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Southeast Asia is a poster child for a model of development - building of modern infrastructure and open markets to fuel economic growth - that for almost three decades has lifted most of the ten countries of the region out of poverty. Yet beyond the beach clubs and plush five-star hotel lobbies, the heart of Southeast Asia is a dark and forbidding place where lust for pow Southeast Asia is a poster child for a model of development - building of modern infrastructure and open markets to fuel economic growth - that for almost three decades has lifted most of the ten countries of the region out of poverty. Yet beyond the beach clubs and plush five-star hotel lobbies, the heart of Southeast Asia is a dark and forbidding place where lust for power and naked greed mean that ordinary people's lives are uncertain and insecure, with conflict never far below the calm surface of outward politeness. Confounding those who argue that democracy and stability march hand in hand with growth and development, Southeast Asia's social and political transformation has been haltingly slow and marked by pronounced periods of protracted conflict and upheaval - Thailand alone has witnessed two military coups since the turn of the twentieth century. Violence haunts the political landscape and is entrenched in the small wars that unceasingly afflict the margins. Blood and Silk begins as a journey, the author's own long voyage of discovery in the region over the past three decades. What follows is a taxonomy of sorts, a detailed delving into the different forms of conflict, ranging from the prevalence of elite power struggles with violent consequences to ethnic and religious wars, and territorial disputes. Vatikiotis aims to dispel the myth of a tropical Arcady, and give proper consideration to the grim reality of perpetual threats to lives and livelihoods in Southeast Asia. For etched on the faces of the ordinary people, whether the roadside sate seller in Jakarta, the noodle stall owner in Bangkok, or the long suffering, foot-scratching, ear-picking, tea-shop owner in Rangoon is the same weary look of resignation. They have limited scope for improving their lives, but what makes things worse is that those who do, the power holders, are selfish and narrowly focused on pursuing the interests of power and personal wealth, at their expense..


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Southeast Asia is a poster child for a model of development - building of modern infrastructure and open markets to fuel economic growth - that for almost three decades has lifted most of the ten countries of the region out of poverty. Yet beyond the beach clubs and plush five-star hotel lobbies, the heart of Southeast Asia is a dark and forbidding place where lust for pow Southeast Asia is a poster child for a model of development - building of modern infrastructure and open markets to fuel economic growth - that for almost three decades has lifted most of the ten countries of the region out of poverty. Yet beyond the beach clubs and plush five-star hotel lobbies, the heart of Southeast Asia is a dark and forbidding place where lust for power and naked greed mean that ordinary people's lives are uncertain and insecure, with conflict never far below the calm surface of outward politeness. Confounding those who argue that democracy and stability march hand in hand with growth and development, Southeast Asia's social and political transformation has been haltingly slow and marked by pronounced periods of protracted conflict and upheaval - Thailand alone has witnessed two military coups since the turn of the twentieth century. Violence haunts the political landscape and is entrenched in the small wars that unceasingly afflict the margins. Blood and Silk begins as a journey, the author's own long voyage of discovery in the region over the past three decades. What follows is a taxonomy of sorts, a detailed delving into the different forms of conflict, ranging from the prevalence of elite power struggles with violent consequences to ethnic and religious wars, and territorial disputes. Vatikiotis aims to dispel the myth of a tropical Arcady, and give proper consideration to the grim reality of perpetual threats to lives and livelihoods in Southeast Asia. For etched on the faces of the ordinary people, whether the roadside sate seller in Jakarta, the noodle stall owner in Bangkok, or the long suffering, foot-scratching, ear-picking, tea-shop owner in Rangoon is the same weary look of resignation. They have limited scope for improving their lives, but what makes things worse is that those who do, the power holders, are selfish and narrowly focused on pursuing the interests of power and personal wealth, at their expense..

