Who Joe Studwell?

Hello. I am an author, journalist, public speaker and occasional university teacher. I am based much of the time in Cambridge. In the 2000s I restored and lived in a home in a still unspoiled area of central Italy (the photo at the top of the page is a view from the house).

My books are The China Dream (2002, about the 1990s foreign investment gold rush in China), Asian Godfathers (2007, about developmental failure in south-east Asia) and How Asia Works (2013, an explication of economic development across the east Asian region). How Asia Works has its own site where reviews and other material specifically related to the book are posted.

I recently completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge. My advice is don’t ever do one. The PhD might become a book, if I can face it, which very possibly I cannot. Meanwhile, I have started out on a much more interesting project looking at developmental success in Africa, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Omidyar Network. This will become a book in 2022.

I am also currently Senior Visiting Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute in London and a non-executive director of Edinburgh-based Pacific Horizon Investment Trust.

I have attempted to bring some greater coherence to this blog’s coverage of my disparate interests — the major economies of East Asia, Britain, Italy, and the United States, political economy, financial systems, the failings of modern economics, institutional development — by posting around the central theme of ‘development’. This encompasses not only the development of poor countries, but the development of rich ones as well. I endeavour to avoid postings that do not fit with this already wide-ranging theme. Nonetheless, few people will want to read everything on this blog and postings are filed under Category buttons with the aim of allowing you to cut out stuff you do not want.

The blog settings allow for the posting of comments. Frankly, I authorise very few comments that are sent because, while they are usually complimentary, they are not complementary, and don’t add to what has already been written (plus, it involves pressing buttons). If you want your comment posted, please say something new and useful (even if it is negative and critical). Also, note that while I will endeavour not to post comments that are unsubstantiated or potentially libelous, I cannot and do not take responsibility for anything other than my own postings to this site.

Contacting me: you can use the Comments function, because the comment will not be published unless I authorise it.

Meanwhile, and entirely separately, we still have not sold our rather beautiful properties in Europe’s richest failed state. Take a look here.

84 Responses to “Who Joe Studwell?”

  1. John M Says:

    Dear Mr Studwell

    Just finished reading ‘Asian Godfathers’ and I must say I enjoyed it very much: fascinating subject, well researched and well written. The day after I finished it I noticed a full page ad in the FT in which the YTL Group congratulates Francis Yeoh, excuses me, congratulates Tan Sri (DR) Francis Yeoh, for having been awarded the ‘2010 Oslo Business for Peace Award’. The ad contained an excerpt from Yeoh’s acceptance speech, in which he said ‘we desperately need good governance, the rule of law and transparent regulatory frameworks … to rebuild trust and regain moral integrity’. Very true, but also rather cynical to hear this from a leading oligarch…

    Joe says: Francis is a seriously charming guy, and even funny, but if I wanted to melt some butter I’m not sure I would put it in his mouth.

  2. Monima O'Connor Says:

    Hi Joe
    Since your tremendous work on China Dream, there’s been little follow up since 2005.. Having also lived there for almost 5 years in the 1990s and working for JP Morgan (in Hongkong and not the mainland).

    A fresh view of how you see things would be greatly appreciated.

    Joe says: You can get a copy of my own critique of that book in the China Dream Revisited article via the Uploads / Downloads tab on the home page. There will be more on China in the new book, How Asia Works.

  3. alex lee Says:

    Hi Joe,

    I’m just finishing your Asian Godfathers. It’s really interesting to read the ‘inside stories’ of how these tycoons actually operate. I’m from Malaysia but yet I admit many of us here do not know the full story.

    It’s rather unfortunate that the book ends in 2007, because, as I’m sure you know, in 2008 Malaysia had a watershed general election where the Opposition won landslide victories. Fast forward to today – 8 July 2011. Tomorrow, there may be a massive rally in our capital to demand for fair and transparent elections. If you happen to be here, perhaps you can see with your own eyes the changing political landscape of this country.



    Joe says: your optimism is refreshing. I wished I shared it.

  4. pat Says:

    Hi Joe –

    I read Asian Godfathers in a day. Fantastic book. I hope your blog is still updated.

    About that Hutch special dividend of $4 per shr – I seem to recall a crusty old family friend getting that divvy and buying more Hutch shares on the cheap some months later (after he punted some of his payout in one of Stan’s establishments).

    I don’t recall the pref shares being traded actively. Didn’t The Bank continue to own a bunch after the selling the 90MM common to K.S.? I am guessing / quite sure he got the div on the common though I trust your research when you say in the book the div was only paid on the prefs. Thoughts? Is my old age deceiving me?

