shun international frameworks and hide from global realities is the root of the problem, while Mikitani Sr.'s background as an international economist puts the issue in perspective for a well-rounded look at today's Japan.

  • Examine the causes of Japan's endless economic stagnation
  • Discover the current efforts underway to enhance Japan's competitiveness
  • Learn how free market “Abenomics” affected Japan's economy long-term
  • See Japan's issues from the perspective of an entrepreneur and an economist

Japan's malaise is seated in a number of economic, business, political, and cultural issues, and this book doesn't shy away from hot topics. More than a discussion of economics, this book is a conversation between father and son as they work through opposing perspectives to help their country find The Power to Compete.

—from the publisher.

11. Culture Hacks: Deciphering Differences in American, Chinese, and Japanese Thinking

(Richard Conrad)

Richard Conrad grew up in Washington, D.C., studied engineering and economics at Vanderbilt University, earned a master’s degree in Economics as a local student at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and later earned an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Richard worked for the last sixteen years for a large U.S. money management firm researching, analyzing, and investing in Chinese and Japanese equities. Richard is fluent in Chinese and Japanese and continues to live in Asia with his family.

—from the publisher.

12. The Korean Way in Business: Understanding and Dealing with the South Koreans in Business

(Boye Lafayette de Mente)

South Korean companies and technology have suddenly conquered the world. Samsung, Hyundai and LG are industry leaders and the global brands. Korean culture in the form of K-Pop music videos and “Korean Wave” films and TV dramas are watched everywhere from Tel Aviv to Singapore to Rio. Korean gourmet food trucks ply the streets of New York and LA, and kimchi has found a place on the shelves of well-stocked supermarkets around the world.

With just a fraction of Japan's land area, less than half its population, and no natural resources—how have Korean companies managed to conquer the world in such a short period of time? What is the “secret sauce” of Korean business practices and companies that make them so successful?

To find out, readers need more than statistics and company profiles. Learning the basics of Korean culture, about Korean social etiquette and Korean business culture, will enable you to understand for the first time how Koreans think and why they work so effectively to achieve their goals. This understanding will enhance your own effectiveness in doing business with Koreans, or in competing with them—whether in Korea or elsewhere. The Korean Way in Business is a must-read for business professionals who wish to know the secrets underlying the commercial practices and business success of modern-day Koreans.

—from the publisher.

13. A Gift to My Children: A Father's Lessons for Life and Investing

(Jim Rogers)

He’s the swashbuckling world traveler and legendary investor who made his fortune before he was forty. Now the bestselling author of A Bull in China, Hot Commodities, and Adventure Capitalist shares a heartfelt, indispensable guide for his daughters (and all young investors) to find success and happiness. In A Gift to My Children, Jim Rogers offers advice with his trademark candor and confidence, but this time he adds paternal compassion, protectiveness, and love. Rogers reveals how to learn from his triumphs and mistakes in order to achieve a prosperous, well-lived life. For example:

• Trust your own judgment: Rogers sensed China’s true potential way back in the 1980s, at a time when most analysts were highly skeptical of its prospects for growth.
• Focus on what you like: Rogers was five when he started collecting empty bottles at baseball games instead of playing.
• Be persistent: Coming to Yale from rural Alabama, and in over his head, Rogers never stopped studying and wound up with a scholarship to Oxford.
• See the world: In 1990, Rogers traveled through six continents by motorcycle, gaining a global perspective and learning how to evaluate prospects in rapidly developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
• Nothing is really new: anything deemed “innovative” or “unprecedented” is usually just overhyped, as in the case of the Internet or TV, airplanes, and railroads before it
• And not a bit off the subject, and very important: Boys will need you more than you’ll need them!

Wise and warm, accessible and inspiring, A Gift to My Children is a great gift for all those just starting to invest in their futures.

—from the publisher.

14. From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000

(Lee Kuan Yew)

Few gave tiny Singapore much chance of survival when it was granted independence in 1965. How is it, then, that today the former British colonial trading post is a thriving Asian metropolis with not only the world's number one airline, best airport, and busiest port of trade, but also the world's fourth–highest per capita real income?