30 review for Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kate Walton

    This could have used a better editor. I found the organisation a bit strange, there was lots of repetition, strange use of adjectives, and even spelling mistakes (Samuel Huntingdon, anyone?). The author also seemed to be a bit confused about whether he wanted to write a non-fiction book or a memoir - repeated mentions of 'when I was a journalist in Malaysia' got old fast. There were some interesting bits of information but I honestly found this a real struggle to get through. Also, good luck on This could have used a better editor. I found the organisation a bit strange, there was lots of repetition, strange use of adjectives, and even spelling mistakes (Samuel Huntingdon, anyone?). The author also seemed to be a bit confused about whether he wanted to write a non-fiction book or a memoir - repeated mentions of 'when I was a journalist in Malaysia' got old fast. There were some interesting bits of information but I honestly found this a real struggle to get through. Also, good luck on finding Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, or Timor in this - they barely rate a mention.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wei Fen

    The struggle between memoir, historical fiction, and cultural analysis finds itself in knots in Blood and Silk, leaving the reader with a dissatisfied sense that Vatikiotis' own vast personal knowledge of the region has not been best communicated through the chapter organization and writing style. Southeast Asia is a heterogeneous beast that is often difficult to grasp at the level of individual country complexities, and while the attempt to cluster themes and address political and social-cultur The struggle between memoir, historical fiction, and cultural analysis finds itself in knots in Blood and Silk, leaving the reader with a dissatisfied sense that Vatikiotis' own vast personal knowledge of the region has not been best communicated through the chapter organization and writing style. Southeast Asia is a heterogeneous beast that is often difficult to grasp at the level of individual country complexities, and while the attempt to cluster themes and address political and social-cultural patterns found throughout the region is admirable, it creates a tendency towards broad generalizations in this book. The personal anecdotes and experiences are what makes this book interesting - however, these also reveal frequent value judgements that are rather questionable (eg. Statements such as: 'Filipinos are among the best-educated, most talented and versatile people of Southeast Asia' which is linked to their formal education in English, seems to completely ignore the bias of the writer's own language background and the postcolonial struggles many colonized countries have had with the English language). This is probably best read if one is already in touch with the nuances of Southeast Asian politics and history, as an interesting personal take on the region - but not as an authority of it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phyu Hninn Nyein

    It's quite weird that many of us grow up not knowing the state of affairs happening in the South East Asia even though we have lived here all our lives. This is the first ever book I have seen that describes the histories of South East Asia with the focus on post-colonial era. The author narrates the book from his own experiences and it's interesting to know that we, aseans, have a lot more in common than one think. Despite the fact that it has more of pessimistic outlook, I enjoyed the book ove It's quite weird that many of us grow up not knowing the state of affairs happening in the South East Asia even though we have lived here all our lives. This is the first ever book I have seen that describes the histories of South East Asia with the focus on post-colonial era. The author narrates the book from his own experiences and it's interesting to know that we, aseans, have a lot more in common than one think. Despite the fact that it has more of pessimistic outlook, I enjoyed the book overall.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edith