    Also, was Simon Murray’s £2,000 salary considered high back in ’73? I gather he was a middle-tier manager then. What would the managing director / taipan and/or chairmen of a major hong have been earning in those days? Always wondered about it…


  5. Lorenzo Paolo Says:

    Dear Joe Studwell,

    I went to Haikou for a week in October 1992, to promote a thoroughbred racing fantasy that was causing the vice governor’s eye to twinkle, and on the basis of which my partner and I became overnight ‘old china hands’. Went so far as to run an ad in the WSJ, when I got back (horse racing was shot down immediately), offering our services as experts on SEZ’s. Your “Frenzy” chapter was a soothing massage to many memories from those early 90’s gold rush days, watching the corporate honchos falling all over themselves trying to work out an entrée, but mostly cooling their heels at the Regent or the like in Hong Kong. I am so curious how you read the tea leaves on China’s current economic predicament.

    Your book was great – and I’m searching the bookshops now, here in Manila, for Asian Godfathers. Best regards, Lorenzo

  6. Richard Jeffery Says:

    Hello Joe,
    Congratulations on your book, Asian Godfathers. I purchased it mainly to get more info on Vincent Tan, and the reason for my interest is that he has just purchased the Welsh football club I support, Cardiff City.

    I would be very interested on your ‘take’ on why he has bought into a UK football team, and would you want him buying into a sports team that you support? There has been a lot of opposition to him from supporters, particularly his plans to completely rebrand the club, taking away its historical ion the Bluebird and our traditional colour blue to red because ‘its a lucky colour and more marketable in Asia.

    Is it really because he just likes football?

    Many thanks and regards

    • joestudwell Says:

      I think that buying football clubs is just the pastime du jour of the tycoon fraternity. Malaysian Tony Fernandez of Air Asia already has QPR and Vincent may be emulating him. Thaksin was in the soccer game. The Russians do it. The Middle Eastern boys. Ordinary Malaysians are heavily into premiership football but I never heard of Vincent being interested. I may be wrong though. There are, as I remember, one or two bits of sports paraphernalia around his office. Sorry I can’t help more on this. Joe

  7. Satish K Batta Says:

    Hi Mr. Studwell,
    I just read the review on ” How Asia Works’. Not only the various countries have managed well their economies using a different method than the occidentals. Some of the countries also have managed to nurture Democracy as well, Where they had no system of democracy. Point being that India and Pakistan got independence from Britain in 1947. India broke up the big landholdings of Raja and Nawabs soon after and Pakistan did not. This in turn lead for the small landholders to take care of their land and be interested more in their surroundings and protecting their interest and this I believe led to democracy in India and dictatorship in Pakistan.

  8. Derek YU Says:

    Hello, this is Derek YU, a graduate from National Taiwan U. Much admire your works, especially Asian Godfathers. I wonder if you have arranged “How Asia Works” to be published in Chinese. I’ve done French/English books translation into traditional Chinese and would like to recommend myself to be your translator. Please advise.

    Many thanks.

    • joestudwell Says:

      Asian Godfathers has long had a long-form Chinese translation in Taiwan. For several years it was available in pirated editions in PRC, but since 2012 has a legal translation that has sold very well. You can find it through this link:
      How Asia Works is in negotiation for translation just now. But I am afraid I don’t deal with this stuff. My publishers do.

  9. Peter Says:

    Mr Studwell, I live in Kuala Lumpur and would like to get you to sign your book. Will you be visiting Kuala Lumpur anytime?

    • joestudwell Says:

      Hopefully in KL later in the year, likely September or October. Speaking dates will be posted on the site.

  10. sexandgolf Says:

    Asian Godfathers.

    it was indeed a well researched book, I have the paperback and will be getting the hardcover for keep. Having work with certain Indonesian tycoons families and cronies as one of their many financial adviser, I was suffocated with secret after secret and I always lament what a bad lie of meritocracy my Singapore government sell to it’s citizens. Such hypocrisy!

    It will be great to have you autographed my book if you are ever in Singapore. Please do update your fans!

    • joestudwell Says:

      I hope to be in Singapore in October. If I am, any public speaking events will be indicated on the EVENTS bar on the right side of this blog.