The story of that transformation is told here by Singapore's charismatic, controversial founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Rising from a legacy of divisive colonialism, the devastation of the Second World War, and general poverty and disorder following the withdrawal of foreign forces, Singapore now is hailed as a city of the future. This miraculous history is dramatically recounted by the man who not only lived through it all but who fearlessly forged ahead and brought about most of these changes.

Delving deep into his own meticulous notes, as well as previously unpublished government papers and official records, Lee details the extraordinary efforts it took for an island city–state in Southeast Asia to survive at that time.

Lee explains how he and his cabinet colleagues finished off the communist threat to the fledgling state's security and began the arduous process of nation building: forging basic infrastructural roads through a land that still consisted primarily of swamps, creating an army from a hitherto racially and ideologically divided population, stamping out the last vestiges of colonial–era corruption, providing mass public housing, and establishing a national airline and airport.

In this illuminating account, Lee writes frankly about his trenchant approach to political opponents and his often unorthodox views on human rights, democracy, and inherited intelligence, aiming always “to be correct, not politically correct.” Nothing in Singapore escaped his watchful eye: whether choosing shrubs for the greening of the country, restoring the romance of the historic Raffles Hotel, or openly, unabashedly persuading young men to marry women as well educated as themselves. Today's safe, tidy Singapore bears Lee's unmistakable stamp, for which he is unapologetic: “If this is a nanny state, I am proud to have fostered one.”

Though Lee's domestic canvas in Singapore was small, his vigor and talent assured him a larger place in world affairs. With inimitable style, he brings history to life with cogent analyses of some of the greatest strategic issues of recent times and reveals how, over the years, he navigated the shifting tides of relations among America, China, and Taiwan, acting as confidant, sounding board, and messenger for them. He also includes candid, sometimes acerbic pen portraits of his political peers, including the indomitable Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the poetry–spouting Jiang Zemin, and ideologues George Bush and Deng Xiaoping.

Lee also lifts the veil on his family life and writes tenderly of his wife and stalwart partner, Kwa Geok Choo, and of their pride in their three children –– particularly the eldest son, Hsien Loong, who is now Singapore's deputy prime minister.

For more than three decades, Lee Kuan Yew has been praised and vilified in equal measure, and he has established himself as a force impossible to ignore in Asian and international politics. From Third World to First offers readers a compelling glimpse into this visionary's heart, soul, and mind.

—from the publisher.

15. Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony​

(Akio Morita, Edwin Reingold, and Mitsuko Shimomora)

The chairman of the Sony Corporation discusses the rise of Sony, his extraordinary career as a businessman, and his views on the United States, Japan, and the world economy.

—from the publisher.

16. The Economy and Business Environment of Vietnam

(Roderick Macdonald)

This Palgrave Pivot provides an introduction to the economy and business environment of Vietnam, a member of the ASEAN Economic Community whose economy is rapidly growing. The introduction argues that though there may be perceived disadvantages in investing in Vietnam, there are a number of benefits as well, such as the country's openness to trade and foreign direct investment, the increasing ease of doing business there and the dynamism of the economy. The book then provides an overview of Vietnam's economic policy since 1975, covering reunification, attempts at a command economy, and finally renovation under Doi Moi Policy. Further chapters cover the expansion of the private sector, interest in foreign investment, and the peculiarities of marketing and finance in Vietnam. As an edited volume with chapters written by Vietnamese scholars across economics, history, and business, this book is critical reading for researchers studying Vietnam and other Asian economies and for businesses interested in expanding into that market.

—from the publisher.

17. Corporations and Partnerships in South Korea

(Kyung-Hoon Chun, Kon-Sik Kim, Hyeok-Joon Rho, Ok-Rial Song)

Derived from the renowned multi-volume International Encyclopaedia of Laws, this practical analysis of the law of business formations in South Korea provides quick and easy guidance on a variety of corporate and partnership considerations such as mergers, rights and duties of interested parties, stock exchange rules, labour laws, and takeovers. Lawyers who handle transnational business will appreciate the explanation of local variations in terminology and the distinctive concepts that determine practice and procedure.

