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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

BOOKS


Wake Up Call

WHO WILL FEED CHINA?
By Lester R. Brown

WHEN THE WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE published Brown's paper last year, it attracted more international attention than almost any other position that the environmental group has put forward. Of course, his thesis, which he expands on in this book, was pretty alarming. China, he says, will soon emerge as an importer of grain in such quantities as to trigger unprecedented rises in world food prices. He sees China following the same path as Japan and Taiwan. As they industrialized, the amount of land devoted to crops shrank, while people earning higher incomes bought more food, especially grain-fed beef, pork and poultry. The main difference is that China has ten times as many mouths to feed. Brown's arguments sparked quite a debate and not a little criticism, especially over his rather alarming estimates of projected cropland losses. But can it be entirely a coincidence that China's leaders are now beginning to pay more attention to a sector of the economy, agriculture, that they have tended to neglect in the rush to industrialize?

W.W. Norton, 500 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10110, U.S.A. 163 Pages. $8.95 (paper)


Metallic Rhythms

FROM THE BLUEST PART OF THE HARBOUR: Poems from Hong Kong
Edited by Andrew Parkin

POEMS FROM HONG KONG? Cellular telephones, perhaps; Cabbage Patch dolls for sure. But one does not usually think of Hong Kong as a place that nurtures the muse. This collection (which includes several by former Asiaweek Staff Writer Juliette Chen) provides an unusual opportunity to read - in English - poems that are influenced by Hong Kong as it races toward 1997. What emerges most clearly is the ambivalent feelings that the poets all have toward mother China. For Yu Kwang Chung, the Kowloon-Canton Railway line running to the border becomes "an umbilical cord that cannot be severed, nor crushed asunder . . . the parent body so familiar yet so strange." Many of the poems succeed in crystallizing something of the frenetic, metallic rhythm of Hong Kong life. Others, from writers living abroad, deal effectively with the emotions of exile and uncertainty. In the babble of different opinions and anxieties over the future, here are twelve voices worth listening to.

Oxford University Press, 18F Warwick House, Taikoo Pl., Quarry Bay, Hong Kong. 147 pages. HK$95 (paper)


Off the Beaten Path

BO-GYI
By Jerome Nugent-Smith

THIS RAUCOUS NOVEL IS based very loosely on historical events in Myanmar between 1878 and 1886. The death of King Mindon starts a whirlwind of wheeling and dealing, as foreign traders try to gain valuable concessions from his young successor. The central figure is a cunning and ruthless Scot named Alistair Campbell. The French, Italians and Englishmen who appear in the story are even less likable. But even their machinations are overshadowed by conspirators in the palace, as courtiers and royal relatives maneuver for position and power. The novel's tone veers wildly between Boys Own Adventure stories and the cynicism of backroom politics. In fact, there are so many stories going on at once that Bo-Gyi (Great Leader in Burmese) is often difficult to follow (perhaps because it is meant to be the first installment of a series). Although it sometimes seems that Nugent-Smith is trying too hard, the book offers some good fun in a historical setting off the beaten track.

Burmah Publishing, Box 3045 Dendy, Brighton, Vic. 3186, Australia, 350 Pages. A$34.95 (cloth)


Out of Court

PRODUCT LIABILITY IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC
Edited by Jocelyn Kellam

ASIAN COUNTRIES HAVE TYPICALLY tried to avoid civil suits, fearing that excessive litigation and American-style judgments will undermine their economies. But as the middle class expands, consumer awareness rises too. This book points out how several Asian countries try to protect consumers without, if possible, going to court. Vietnam emphasizes education for the manufacturers of defective products, while South Korea and China have complex procedures for dispute resolution outside of courts. The book provides a handy guide through the product liability maze.

Legal Books, 39-49 Martin Pl. Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia. 248 Pages. A$125 (cloth)


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