Nothing, however, is what some financial experts fear many Asian countries have done — at least, where it counts the most: clearing out the backscratching and corruption that had led bank after bank, and corporation after corporation, to take on bad debts. In addition, in many Asian economies there remain real questions as to whether corporate and government accounting books reveal the true state of affairs. Though some foreign investors have started to trickle back, "there remains great reluctance to do so," says Saporito. "We are witnessing an inevitable pendulum swing, but if Asian countries want to gain real momentum, they need to undertake reforms."
What goes down must go up. That seemingly inexorable law of economics is now pulling many Asian countries out of the slump that only two years ago threatened to disrupt the entire global economy. Throughout the region stock markets are on the rebound and currencies are on the rise, leading to renewed confidence that the worst is over and business will pick up further. But it may be too early to declare victory. "What is really happening," says TIME business senior editor Bill Saporito, "is that the Asian economies are coming off the bottom. Even when you do nothing, the inevitable march of business can pull you up."