    This book appears to be portrayed as an interesting account for a typical bookshop goer (accessible, no background knowledge required). Yet this book in reality tackled some of the most complex issues surrounding South-East Asia, and I would argue is therefore more suited to experienced members of the journalistic and historical professions. What this book lacks is a thread. The structure of the book is confusing and overlaps repeatedly to the point where the chapters appear to merge into one - This book appears to be portrayed as an interesting account for a typical bookshop goer (accessible, no background knowledge required). Yet this book in reality tackled some of the most complex issues surrounding South-East Asia, and I would argue is therefore more suited to experienced members of the journalistic and historical professions. What this book lacks is a thread. The structure of the book is confusing and overlaps repeatedly to the point where the chapters appear to merge into one - for a casual reader with an interest in the area that becomes very irritating and off-putting. But what is even more infuriating is that a chronological narrative is simply unachievable in this book given that the author feels a strong desire to link the events of each of the countries and group them thematically. Therein lies the main issue I have with this book. Whilst I understand the arguments made about ingrained corruption/political patronage and violence across the whole of South-East Asia, the author always feels the need to group all of the countries together without fully explaining the DIFFERENCES in the circumstances of the respective countries. Even where differences are explained between, for instance, the policies of Malaysia and Indonesia, they feel rushed and lack real thought. The entire book therefore, is designed to group all of these countries together and show common political trends in that part of the world, rather than articulately explaining the differences. This may not be a major issue if that’s what you anticipated when picking up the book. But what is an issue to a causal reader is the repetition of past dictatorships/regimes from many different countries throughout successive chapters - it became very difficult to remember all of the names and which countries they were referring to. Had the book been arranged so that each chapter were about a different country maybe this could have been avoided. Personally I find the writing style to be slightly too “wordy” - the writer said little in very complex supposedly articulate sentences e.g. “the seeds of sub-national conflict in Southeast Asia lie in the process of modern state formation, which involved the disruption of pre-colonial autonomous principalities and the birth of the cohesive, centralised nation state”. A very interesting point that has been lost beneath swathes of linguistic fluff. I must also challenge the sweeping statements made in the book: “When economic crisis hit in 1997, people felt that their strong leaders no longer fulfilled the social contract promising prosperity in return for limited freedom”. Again a very interesting point, but an incredibly grand statement. Sentences like these are littered across the book: “impunity afflicts the region rather like a chronically infectious disease”. The book certainly becomes awkwardly repetitive after a while, and is not aided by random references to countries in the Middle East and Latin America that seem badly researched and frankly irrelevant (“One is reminded of the old refrain from Washington that it backed military uprisings against dictators in Latin America at the request of the people”). I read this book looking to find information on Cambodia, and was slightly disappointed in the lack of discussion about a few of the countries including Cambodia, compared to masses of narrative on others such as Indonesia. Obviously the writer will have particular leanings/interests, but surely a book described as discussing Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia should not disproportionately talk about certain parts of Southeast Asia and fail to adequately discuss others. All that being said the book was generally incredibly well-articulated and I managed to find useful evidence for my own research. The writer is clearly very knowledgable about the area and it was refreshing to hear ‘frontline’ accounts of his time spent in Southeast Asia as a journalist (his experiences meeting politicians and activist for instance) rather than intellectuals with no understanding of what it feels like to live and work in the countries mentioned. I did, despite all that has been discussed above, enjoy this book, though I would have enjoyed it more had the book been more effectively structured.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jiayue

    The prospect of the book was exciting, given the dearth of good books about Southeast Asia. I actually went to great pains to procure it and read it. However, to my disappointment, this ended up being a disgruntled journalist’s rant about Southeast Asia. Yes we all know he was a good journalist, because he mentioned it once every ten pages or so. Next, I had issues with how the issues identified would’ve been endemic to any society, not just southeast Asian ones, and therefore shouldn’t have bee The prospect of the book was exciting, given the dearth of good books about Southeast Asia. I actually went to great pains to procure it and read it. However, to my disappointment, this ended up being a disgruntled journalist’s rant about Southeast Asia. Yes we all know he was a good journalist, because he mentioned it once every ten pages or so. Next, I had issues with how the issues identified would’ve been endemic to any society, not just southeast Asian ones, and therefore shouldn’t have been extracted as a PROBLEM causing Southeast Asia to go downhill. For example, it is written “These elites couldn’t care less how much the masses suffer or die each time they quarrel among themselves” - how is this different from other countries? Finally, the author does have abit of southeast Asian fever, as we find the words being used to be full of flair, rather than factual, to the point where the author ended up downplaying certain historical facts. Oh well.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    Ditto Kate Walton's review. She said it all -- needed tighter editing, less ego, and a decision whether its style was to be travelogue or political commentary. That explains the three stars. On the other hand, that said (and I've lived in the region for 22 years), definitely worth reading if you want to learn what greases the wheels of government and the rich in Southeast Asia--which should have earned it four stars. Ditto Kate Walton's review. She said it all -- needed tighter editing, less ego, and a decision whether its style was to be travelogue or political commentary. That explains the three stars. On the other hand, that said (and I've lived in the region for 22 years), definitely worth reading if you want to learn what greases the wheels of government and the rich in Southeast Asia--which should have earned it four stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Virgil