A general introduction covering historical background, definitions, sources of law, and the effect of international private law is followed by a discussion of such aspects as types of formation, capital, shares, management, control, liquidation, mergers, takeovers, holding companies, subsidiaries, and taxation. Big companies, various types of smaller entities, and partnerships are all covered in turn.  These details are presented in such a way that readers who are unfamiliar with specific terms and concepts in varying contexts will fully grasp their meaning and significance.

Thorough yet practical, this convenient volume puts the information necessary for corporations to compete effectively at the user’s fingertips. An important and practical tool for business executives and their legal counsel interested in engaging in an international partnership or embarking on corporate expansion, this book will prove a valuable time-saving tool for business and legal professionals alike. Lawyers representing parties with interests in South Korea will welcome this very useful guide, and academics and researchers will appreciate its value in the study of comparative business law.

—from the publisher.

18. China in Malaysia: State-Business Relations and the New Order of Investment Flows

(Edmund Terence Gomez, Siew Yean Tham, Ran Li, Kee Cheok Cheong)

This book examines state-state relations and new forms of state business relations that have emerged with an increase in China’s foreign direct investments in Malaysia. Focusing on investments in the industrial sector and through in-depth case studies, this book adopts a novel framework to analyse these different types of state-business relations. These new forms of state-business relations are created from the different modes of negotiations between different key actors in each of the cases. Diverse outcomes were found, reflecting the disparate forms of power relationships and state cohesiveness with unique institutional architectures formed in each case. The book identifies a major shift in structural power in these new forms of state-business relations as China’s large multinational state-owned enterprises increasingly invest in Malaysia. A well-constructed institutional architecture is needed, not just in Malaysia but for other Southeast Asian countries, if foreign investments are to be harnessed to promote effective industrial development.

—from the publisher.

19. The Last Kings of Shanghai

(Jonathan Kaufman)

“In vivid detail… examines the little-known history of two extraordinary dynasties.”–The Boston Globe

“Not just a brilliant, well-researched, and highly readable book about China's past, it also reveals the contingencies and ironic twists of fate in China's modern history.”–LA Review of Books

An epic, multigenerational story of two rival dynasties who flourished in Shanghai and Hong Kong as twentieth-century China surged into the modern era, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

Shanghai, 1936. The Cathay Hotel, located on the city's famous waterfront, is one of the most glamorous in the world. Built by Victor Sassoon–billionaire playboy and scion of the Sassoon dynasty–the hotel hosts a who's who of global celebrities: Noel Coward has written a draft of Private Lives in his suite and Charlie Chaplin has entertained his wife-to-be. And a few miles away, Mao and the nascent Communist Party have been plotting revolution.

By the 1930s, the Sassoons had been doing business in China for a century, rivaled in wealth and influence by only one other dynasty–the Kadoories. These two Jewish families, both originally from Baghdad, stood astride Chinese business and politics for more than 175 years, profiting from the Opium Wars; surviving Japanese occupation; courting Chiang Kai-shek; and losing nearly everything as the Communists swept into power. In The Last Kings of Shanghai, Jonathan Kaufman tells the remarkable history of how these families participated in an economic boom that opened China to the world, but remained blind to the country's deep inequality and to the political turmoil at their doorsteps. In a story stretching from Baghdad to Hong Kong to Shanghai to London, Kaufman enters the lives and minds of these ambitious men and women to forge a tale of opium smuggling, family rivalry, political intrigue, and survival.

The book lays bare the moral compromises of the Kadoories and the Sassoons–and their exceptional foresight, success, and generosity. At the height of World War II, they joined together to rescue and protect eighteen thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism. Though their stay in China started out as a business opportunity, the country became a home they were reluctant to leave, even on the eve of revolution. The lavish buildings they built and the booming businesses they nurtured continue to define Shanghai and Hong Kong to this day. As the United States confronts China's rise, and China grapples with the pressures of breakneck modernization and global power, the long-hidden odysseys of the Sassoons and the Kadoories hold a key to understanding the present moment.

—from the publisher.