  11. Blair Says:

    Dear Joe

    I read How Asia Works a while back and have been letting it sink in. More recently, I have been thinking about how well your three-part formula explains economic history in the countries where I have lived most of my life: Australia and New Zealand. Obviously, both countries are “developed” and incredibly nice places to live, but at some level there is a gut realisation that something disappointing about how the economy has evolved. Both countries have struggled to move up the value chain and are stuck exporting their bulk commodities and a few services like tertiary education. (Interesting to note Rostow didn’t class Australia as a fully developed economy when he did his categorisation).

    In both countries, the initial allocation of agricultural land was pretty inclusive, but with the move to an urban society, the use of land has been caught up in a web of regulation (often driven by skilful manipulation of council politics) which led to stratospheric land values for the incumbent land owners, and a nightmare for everybody else.

    This has led to a tragic-comic financialisation of the economy, with finance accounting for a ludicrous percentage of production and and even higher percentage of profits. Indeed, everyone I know with money has made it through credit creation and proliferation in some way (including me).

    Finally, there has been since the 1980s a complete failure to encourage export-oriented manufacturing. New Zealand, for example, has encouraged a thriving start-up scene, but the founders almost inevitably sell out or emigrate when they get to an enterprise value of $20-100 million because the powers that be have a holier than thou attitude to industrial subsidies.

    Thank you for providing an intellectual framework for seeing through the self-deluding ideology that constitutes the status quo.


    Blair Pritchard

  12. Gary Atlin Says:

    I’m a program officer at the Gates Foundation, and I’m greatly enjoying “How Asia Works,” which a number of people here are reading and which I hope will influence our thinking on supporting development in Africa and South Asia. At the moment, there is a massive crop productivity takeoff underway in Ethiopia (actually for the last 10 years or so). They are the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa experiencing this type of productivity growth. I’m not much aware of Ethiopia’s land tenure policies, but they strongly support extension and the delivery of inputs to smallholders. Is something similar to the story of East Asia underway there?

    Gary Atlin

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for the note.

    I limit my research to the major east Asian economies, so I am ignorant about Africa. But I would be very interested to know what is going on in Ethiopia.

    Two people who are less ignorant than me are my friend Jomo at the FAO in Rome, and Tim Hanstad, CEO at Landesa in Seattle. I am copying both of them on this reply and perhaps they can help you.

    Do let me know what you find out. I am sorry to be so hopeless myself, but one thing I don’t like about most development economists is their claim to knowledge across a range of countries that is too great to conceivably know meaningfully.

    all best,


  13. John Says:

    Hi Joe, Just digging into “How Asia Works” and already very intrigued. I’m an American journalist living in Central African Republic. I write a lot about tropical forests and as a result agriculture in developing countries. As luck would have it, I have an upcoming trip to Korea. I ran across your latest book in some of my research for other stories. As I’m sure you know, lots of developing countries in SSA see investment in agriculture (almost exclusively foreign, in large-scale/industrial-size projects) as a way out of poverty. But your thesis, as my neophyte brain understands it, is that a lot of these East Asian economies have been ‘upgraded’ by investment in smallholder agriculture.
    I’m going to read your book before I go to Korea. But is there anyone looking at any parallels between sub Saharan Africa and East Asia in terms of development that you’d recommend I speak with? I realize they’re very different places with different challenges, people, cultures, etc. Any good places to check out (universities, research organizations, etc.) while I’m in Korea to learn more about their approach to economic development?
    Thanks for your fascinating work, and I’d appreciate any suggestions you could provide. I’ll check for responses to this comment, or you can email me directly at john at johnccannon.com.


    • joestudwell Says:

      Two groups that may have something to say on east Asia agriculture versus sub-Saharan agriculture are Landesa, the Seattle-based land reform NGO, and the Gates Foundation’s agriculture division.
      A recent book in English about development policy in Korea that I found interesting is From Despair to Hope: economic policymaking in Korea 1945-79, Kim Chung-yum, published by Korea Development Institute.

  14. Danvir Suri Says:

    Hi Joe,

    I thoroughly enjoyed How Asia Works, and was hoping to get your opinion on a couple of points-

    1. Can large countries in the development fray grow rich without focusing on exports? As I understand it, your argument is that exporting gives domestic firms in developing countries competition which, along with state credit support, allows them to become tech leaders and move to the higher rung of the global value chain. But is it possible that in large countries like India and Brazil, domestic manufacturers can build technical expertise by dealing primarily in the domestic market but being subject to import competition? I ask because this is what I see happening in India.

    2. I would like your opinion on the extent to which global imbalances are a result of the development policy you outline in the book. The global savings glut which was a result of the sustained current account surplus in China and other exporters was a major reason why the financial crisis of 2008 happened. What do you think the international community can do to prevent these while at the same time letting developing countries export their way into the rich club.


