The Best 11 Books on Ezra F. Vogel
Winner, 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize, from the Lionel Gelber Foundation, in partnership with Foreign Policy magazine and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto
Finalist, 2011 National Book Critics Circle Awards, Biography
Honorable Mention, 2012 Bernard Schwartz Book Award of the Asia Society
Honorable Mention, 2011 Association of American Publishers PROSE Award, European & World History
An Economist Best Book of 2011
A Financial Times Best Book of 2011
A Wall Street Journal Book of the Year, 2011
A Washington Post Best Book of 2011
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, 2011
A Bloomberg News Favorite Book of 2014
An Esquire China Book of the Year, 2012
A Gates Notes Top Read of 2012
Perhaps no one in the twentieth century had a greater long-term impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. And no scholar of contemporary East Asian history and culture is better qualified than Ezra Vogel to disentangle the many contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of China’s boldest strategist.
Once described by Mao Zedong as a “needle inside a ball of cotton,” Deng was the pragmatic yet disciplined driving force behind China’s radical transformation in the late twentieth century. He confronted the damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution, dissolved Mao’s cult of personality, and loosened the economic and social policies that had stunted China’s growth. Obsessed with modernization and technology, Deng opened trade relations with the West, which lifted hundreds of millions of his countrymen out of poverty. Yet at the same time he answered to his authoritarian roots, most notably when he ordered the crackdown in June 1989 at Tiananmen Square.
Deng’s youthful commitment to the Communist Party was cemented in Paris in the early 1920s, among a group of Chinese student-workers that also included Zhou Enlai. Deng returned home in 1927 to join the Chinese Revolution on the ground floor. In the fifty years of his tumultuous rise to power, he endured accusations, purges, and even exile before becoming China’s preeminent leader from 1978 to 1989 and again in 1992. When he reached the top, Deng saw an opportunity to creatively destroy much of the economic system he had helped build for five decades as a loyal follower of Mao―and he did not hesitate.
Japan and the four little dragons--Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore--constitute less than 1 percent of the world's land mass and less than 4 percent of the world's population. Yet in the last four decades they have become, with Europe and North America, one of the three great pillars of the modern industrial world order. How did they achieve such a rapid industrial transformation? Why did the four little dragons, dots on the East Asian periphery, gain such Promethean energy at this particular time in history?
Ezra F. Vogel, one of the most widely read scholars on Asian affairs, provides a comprehensive explanation of East Asia's industrial breakthrough. While others have attributed this success to tradition or to national economic policy, Vogel's penetrating analysis illuminates how cultural background interacted with politics, strategy, and situational factors to ignite the greatest burst of sustained economic growth the world has yet seen.
Vogel describes how each of the four little dragons acquired the political stability needed to take advantage of the special opportunities available to would-be industrializers after World War II. He traces how each little dragon devised a structure and a strategy to hasten industrialization and how firms acquired the entrepreneurial skill, capital, and technology to produce internationally competitive goods. Vogel brings masterly insight to the underlying question of why Japan and the little dragons have been so extraordinarily successful in industrializing while other developing countries have not. No other work has pinpointed with such clarity how institutions and cultural practices rooted in the Confucian tradition were adapted to the needs of an industrial society, enabling East Asia to use its special situational advantages to respond to global opportunities.
This is a book that all scholars and lay readers with an interest in Asia will want to read and ponder.
In 1958, Suzanne and Ezra Vogel embedded themselves in a Tokyo suburb, living among and interviewing six middle-class families regularly for a year. Tracing the rapid postwar economic growth that led to hiring large numbers of workers who were provided lifelong employment, the authors show how this phenomenon led to a new social class—the salaried men and their families. It was a well-educated group that prepared their children rigorously for the same successful corporate or government jobs they held. Secure employment and a rising standard of living enabled this new middle class to set the dominant pattern of social life that influenced even those who could not share it, a pattern that remains fundamental to Japanese society today.