20. Stitching the 24-Hour City: Life, Labor, and the Problem of Speed in Seoul

(Seo Young Park)

Stitching the 24-Hour City reveals the intense speed of garment production and everyday life in Dongdaemun, a lively market in Seoul, South Korea. Once the site of uprisings against oppressive working conditions in the 1970s and 1980s, Dongdaemun has now become iconic for its creative economy, nightlife, fast-fashion factories, and shopping plazas. Seo Young Park follows the work of people who witnessed and experienced the rapidly changing marketplace from the inside. Through this approach, Park examines the meanings and politics of work in one of the world's most vibrant and dynamic global urban marketplaces.

Park brings readers into close contact with the garment designers, workers, and traders who sustain the extraordinary speed of fast-fashion production and circulation, as well as the labor activists who challenge it. Attending to their narratives and practices of work, Park argues that speed, rather than being a singular drive of acceleration, is an entanglement of uneven paces of life, labor, the market, and the city itself.

Stitching the 24-Hour City exposes the under-studied experiences with Dongdaemun fast fashion, peeling back layers of temporal politics of labor and urban space to record the human source of the speed that characterizes the never-ending movement of the 24-hour city.

—from the publisher.

21. Pure Invention: How Japan's Pop Culture Conquered the World

(Matt Alt)

The untold story of how Japan became a cultural superpower through the fantastic inventions that captured—and transformed—the world’s imagination.
 
“A masterful book driven by deep research, new insights, and powerful storytelling.”—W. David Marx, author of Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style

Japan is the forge of the world’s fantasies: karaoke and the Walkman, manga and anime, Pac-Man and Pokémon, online imageboards and emojis. But as Japan media veteran Matt Alt proves in this brilliant investigation, these novelties did more than entertain. They paved the way for our perplexing modern lives.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Japan seemed to exist in some near future, gliding on the superior technology of Sony and Toyota. Then a catastrophic 1990 stock-market crash ushered in the “lost decades” of deep recession and social dysfunction. The end of the boom should have plunged Japan into irrelevance, but that’s precisely when its cultural clout soared—when, once again, Japan got to the future a little ahead of the rest of us.

Hello Kitty, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and multimedia empires like Dragon Ball Z were more than marketing hits. Artfully packaged, dangerously cute, and dizzyingly fun, these products gave us new tools for coping with trying times. They also transformed us as we consumed them—connecting as well as isolating us in new ways, opening vistas of imagination and pathways to revolution. Through the stories of an indelible group of artists, geniuses, and oddballs, Pure Invention reveals how Japan’s pop-media complex remade global culture.

—from the publisher.

22. Tata: The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism

(Mircea Raianu)

An eye-opening portrait of global capitalism spanning 150 years, told through the history of the Tata corporation.

Nearly a century old, the grand façade of Bombay House is hard to miss in the historic business district of Mumbai. This is the iconic global headquarters of the Tata Group, a multinational corporation that produces everything from salt to software. After getting their start in the cotton and opium trades, the Tatas, a Parsi family from Navsari, Gujarat, ascended to commanding heights in the Indian economy by the time of independence in 1947. Over the course of its 150-year history Tata spun textiles, forged steel, generated hydroelectric power, and took to the skies. It also faced challenges from restive workers fighting for their rights and political leaders who sought to curb its power.

In this sweeping history, Mircea Raianu tracks the fortunes of a family-run business that was born during the high noon of the British Empire and went on to capture the world’s attention with the headline-making acquisition of luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover. The growth of Tata was a complex process shaped by world historical forces: the eclipse of imperial free trade, the intertwined rise of nationalism and the developmental state, and finally the return of globalization and market liberalization. Today Tata is the leading light of one of the world’s major economies, selling steel, chemicals, food, financial services, and nearly everything else, while operating philanthropic institutions that channel expert knowledge in fields such as engineering and medicine.

Based on painstaking research in the company’s archive, Tata elucidates how a titan of industry was created and what lessons its story may hold for the future of global capitalism.

—from the publisher.

23. Crossing the Street: How to make a success of investing in Vietnam

(Andy Ho)

Vietnam is the last significant opportunity for investors in Southeast Asia. But, as with any frontier market, that doesn’t mean it’s simple. Investing in this fast-growing and exciting country can be rather like the infamous experience of attempting to cross its busy streets. To get to the other side in one piece takes nerves and experience.