    Great read for lovers of a first person perspective narrative of history and politics. The author's unique life experience allows for intimate and vivid analysis of key features of South East Asia's modern history. While there are surely other narratives and explanations of the same events and trends, Vatikiotis' is one that shares the view of a first hand witness and cuts straight down to core themes and weaknesses in political culture in the region, giving the reader a sense of understanding w Great read for lovers of a first person perspective narrative of history and politics. The author's unique life experience allows for intimate and vivid analysis of key features of South East Asia's modern history. While there are surely other narratives and explanations of the same events and trends, Vatikiotis' is one that shares the view of a first hand witness and cuts straight down to core themes and weaknesses in political culture in the region, giving the reader a sense of understanding why South East Asia is itself today, and how hard it may be to ever have political institutions or political culture that are any different.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Convincing (if depressing) explanation of why democracy has taken only shallow root in Southeast Asia and why the trappings of democracy continue to be used by elites to justify or excuse graft, corruption and violence. (Hint: if you think colonial legacies might have something to do with it, you'd not be wrong). I found the cultural and historical discussions the most illuminating - there are other authors who do the geopolitics better. Convincing (if depressing) explanation of why democracy has taken only shallow root in Southeast Asia and why the trappings of democracy continue to be used by elites to justify or excuse graft, corruption and violence. (Hint: if you think colonial legacies might have something to do with it, you'd not be wrong). I found the cultural and historical discussions the most illuminating - there are other authors who do the geopolitics better.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Liam

    "To lose face us to suffer such an assault on dignity and self-esteem that a sudden, violent response is not only warranted, but expected. And so Thai society, in common with other South Asian cultures, has developed a sophisticated array of conflict-avoidance mechanisms. These range from a pathological inability to say anything direct, in order to avoid giving offense, to a range of gestures and actions that outsiders interpret as a well-developed culture of manners, but which in fact are part "To lose face us to suffer such an assault on dignity and self-esteem that a sudden, violent response is not only warranted, but expected. And so Thai society, in common with other South Asian cultures, has developed a sophisticated array of conflict-avoidance mechanisms. These range from a pathological inability to say anything direct, in order to avoid giving offense, to a range of gestures and actions that outsiders interpret as a well-developed culture of manners, but which in fact are part of a suit of armour protecting agains indignity." (18-9) "Monarchy still thrives in five of the ten countries of Southeast Asia, blending traditions of kingship from the pre-colonial era with more modern forms of constitutional rule." (59) "One of the more frequently used metaphors in Southeast Asia is that when elephants fight, stay out of the long grass -- an apt reference to the manner in which political elites clash and leave suffering and tragedy in their wake." (87) "'Each group holds by its own religion, its own culture and language, its own ideas and ways ... As individuals they meet, but only in the marketplace in buying and selling. There is a plural society, with different sections of the community living side by side, within the same political unity.'" (quoting John Furnivall, 100) "Between 1999 and 2008 more people died in sub-national conflict in Asia than in all other forms of conflict combined elsewhere in the world -- including conflicts in places such as Afghanistan." (199) "Southeast Asia in 2050 may well more resemble the region before the invasion of European powers after the 1500s. IT will be more decentralised and characterized by pockets of hard-won autonomy." (299) "'[W]hen the water is high the fish eat the ants; when the water is low, the ants eat the fish.'" (Cambodian saying, 304)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Thaddeus Ang