    • joestudwell Says:

      The argument you suggest in 1. has been made by others, for instance by Eric Thun (Said Business School, Oxford) with respect to China. I am ambivalent. My stock response is that however big a country’s domestic market, and however much international competition comes into it, any domestic market is always definitionally smaller than the global market, which therefore offers the greater competitive test.

      I am not a big believer of the global savings glut argument about the GFC. I focus more on debt blow-outs in developed countries as a result of under-regulation of financial systems. With respect to global imbalances, I am not saying these do not exist — they do, but I think the genesis of imbalances is more complex than you suggest. Developing countries run deficits for a long time under industrial policy because they have to import capital equipment. In this sense, industrial policy is a positive for global demand. The surpluses that may follow industrial development vary a lot in terms of % of GDP and duration. China’s surplus peaked around 10% of GDP in 2007, but was very brief. As a matter of record, Martin Wolf claims that China set a record for surplus as % of GDP, but this is not true. Back in 1986 when Taiwan’s c/a surplus peaked, it was 21% of GDP…

  15. Matt Richardson Says:

    Hi Joe,

    I found How Asia Works to be a fascinating thesis. As a young adult living in an affluent western society, (Australia) I am particularly interested in your explanation of land reform as a catalyst for development. It appears that the initial impetus for post-WWII land reform came from the United States rather than Japan, Taiwan etc.

    This presents three questions:

    1. Why has the demand for land reform disappeared from the global political discussion or, as may be the case in Africa and the Middle East, failed to materialise entirely?

    2. Your work suggests that the future for land reform is grim, but with the world’s largest able-bodied populations living in un-reformed nations, will future land reforms or the lack thereof be significant in determining prosperity for nations old and rich as well as young and poor?

    3. Finally, do you believe that wealthy, more developed nations such as Australia should provide leadership in order to drive the development model you describe? For example, by exporting political capital and providing external leadership to nations with governments too corrupted by vested interests to provide their own leadership and reforms?

    Thanks very much, hugely appreciate your work!

    • joestudwell Says:

      I am afraid I don’t have time to answer your questions in detail. However, it is not the end of the road for land reform, albeit in modified forms. If you look into the recent development stories of Ethiopia and Rwanda in particular, you will see that their success is squarely based on raising agricultural productivity through household farming.
      Have a look at recent World Bank reports. JS

  16. Richie Says:

    The howasiaworks.com website seems to have expired?

    • joestudwell Says:

      The domain mapping had expired. I have renewed it, just for you. That’s $13 a year for the rest of my life… JS

  17. Richie Says:

    Appreciated. I have demonstrated my gratitude by purchasing the book.

  18. Ian Says:

    Hi Joe,

    I have read both Asian Godfathers and How Asia Works. I really enjoyed and was enlightened. I know you restrict yourself to certain countries for detailed study but am wondering if you can offer insights or recommend any reading about how Chile has developed as an economy and society since the 1970s ? When I said only South Korea, Taiwan and Japan have really emerged from poverty to developed economy status to a friend of mine (who thinks governments just get in the way ) he jumped straight in and said Chile and Uruguay have made that same journey. It would be interesting to compare both the methods and results of Chile and Uruguay with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Any thoughts welcome.

    • joestudwell Says:

      As you say, I don’t work on Latin America. All I would note is two fairly obvious things: 1. That Chile and Uruguay, like the rest of Latin America, have been developing since the end of colonialism in the early 19th century. In that sense, development has been quite slow versus countries like South Korea and Taiwan, where colonialism only ended in 1945. 2. That while Chile and Uruguay have GDP per capita around US$15,000, this is substantially less than the US$22-25,000 already registered by South Korea and Taiwan. Of course, Chile and Uruguay are developmental outperformers by Latin American standards. More than this I cannot say… Joe

  19. David Mkrtchian Says:

    Dear Joe,

    Thank you for your excellent book, “How Asia Works.” It was an exceptionally pleasant read, particularly in advance of a trip to visit many of the countries mentioned therein. As a student of economics working as a management consultant at BCG, I really enjoyed your treatment of development with a business lens.

    I was wondering if you think your descriptive view of development still applies as a policy prescription with respect to the importance of export-oriented manufacturing. Some other scholars, notably Dani Rodrik, have noted the phenomenon of premature deindustrialization. In light of that phenomenon and the increasing automation of low-skill manufacturing, how (if at all) would your policy prescriptions change?

    One final note: I am an Armenian diasporan who tends to view development questions from the lens of developing that former Soviet state. It is in that light that I am trying to understand what employment intensive industrial opportunities still remain.