Crossing the Street by Andy Ho is the answer. This is a candid, actionable guide to investing in Vietnam, written by an investor with almost two decades of experience in navigating the challenges involved – and seeing people safely across to the rewards.

Today, Vietnam ranks among the fastest growing countries in the world. Much like China two decades before it, the country is experiencing rapid development. It has an increasingly affluent population of nearly 100 million. It is quickly transforming into a key manufacturing hub in Asia. And it is one of the few countries in the world whose economy has continued to grow despite the global pandemic.

Investors from around the globe have taken note of the opportunities that abound in Vietnam’s ‘market-oriented socialist’ economy. Thanks to Crossing the Street they can take advantage of them – without getting run over.

—from the publisher.

24. The Tiger Leading the Dragon: How Taiwan Propelled China's Economic Rise

(Shelley Rigger)

How did the once-secretive, isolated People’s Republic of China become the factory to the world? Shelley Rigger convincingly demonstrates that the answer is Taiwan. She follows the evolution of Taiwan’s influence from the period when Deng Xiaoping lifted Mao’s prohibitions on business in the late 1970s, allowing investors from Taiwan to collaborate with local officials in the PRC to transform mainland China into a manufacturing powerhouse. After World War II, Taiwan’s fleet-footed export-oriented manufacturing firms became essential links in global supply chains. In the late 1980s, Taiwanese firms seized the opportunity to lower production costs by moving to the PRC, which was seeking foreign investment to fuel its industrial rise. Within a few years, Taiwan’s traditional manufacturing had largely relocated to the PRC, opening space for a wave of new business creation in information technology. The Tiger Leading the Dragon traces the development of the cross-Taiwan Strait economic relationship and explores how Taiwanese firms and individuals transformed Chinese business practices. It also reveals their contributions to Chinese consumer behavior, philanthropy, religion, popular culture, and law.

—from the publisher.

25. Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition across Southeast Asia (Histories of Economic Life, 11)

(Diana S. Kim)

A history of opium's dramatic fall from favor in colonial Southeast Asia

During the late nineteenth century, opium was integral to European colonial rule in Southeast Asia. The taxation of opium was a major source of revenue for British and French colonizers, who also derived moral authority from imposing a tax on a peculiar vice of their non-European subjects. Yet between the 1890s and the 1940s, colonial states began to ban opium, upsetting the very foundations of overseas rule―how did this happen? Empires of Vice traces the history of this dramatic reversal, revealing the colonial legacies that set the stage for the region's drug problems today.

Diana Kim challenges the conventional wisdom about opium prohibition―that it came about because doctors awoke to the dangers of drug addiction or that it was a response to moral crusaders―uncovering a more complex story deep within the colonial bureaucracy. Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence across Southeast Asia and Europe, she shows how prohibition was made possible by the pivotal contributions of seemingly weak bureaucratic officials. Comparing British and French experiences across today's Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam, Kim examines how the everyday work of local administrators delegitimized the taxing of opium, which in turn made major anti-opium reforms possible.

Empires of Vice reveals the inner life of colonial bureaucracy, illuminating how European rulers reconfigured their opium-entangled foundations of governance and shaped Southeast Asia's political economy of illicit drugs and the punitive state.

—from the publisher.

26. A Medicated Empire: The Pharmaceutical Industry and Modern Japan

(Timothy M. Yang)

In A Medicated Empire, Timothy M. Yang explores the history of Japan's pharmaceutical industry in the early twentieth century through a close account of Hoshi Pharmaceuticals, one of East Asia's most influential drug companies from the late 1910s through the early 1950s. Focusing on Hoshi's connections to Japan's emerging nation-state and empire, and on the ways in which it embraced an ideology of modern medicine as a humanitarian endeavor for greater social good, Yang shows how the industry promoted a hygienic, middle-class culture that was part of Japan's national development and imperial expansion.