    Drawing insights from his myriad of professions working in SEA, centrally in the field of journalism but later on in private diplomacy and conflict mediation, this book is a anecdotal narrative of the region’s shifting sociopolitical landscape from Vatikiotis’s perspective. Vatikiotis’s writing is compelling to say the least, albeit rhetorical with the use of fluffy language and abstract comparative historical analyses that lumps themes across countries into neat patterns and trends. This seems c Drawing insights from his myriad of professions working in SEA, centrally in the field of journalism but later on in private diplomacy and conflict mediation, this book is a anecdotal narrative of the region’s shifting sociopolitical landscape from Vatikiotis’s perspective. Vatikiotis’s writing is compelling to say the least, albeit rhetorical with the use of fluffy language and abstract comparative historical analyses that lumps themes across countries into neat patterns and trends. This seems convincing at first, but upon further distillation, exposes the tendency to generalise such themes into broad terms of “corruption”, “authoritarianism” and “inequality”, leitmotifs that are not endemic to just the region and does not diagnose the specific issues in the area. His unbridled criticisms of the undemocratic tendencies of Southeast Asian governments also belies his Western, paternalistic condescension regarding local politics and its leaders. That being said, there is much to glean from his on-the-ground experience working in the deepest and darkest corners of the region over four decades, explaining his intimate knowledge of cultural forces and trends especially in his later chapters. Vatikiotis’s breakdown of the prevailing issues plaguing us — interethnic conflicts & identity politics, the incipience of Islamism and the rising influence of China is extremely perceptive and illuminating. Despite the flaws, this book proved to be an exciting read that sucked me into the cultural richness of a region that engulfs me, historically and geographically.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    Highly recommend this book to anyone interested in modern Southeast Asia. After 2 years in the region I've started seeing some curious social rules and tensions in "my" markets, that can not be explained by economic indexes, old university history books or by my co-workers born and raised in the markets. This book, written by a high-profile BBC journalist who spent all of his career in ASEAN, covered most of the questions in my head. Answers about recent historical events that seem to be well-fo Highly recommend this book to anyone interested in modern Southeast Asia. After 2 years in the region I've started seeing some curious social rules and tensions in "my" markets, that can not be explained by economic indexes, old university history books or by my co-workers born and raised in the markets. This book, written by a high-profile BBC journalist who spent all of his career in ASEAN, covered most of the questions in my head. Answers about recent historical events that seem to be well-forgotten, social disparity, political processes, stability of economic growth, human rights situation and interethnic tensions are all here, in this book. "Blood and Silk" is quite new (covers events as recent as Thai King passing and Duterte's coming to power in the Philippines in 2016) and provides great explanation on why Southeast Asia societies are they way they are today. Bonus point for me - author is supporting neither US nor USSR side when talking about history and tries to be as pragmatic and objective as possible. Downside - the division into sections is quite fluid and thus there are quite a few repetitions. And there is blood, a lot of blood and not enough silk in the story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sly Reference

    More like 3 1/2 stars. This is a messy, interesting book about the tensions and trends in Southeast Asia. There are very few books about the region, so it's good to get the insight of someone who has been in and reporting on the region for decades. It connects together a lot of the important figures of the region. At the same time, it really felt like an interesting dinner conversation more than a book. It was all over the place, disorganized, mildly repetitive and not always giving an in depth More like 3 1/2 stars. This is a messy, interesting book about the tensions and trends in Southeast Asia. There are very few books about the region, so it's good to get the insight of someone who has been in and reporting on the region for decades. It connects together a lot of the important figures of the region. At the same time, it really felt like an interesting dinner conversation more than a book. It was all over the place, disorganized, mildly repetitive and not always giving an in depth look at all the various parts. It would skip back into the past to look for historical reasons for current events that didn't always seem justified. It's probably best to say that it was interesting more than it was informative, though it did have a lot of information that I hadn't run into. Overall I'd recommend, but mostly because it'd be hard to find something better.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Theodora

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The author presents very interesting anecdotes and historical facts of Southeast Asia. However, that is just about all the good aspects of the book. Many broad assumptions were made about the region despite each country having such different cultures. Also, for some reason, countries like Vietnam and Laos were conveniently left out from the analysis being done, despite Vietnam being the next up and coming region due to high tech talent. Although the author noted that despite the fact that Southe The author presents very interesting anecdotes and historical facts of Southeast Asia. However, that is just about all the good aspects of the book. Many broad assumptions were made about the region despite each country having such different cultures. Also, for some reason, countries like Vietnam and Laos were conveniently left out from the analysis being done, despite Vietnam being the next up and coming region due to high tech talent. Although the author noted that despite the fact that Southeast Asia’s economy is rapidly improving despite having politicians in absolute power, he never gave any thought or explanation as to why that was the case, and stuck to the same argument that democracy was the only way to go. The book might have been a lot more readable if alternative perspectives were provided as to the type of political systems that would be suitable in context of SEA.