    • joestudwell Says:

      I still think that manufacturing is a vital ‘stage’ for accelerated economic development. I don’t think that changing patterns of automation affect this. Nor indeed does the combination of software and hardware in many products today.
      I don’t know anything about Armenia. But in general there may be a tendency for small, low population states to think they are too small to get into manufacturing. Or that they can skip around it with some cunning services strategy. I had this line from an African government recently. My response is to ask which country in the world has the highest level of per capita manufacturing value-added, and exports of the same? The answer is consistently Switzerland. If you look around Europe and think about Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden you in fact find a good number of small/low-population states that developed via outsize manufacturing sectors, featuring a number of very outsize global firms.
      Best wishes, Joe

      • Gerald Y Says:

        Hi Joe,

        I had the same question around automation after reading How Asia Works, which I loved. Curious to learn why you don’t believe that advances in automation will affect developing countries from reaching the manufacturing ‘stage.’

        Assuming (potentially a big assumption) that the cost of automated solutions will eventually be lower than the cost of human capital in developing countries, then developing countries would be locked out of the manufacturing stage and I’m not sure if you see an alternative for them to accelerate economic development in such a world.


  20. Fredrik Gronkvist Says:

    Hi Joe,

    Really enjoyed Asian Godfathers and How Asia Works.

    Are you working on any new books in the ‘series’ and when can we expect to hear more?

    • joestudwell Says:

      I am just now deciding what the next book in the ‘series’ will be. However don’t hold your breath for its publication. I am not quick…

  21. John Marshall Says:

    Hi Joe,

    After reading Asian Godfather and How Asia Works, I wonder how you see development of a poor country in the context of insurgencies and in a theater of acts of terror. What thoughts, if any, are stirred by the recent experience of Afghanistan in regard to land reform, manufacturing, choice of government structure and any other thoughts that stir your thoughts on the relative peace and prosperity in the region?

    • joestudwell Says:

      I don’t know anything about Afghanistan and so am reluctant to address your question. All I would say is that wars and moments of crisis have often provided opportunities to implement land reform — in Japan, ROK, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, more recently in Ethiopia. I suspect that land reform could have been addressed as part of the vast US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Joe Stiglitz estimates the US has spent $2-3 trillion on its wars and ‘state building’ efforts. But land reform and agriculture, which would only have cost a fraction of those outlays even if fully compensated, to my knowledge, were never part of the agenda. Joe

  22. Michael Zhuang Says:

    Joe, I love your book “How Asia Works”. Will there be a Japanese translation edition? Thanks!

  23. John Says:

    Hi Joe, in Asian Godfathers and How Asia Works you focus on the more globally relevant economies in the region. I wonder about Burma and since you specialize in Southeast Asia in particular, are they on the right path and do they deserve the sanguine support of some leaders in the West. In particular, is the structure right between powers of govt and those of military. Do sanctions on particular individuals and constraints on military entrenchment have a continued useful role to play in concert with elected govt efforts?

    • joestudwell Says:

      I was invited to visit Burma last year and spent about 10 days there, meeting with NGOs and a couple of ministers. IMHO they are pretty clueless about development and, based on the present state of affairs, I don’t think the country has good prospects. The land ownership situation is particularly unpleasant, with the military and military-linked corporates having expropriated many tens of thousands of hectares. The US decision to end sanctions, again IMHO, has now removed the pressure that could have been applied to see expropriated land returned. At the very heart of the problem, I speculate, is that the little lady has never read seriously into the literature on accelerated economic development and is not, reflexively, particularly interested. I would never say such a thing myself, but someone I know once referred to her as a sort of drug-free hippy and that is not the kind of person who sets up an impoverished economy to grow fast.

      • John Says:

        I sense she is cast as Southeast Asian Mandela here in the West. I wonder, as a non-expert, where would Mandela land on an economic scorecard scale of 0-10 relative to the little lady?

      • joestudwell Says:

        I suspect that Mandela would rank rather low on an economic scorecard, but I do not have enough information to put a number on it, nor to say where he would score relative to the little lady. These are questions to be resolved by reading books rather than speculating through comment. Joe

  24. John Says:

    Joe, who is a modern day version of Wolf Ladejinsky, in the field and designing reform? Is it a common job description today or still rare? Have you heard, even vaguely, of any department, agency or individual that excels in this practice?