Yang makes clear that the company's fortunes had less to do with scientific breakthroughs and medical innovations than with Japan's web of social, political, and economic relations. He lays bare Hoshi's business strategies and its connections with politicians and bureaucrats, and he describes how public health authorities dismissed many of its products as placebos at best and poisons at worst. Hoshi, like other pharmaceutical companies of the time, depended on resources and markets opened up, often violently, through colonization. Combining global histories of business, medicine, and imperialism, A Medicated Empire shows how the development of the pharmaceutical industry simultaneously supported and subverted regimes of public health at home and abroad.

—from the publisher.

27. One Hundred Million Philosophers: Science of Thought and the Culture of Democracy in Postwar Japan

(Adam Bronson)

After the devastation of World War II, journalists, scholars, and citizens came together to foster a new culture of democracy in Japan. Adam Bronson explores this effort in a path-breaking study of the Institute for the Science of Thought, one of the most influential associations to emerge in the early postwar years. The institute's founders believed that the estrangement of intellectuals from the general public had contributed to the rise of fascism. To address this, they sought to develop a “science of thought” that would reconnect the world of ideas with everyday experience and thus reimagine Japan as a democratic nation, home to one hundred million philosophers.

To tell the story of Science of Thought and postwar democracy, Bronson weaves together several strands of Japan's modern history that are often treated separately: the revival of interest in the social sciences and Marxism after the war, the appearance of new social movements that challenged traditional class and gender hierarchies, and the ascendance of a mass middle-class culture. This story is transnational in both connective and comparative senses. Most of the Science of Thought founders were educated in America, and they drew upon a network of American thinkers and institutions for support. They also derived inspiration from other efforts to promote a culture of democracy, ranging from thought reform campaigns in the People's Republic of China to the Mass Observation study of the British working classes. By tracing these sources of inspiration around the world, Bronson reveals the contours of a transnational intellectual milieu.

Science of Thought embodied a vision of democratic experimentation that had to be re-articulated repeatedly in response to challenges that arose in connection with geopolitical events and social change, prompting the group's evolution from a small research circle in the 1940s into the standard-bearer for citizen activism in the 1960s. Through this history, Bronson argues that the significance of Science of Thought lay in the way it exemplified democracy in practice. The practical experience of the intellectuals and citizens associated with the group remains relevant to those who continue to grapple with the dilemmas of democracy today.

—from the publisher.

28. Keep Smiling: An American Business in Post-embargo Vietnam

(Richard McCombs)

Richard McCombs oversaw one of the first American companies to return to Vietnam after the embargo was lifted. Keep Smiling is about his experiences living and working there while negotiating and operating a joint venture with the government of Vietnam.
Richard went to Vietnam because he was the only person at American Rice (ARI) who volunteered to go. ARI was the largest rice company in the United States. ARI had been invited to form a joint venture (JV) with the largest state-owned rice company in The Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In Vietnam, rice was the most valuable and politically sensitive commodity. ARI's goal was to process rice using ARI's technology and marketing strength and export Vietnamese rice to ARI's global customers. Vietnam's goal was to improve their rice production and expand their exports. Neither entity was clear about how the values and practices of socialism would mix with the business practices of capitalism, but therein lies the story.
Vietnam's communist government had almost no experience dealing with capitalism and foreign investors. There was a lot of speculation about how Americans would be received, given Vietnam's recent history. This book explains how this project was perilous, both personally and professionally, and offers an insight into the struggles Richard had living and working there as well as the struggles Vietnam had with opening the country for business with outsiders.
As Ambassador Pete Peterson (first U.S. Ambassador after President Clinton lifted the embargo) stated in the Foreword to Keep Smiling “Keep Smiling is a thoughtful and informative compilation of an American businessman's personal and professional experiences in the early days of Vietnam's open-door economic policy.
“Readers will especially appreciate how the author cleverly weaved into the story a delightful illustration of Vietnamese culture, cuisine, and infrastructure as it was in the early 1990s. Once you pick up Keep Smiling you will not put it down until you reach its final page. “
Richard's background was CEO of the second largest winery in California and CEO of MBA Polymers, the leading plastics recycling company with factories in China, Austria, and the UK. He graduated from Stanford University Graduate School of Business and Amherst College. He was a Conscientious Objector during the Vietnam war.