  14. 5 out of 5

    The Book Grocer

    Purchase Blood and Silk here for just $10! This book is for those that know a lot about South East Asian politics but can also inform those that know little. Using the first person, Vatikiotis draws you in, making it feel like you are a witness to the politics of the area. He clearly loves these countries, whilst still using a surgeon's precision to pull apart what makes them tick. Elisa, Book Grocer Purchase Blood and Silk here for just $10! This book is for those that know a lot about South East Asian politics but can also inform those that know little. Using the first person, Vatikiotis draws you in, making it feel like you are a witness to the politics of the area. He clearly loves these countries, whilst still using a surgeon's precision to pull apart what makes them tick. Elisa, Book Grocer

  15. 5 out of 5

    1stchild

    Despite the literary style of his writing that i quite enjoy, the book suffers from wordiness at certain key points that you'll have to squint through 4-5 liners for the relevant information. It's no easy feat to incorporate factual (if honest) sociopolitical narrative while juggling the different states in a region politically as befuddling as SEA. But for whatever aesthetic he was intent on, his ways of welding concurrent scenes in SEA on different periods, the odd names and superfluous contex Despite the literary style of his writing that i quite enjoy, the book suffers from wordiness at certain key points that you'll have to squint through 4-5 liners for the relevant information. It's no easy feat to incorporate factual (if honest) sociopolitical narrative while juggling the different states in a region politically as befuddling as SEA. But for whatever aesthetic he was intent on, his ways of welding concurrent scenes in SEA on different periods, the odd names and superfluous contexts crammed in single sentences, are some of what couldve been managed better. It'll take no more suffering beyond this i think, for the reader. I Learned the most through his take on Thailand and Indonesia. At the very least, he captures well the masses of SEA's unswerving resilience. I also appreaciate how Malaysia's 1MDB case was made super easy for me to revisit on. And as if this needs to be said, China's been flexing its guns more than ever. Oh, and the book cover--gorgeous.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hunter Marston

    Vatikiotis provides an excellent overview of the state of affairs in Southeast Asia, drawing on his own long history in the region and the region's complicated socio-political history as well. He clearly knows the countries he writes about and cares about deeply. His argument - that corruption and self-serving power interests have persisted in light of weak institutions and more evenly distributed economic benefits for unequal societies - is a convincing, and timely, one. If you'd like to wrap y Vatikiotis provides an excellent overview of the state of affairs in Southeast Asia, drawing on his own long history in the region and the region's complicated socio-political history as well. He clearly knows the countries he writes about and cares about deeply. His argument - that corruption and self-serving power interests have persisted in light of weak institutions and more evenly distributed economic benefits for unequal societies - is a convincing, and timely, one. If you'd like to wrap your head around SE Asia as a region with a short and engaging read, I highly recommend this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dr

    Vatikiotis's command of the history of - and current influences on - Southeast Asia is nothing short of astounding. 'Blood and Silk' is essential reading for anyone working in the region. And, Vatikiotis makes a strong case for why anyone NOT working in the region should pay attention too. My only nit is the unbalanced coverage of Cambodia, who's evolution does not seem entirely in line with other countries of the region that are covered in more depth (Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, etc.). Still, Vatikiotis's command of the history of - and current influences on - Southeast Asia is nothing short of astounding. 'Blood and Silk' is essential reading for anyone working in the region. And, Vatikiotis makes a strong case for why anyone NOT working in the region should pay attention too. My only nit is the unbalanced coverage of Cambodia, who's evolution does not seem entirely in line with other countries of the region that are covered in more depth (Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, etc.). Still, a fascinating and very readable read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