    • joestudwell Says:

      Land reform has been largely off the political agenda since the 1960s. I believe the first time that the World Bank’s annual World Development Report devoted any serious attention to agriculture for about 30 years was in the 2008 report. Land reform and agriculture are coming back on to the developmental agenda, but without anyone yet quite knowing what to do. A couple of very large philanthropic groups are presently in a research and policy formation phase around land rights/ownership. They are sensible in my view to try to think clearly before committing resources, if indeed that is what they do. I would say that the main geographical focus is presently Africa, where there is plenty of land but very few places that support high yield household farming. The two that stand out are Ethiopia and Rwanda and, surprise, surprise, they are the best fast-growth stories on the continent. Best wishes, Joe

  25. Muzi M Says:

    I ordered data from https://howasiaworks.wordpress.com/get-the-data-behind-this-book/
    Never got it. And have no way of getting my money back. Interesting…

  26. Frank Dikotter Says:

    Dear Joe, this is a private message, not to be published. My name is Frank Dikotter, I am an historian of modern China and hugely enjoyed the China Dream when it came out some fifteen years ago. I was wondering whether you ever come through Hong Kong and if we could talk about the book?

    • joestudwell Says:

      Dear Frank, I am so sorry to have missed your message that was posted such a long time ago. Of course I am familiar with, and admiring of, your work. You can reach me at [email protected] In current circumstances we may be as likely to meet in the UK as in Hong Kong. All best wishes, Joe

  27. Clayton Ogawa Othieno Says:

    Good morning Joe,

    I have just read your book “How Asia Works” and it is an excellent piece of scholarship. It debunks a lot of myths about the bad advice disbursed by the World Bank and the IMF. It also proves a point that the IMF is simply a tool for rich nations to keep poor nations in perpetual bondage through unsustainable debt.

    The epilogue also gives a good guide on how to implement your three part-formula and how to discard the Washington Consensus.

    When you do come to Nairobi in Kenya, I will take you on a guided tour to see real white elephants at the Giraffe Centre.


    Clayton Ogawa

  28. Davide Marino Says:

    Hi Joe,
    I’ve just finished your book How Asia Works and it was fantastic. I was wondering if maybe you can suggest some books similar to your, referred to other countries such Germany or US or even BRICS states. I’m looking to find some in the web, but the literature is very wide and I don’t know if these books have the same ratio of economy, politics, industry and firm stories as your book has. Thank you.

    • joestudwell Says:

      My library is in boxes while I have new bookcases made… For academic work, I think Dani Rodrik is the gold standard just now. On the US, there is a book by Hudson called something like ‘America’s protectionist take-off’ which has a certain iconoclastic something to it.

  29. Clayton Ogawa Says:

    Good morning Joe,

    How are you today? The recent collapse on 17th August 2018 of the Morandi bridge in Genoa,Italy seems to be a precursor to the total collapse of the Italian economy as predicted in your article on the Italian economy and the unsustainable directional decay which you wrote about in April 2016.
    The grotesque unemployment in that country has been fuelled by a marginalist voodoo economic policy driven by real-estate debt and unsustainable public debt.
    What disturbs me is that even after all these voodoo economics has failed,the Chief Economist in the national treasury has not consulted you on a solution!!!

    • joestudwell Says:

      Italy is indeed, I think, going to blow. By which I mean that the global crisis that began in 2008 will finally end with Italy. French and German taxpayers are going to take a sizeable hit. Either Italy will leave the Euro or else the Germans will compel them to undertake painful economic reforms they should have undertaken 30 years ago. But getting Italians to do anything is all but impossible. I don’t think the world has ever seen a country combine such a high level of economic development with such institutional and political backwardness. You are doubtless aware they are presently flirting with fascism again — the only new institution that Italy invented in the past 100 years.

  30. David Lingelbach Says:

    Hi Mr. Studwell. I am an American professor of entrepreneurship headed off to Myanmar in a few months on a Fulbright. I’m no Southeast Asia expert, but do know a little something from my time as an adviser to the Indonesian Ministries of Finance and Industry in the 2000s.

    I’ve enjoyed your books, especially Asian Godfathers and How Asia Works. But I didn’t see much in either on Myanmar.

    So my question is: in your judgment, who has the most insightful things to say about that country’s economy? I’m aware of Sean Turnell’s work already.

    Hope this question isn’t too basic. Looking forward to your thoughts. Please feel free to email.

    P.S. We share a love of Italy. My wife and I are hoping to buy an apartment in Bologna’s centro storico in the not-too-distant future.