—from the publisher.

29. Business Opportunities in Cambodia

(U.S. Deparment of Commerce)

“In vivid detail… examines the little-known history of two extraordinary dynasties.”–The Boston Globe

“Not just a brilliant, well-researched, and highly readable book about China's past, it also reveals the contingencies and ironic twists of fate in China's modern history.”–LA Review of Books

An epic, multigenerational story of two rival dynasties who flourished in Shanghai and Hong Kong as twentieth-century China surged into the modern era, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

Shanghai, 1936. The Cathay Hotel, located on the city's famous waterfront, is one of the most glamorous in the world. Built by Victor Sassoon–billionaire playboy and scion of the Sassoon dynasty–the hotel hosts a who's who of global celebrities: Noel Coward has written a draft of Private Lives in his suite and Charlie Chaplin has entertained his wife-to-be. And a few miles away, Mao and the nascent Communist Party have been plotting revolution.

By the 1930s, the Sassoons had been doing business in China for a century, rivaled in wealth and influence by only one other dynasty–the Kadoories. These two Jewish families, both originally from Baghdad, stood astride Chinese business and politics for more than 175 years, profiting from the Opium Wars; surviving Japanese occupation; courting Chiang Kai-shek; and losing nearly everything as the Communists swept into power. In The Last Kings of Shanghai, Jonathan Kaufman tells the remarkable history of how these families participated in an economic boom that opened China to the world, but remained blind to the country's deep inequality and to the political turmoil at their doorsteps. In a story stretching from Baghdad to Hong Kong to Shanghai to London, Kaufman enters the lives and minds of these ambitious men and women to forge a tale of opium smuggling, family rivalry, political intrigue, and survival.

The book lays bare the moral compromises of the Kadoories and the Sassoons–and their exceptional foresight, success, and generosity. At the height of World War II, they joined together to rescue and protect eighteen thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism. Though their stay in China started out as a business opportunity, the country became a home they were reluctant to leave, even on the eve of revolution. The lavish buildings they built and the booming businesses they nurtured continue to define Shanghai and Hong Kong to this day. As the United States confronts China's rise, and China grapples with the pressures of breakneck modernization and global power, the long-hidden odysseys of the Sassoons and the Kadoories hold a key to understanding the present moment.

—from the publisher.

19. Has Asia Lost It?: Dynamic Past, Turbulent Future

(Vasuki Shastry)

Asia has been the greatest show on earth since Japan's rise from the ashes of World War II, accompanied in successive decades with the emergence of the Asian tigers, and eventually the two giants China and India. The Asian miracle has few precedents in the modern era, with billions lifted from poverty in a generation. The region's openness to trade and investment aligned perfectly with the tailwinds of globalisation. However, in recent years Asia has become a victim of its own success with commentators not differentiating between a utopian high-income Asia and a dystopian middle- and low-income Asia, where a significant majority of the region's population live. Asia today can be divided into countries which have a lot, have a little, and have none. The continent's dream run is also coming to an end as Covid-19 exposes sharp weaknesses in state capacity and structural challenges like the U.S.-China trade war is putting globalisation into reverse gear, jeopardising the region's hard-earned economic success. Asia's growth-obsessed policymakers have also ignored social pressures from the impact of technology on jobs, rising inequality, fabulous wealth accumulation by a favoured billionaire class, a deepening demographic divide, climate distress, and gender disparity, which threaten to destabilise the region's famed cohesiveness. In his penetrating new book, well-known Asia expert Vasuki Shastry argues that while Asia's reckoning may have been the subject of speculation before the pandemic, Covid-19 has made that inevitable. Inspired by Dante's Inferno, Shastry takes readers on a journey through modern Asia's eight circles of hell where we encounter urban cowboys and cowgirls fleeing rural areas to live in increasingly uninhabitable cities, disadvantaged teenage girls unable to meet their aspirations due to social strictures, internal mutiny, messy geopolitics from the rise of China, and a political and business class whose interests are in conflict with a majority of the population. Shastry challenges conventional thinking about Asia's place in the world and the book is essential reading for those with an interest in the continent's future.

—from the publisher.