    Vatikiotis presented a very readable first-person historical account as a journalist who had witnessed the major events that have shaped SE Asia as it is today. His anecdotes with the key figures part and parcel of the region's development added color to his recount. The prognosis of the region's future based on the different social/economic/political levers analyzed in earlier chapters may be accurate in 2017, but is probably less relevant in the political context of 2021. Vatikiotis presented a very readable first-person historical account as a journalist who had witnessed the major events that have shaped SE Asia as it is today. His anecdotes with the key figures part and parcel of the region's development added color to his recount. The prognosis of the region's future based on the different social/economic/political levers analyzed in earlier chapters may be accurate in 2017, but is probably less relevant in the political context of 2021.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    A great book to read if you want to gain more knowledge on the modern history of South East Asian countries and how it impacts these countries and their people today. I was quite oblivious to the state affairs of South East Asian countries and the patterns of political history we share, until I read this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    My education focused on Japan and East Asia, so I didn’t know much about Southeast Asia before I read this book. Vatikiotis outlines the histories of the countries of Southeast Asia before turning to current trends and issues. The book is quite thorough and a good introduction to this important and storied world region.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Romain B

    Interesting read with lots of anecdotes and stories about Southeast Asia for the past 50 years. However, it had some repetitions in several chapters. Most importantly it's not a book about the whole Southeast Asia but rather a book on Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. Other countries are very briefly mentioned. Interesting read with lots of anecdotes and stories about Southeast Asia for the past 50 years. However, it had some repetitions in several chapters. Most importantly it's not a book about the whole Southeast Asia but rather a book on Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. Other countries are very briefly mentioned.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    An accurate description of the mentality behind the people of Southeast Asia, reflecting the author's in-depth knowledge and understanding of the culture in this unique region and his long stay in the area An accurate description of the mentality behind the people of Southeast Asia, reflecting the author's in-depth knowledge and understanding of the culture in this unique region and his long stay in the area

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    A very accurate account of Southeast Asia, its social and political issues that prevent democracy from thriving and the increasing strength of influence from China. If you live in Southeast Asia, I suggest buying it online and reading it before it gets banned.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Nelson

    An incredibly valuable, and depressing, tour of Southeast Asia's failures to live up to its promise, the book is a thorough review of the political trends in each country in the region. Valuable to expert and novice alike. An incredibly valuable, and depressing, tour of Southeast Asia's failures to live up to its promise, the book is a thorough review of the political trends in each country in the region. Valuable to expert and novice alike.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Field

    Having studied South East Asian politics in the 1980's and retaining an albeit peripheral interest in the topic this book was a good overview of the preceding thirty years and the current state of play. Having studied South East Asian politics in the 1980's and retaining an albeit peripheral interest in the topic this book was a good overview of the preceding thirty years and the current state of play.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jill Cordry

    Read this for my world affairs book club and didn't care for it much. The author makes all the countries sound the same with the same problems, and that has not been my experience. Also, there were too many anecdotal stories about him. I ended up skimming which is something I almost never do. Read this for my world affairs book club and didn't care for it much. The author makes all the countries sound the same with the same problems, and that has not been my experience. Also, there were too many anecdotal stories about him. I ended up skimming which is something I almost never do.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Han

    - Weird Organization of the book - factual misses (Jack Ma does not own WeChat, that’s Pony Ma!) - Repetitions Good content but structure could have been more well thought going through history to politics, facts to insights and to future predictions..

  28. 4 out of 5

    Arnab

    A valuable addition to literature on Southeast Asian politics that straddles journalism and academics. It gets a touch repetitive at times, but it rewards patient engagement on the part of the author. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jr.

    Excellent overview of the underlying political tensions, corruption, and causes in Southeast Asia. It is a little dated as it relates to Myanmar and a few changes in the last year or so but seems very prescient in its predictions as to those countries as well as Thailand, and Indochina.

  30. 4 out of 5

    E Lee

    One of the best books I have read in recent times. Depressing, but still a must read. Topical with the current events in Myanmar and Malaysia.

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