    • joestudwell Says:

      I was invited to Myanmar a couple of years ago and pretty much swore never to go again. My sense was that the government is clueless about development. Perhaps the most fundamental issue, I suspect, is that Aung San Suu Kyi isn’t really interested in economic development. I think she’s a bit of a hippy, for want of a better term.

  31. Prateek Basu Says:

    Hi Joe,

    I’ve just finished reading How Asia Works and loved it. I’d like to educate myself along similar lines about my own country, India, which sadly you don’t cover. Are there any books on India’s economic performance or development journey you’ve read that you’d recommend for someone like me?

    • joestudwell Says:

      I haven’t found a great book on India, though you will find many ok-ish ones from the past 10 years if you search. My only India recommendation is the best book I ever read on economics, which is by an India: AK Dasgupta ‘Epochs of Economic Theory’ (1985).

  32. Nicolas Colin Says:

    Hi — I’m enjoying your book “How Asia Works” and would like to work on transposing the strategy described in your book to developing the European economy in the digital world.

    The idea here is that we Europeans are lagging behind in the digital economy, just like Taiwan or South Korea were once lagging behind in the Fordist economy, and we need a strategy to catch up—and nobody has come up with one yet.

    I live in London and could very easily travel to Cambridge for a coffee and hearing your thoughts on that idea.

    More about me here: hedgethebook.com
    About my firm The Family (we invest in tech startups across Europe): http://www.thefamily.co
    My articles in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolascolin/

    • joestudwell Says:

      The most enlightening work on technology businesses that I have read recently is that of Kathleen Eisenhardt at Stanford. It isn’t new, but I didn’t know it. Have a search under ‘Fast Strategic Decision Making’. I just think she helps you understand the requisite ecosystem that facilitates the development of superb tech firms.

  33. Tomas Says:


    I picked up ‘How Asia Works’ almost by accident, but was very impressed with it. Totally agree with the ideas you present. As a Latin American now living in KL, I’m interested in the few passing references you make to how we had similar failures to develop the region as SE Asia did. Are you familiar with any books or articles that are focused in Latin America, which describe our lack of progress with similar arguments to yours?

    Thanks very much,


    • joestudwell Says:

      I am afraid I am not aware of a similar book covering LatAm and I am not about to write it. I am working on success in Africa just now, which leaves more room for optimism than Venezuela, Argentina, etc.

  34. Vishal Sharma Says:

    Sir, I have just read your book and needless to say I deeply enjoyed it. The only thing I missed in the book is really less focus on India. In the epilogue, you wrote that serious land reform is off the political agenda in India and without it, India’s growth would be unsustainable but India’s growth has been strong in recent years. I want to know your view on India’s growth in recent years and what could it do to continue growing. I will be deeply grateful for your answer.

    • joestudwell Says:

      India’s growth is indeed now a bit higher than China’s. But China’s economy is 3-4 times bigger with the same population — GDP per cap about US$9,000. So do the maths. India can’t catch up with China unless Chinese growth falls a lot further, which is possible but not probable I would say. On the positive side, Modi has made some real progress in a country where it is almost impossible to get anything done. I am hoping he will do better in the national election than some people expect. Still my description of India’s development paradigm as ‘the emancipation of the post Indian’ stands.

  35. Peggy Hollinger Says:

    Hello Joe, I am reading Asian godfathers and enjoying it immensely. I was wondering whether you might have a moment to chat. I am an FT journalist on secondment for a year to the Nikkei Asian Review as business editor and would very much like to speak to you about some of the themes in your book if you are interested/available. I know you are focusing on Africa at the moment but I am sure that you are still incredibly well informed on southeast asian issues! Best Peggy
    PS Please do not post this email publicly. This is just a message to you. Thank you

  36. ruthgracewong Says:

    Just finished How Asia Works and thoroughly enjoyed it. I work as a manufacturing engineer coordinating product with factories and the book was both riveting and highly insightful. Thanks so much and looking forward to your upcoming book about development in Africa!

  37. Marc Reinhardt Says:

    Hi Joe, I was hoping for you to send me the data used in How Asia Works. I transferred the money using Paypal 7 days ago (Transaction ID: 2XN19405F5930320R).

    Kind regards,

  38. Logan Endow Says:

    Hello Joe, I paid for the data from How Asia Works over a year ago(paypal: [email protected] August 12th 2018), but I never got the data. I would appreciate if you email it to me at [email protected]
    Thank you for this excellent book!

  39. Priya Bhatti Says:

    Dear Joe,

    I hope that you are well. I wondered if you would be so kind to help. I work for a company called SilverStreet Capital and the founder Gary Vaughan-Smith witnessed you speaking at the AGRA conference in Ivory Coast last year. Gary wondered if he may take the opportunity to speak to you. In the details I have filled in I have included our company website.

