The Making of Modern Asia

The 21st century has opened and will close with two puzzles about the rise of Asia. Today, the puzzle is why Asian societies, long in the doldrums, are now successful. At the century's close, by contrast, historians will want to know why Asian societies succeeded so late, taking centuries to catch up with a Europe that they had outperformed for millenniums. Neither puzzle is—or will be—easy to solve.

As a child of a poor Indian immigrant family growing up in the 1950s in the British colony of Singapore, neither I nor my classmates could have even conceived the...

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