    Thank you and Kind Regards,


  40. Rahimbek Says:

    By the way, the term “export discipline” which you used in your book has now been introduced into the Russian Wikipedia. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/??????????_??????????

  41. John Guida Says:

    Not a comment but a contact request — I’m an editor at the New York Times and reaching out to see if you’d be interested in writing on the new popularity on the left and right in the U.S. for industrial policy.

  42. david Says:

    Hi Joe: a huge fan of your book(s) and blog.

    Is there a standard academic reading list that offers a typology of at what stage in a country’s development the model you describe works, and at what stage it doesn’t? i.e. could it be applied in advanced countries at the frontier of research rather than just those trying to industrialize.

  43. Ziwei He Says:

    Dear Mr. Studwell,
    I am Ziwei He, a journalist from South Reviews Magazine.
    In your works Godfather of Asia and How Asia Works, you have a detailed observation and record of the rich in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia on their way to prosperity and the economic development model in Asia. They are highly readable and important books that should make people rethink the failure and success of Asian economies.
    Recently, South Reviews is planning a series of reports on tycoons in various countries and their regional economies. You are an expert in this field. Therefore, we want to interview you by mail on some questions related with the development of Asia.
    The interview will be presented on our magazine with the mode of “Q&A” and will take 3 pages. Additionally, your photo and your books photo will be showed in the magazine. After the magazine is published, we will send it to you.
    We wonder if you agree to make an interview before August 21. Sincerely hope you can reply me ( my email address is [email protected] ).
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Best regards,
    Ziwei He
    Aug. 15, 2019
    South Reviews is a biweekly politics and economics magazine based in Guangzhou, established in 1985. The readership is dominated by the middle and upper classes in China, and is especially well-known among government organizations, including party secretaries and mayors of main cities, academic institutions and large-scale enterprises.
    The website of South Reviews: https://www.nfcmag.com/

  44. Mike Bird Says:

    Hi Joe – I work for the Wall Street Journal in HK, wondered if it might be possible to get your email address. I’m very interested in how your views of Chinese economic development since How Asia Works was published.

  45. alvi Says:

    Do you think an impending economic crisis is coming to Indonesia? Next year perhaps once foreign investors flee as soon as full force of global recession bites? Love your book “Asian Godfathers” and unfortunately, the three recommendations in the book have not been realized properly by Indonesia. Status quo is a pain! I would argue though that Godfather’s influence has largely declined compared to 20 years ago and before especially since the current regime is more supportive towards digital economy sectors which do not involve concessions or special permits.

  46. Teo Eng Cheong Says:

    Dear Joe, I have just finished reading How Asia Works. I am from Singapore and have been involved in economic development work as part of the Singapore Government for many years. While you have left out Singapore because it is more an offshore centre (I would use the name “business hub”), I thought that the same path applies. Singapore does not have much agriculture, but it jumps to manufacturing directly (perhaps with not as much industrial policy as in Japan or Korea) and continues to tightly regulate its financial sector. It is, I would argue, a successful model of what you have prescribed.

    • joestudwell Says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I agree with you about Singapore that the role of manufacturing in development was greater than I have acknowledged in my writing. The defence remains that this was part of a simplifying process to make How Asia Works as readily digestible as possible. I should also admit that a degree of personal irritation with the late Harry Lee also inhibited me from giving developmental planners on the island the credit they were sometimes due. All best, Joe

  47. Dylan T Says:

    Dear Mr. Studwell,

    The insights and analysis detailed in How Asia Works are exceptional. Thank you for your work. All policies are intrinsically flawed and can only improve through judicious use of Popperian error correcting feedback loops (e.g. as described in Deutsch’s Beginning of Infinite). It’s very interesting to learn that developmental policies that use small scale agricultural surpluses to bootstrap investment in manufacturing sector while using exports as an error correcting feedback mechanism were winners in East Asia.

    However, the world seems to be moving in a direction where a larger and larger percentage of economic activity is in the generation and consumption of intangible assets (see https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Capitalism-Without-Capital). To what degree should intangibles play in the calculus of developing countries today? Do you think manufacturing is still a necessary precursor for countries to develop significant economic sectors based on intangibles?

    • joestudwell Says:

      Broadly speaking all societies still descend the same river in their economic development. There are countries in Africa — and economists advising them — which think they should leave out manufacturing. We’ll see how that works out for them.

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