One of the major casualties of the Asian financial crisis was President Suharto who had been in power for thirty-two years. The crisis was a key point in Indonesia’s history, at the time it was unclear if the nation would make the necessary reforms to move forward or fall into further chaos. In Resurgent Indonesia, Vasuki Shastry investigates the effects of the 1997 Asian financial crisis on Indonesia and the subsequent fall of the authoritarian Suharto in 1998. He then deals with the process of building a democratic nation and the political environment in Indonesia in 2018. The book gives a detailed account of the crisis and recovery at the domestic level but also in the wider geopolitical context.
Evidence of the scarcity of earth’s resources is all around us, in water shortages in Cape town, a choking tropical haze in Indonesia, or increasingly overcrowded and unaffordable Asian cities where people live in “coffin cubicles” and “cage homes”. Action is required. But what kind of action, and which actor is best suited to bring about change that will allow the peaceful co-existence of humankind on an increasingly crowded and resource-constrained planet Earth? Chandran Nair, in his book, The Sustainable State, offers a new narrative of sustainable development. He takes on tough questions like how to price in negative externalities, such as early deaths from the pollution from coal-fired power, and grapples with the reality that the developing world will likely never enjoy the living standards of the West.
There are some cities that lend themselves to darkness and intrigue. Macau is one of these places. First settled by refugees fleeing the Mongol invasion in northern China, it became a fishing village and later a haven for pirates. The Portuguese arrived in the 1500s and built a slice of the baroque Mediterranean in South China. It was returned to China in 1999 and today it’s the gambling capital of the world.
When a work of non-fiction opens with “On the last day of his old life, the dinosaur hunter went to the beach,” it’s a strong hint that tragedy is in store.
Yan Ge’s The Chilli Bean Paste Clan should come with a warning on the cover: “contents may cause readers to break into a sweat and consume unhealthy amounts of Laoganma spicy chilli crisp.” The setting for this complicated and often humorous story of the Duan-Xue clan, a family consumed by resentments, betrayals, matriarchal machinations, and sibling rivalry, is Pingle, a small town in Sichuan province, which the author tells us in the foreword is essentially the town she grew up in.
In the summer of 1792, the Qianlong Emperor was confronted with a uniquely Tibetan Buddhist problem: Qing authorities had discovered the Eighth Dalai Lama, Seventh Panchen Lama, the Fourth Jetsundamba, several other prominent reincarnate lineages, and a distinguished Tibetan statesman, were embedded in a web of kinship ties. “… How is it possible that the reincarnations of all the major kutuktus of Tibet have come to appear only in the noble households?” he remarked in a letter to one of his most trusted generals.
Chi Zijian’s novel The Last Quarter of the Moon was set among the Evenki reindeer-herders in remotest Heilongjiang. Her latest novel in English translation, Goodnight, Rose, has as its center the relationship between a Chinese country girl making her way in Harbin and an elderly Jewish woman who arrived, as did many, after the Russian revolution. Chi herself seems fascinated by the interaction between peoples and societies; her novels can transcend nationality and culture.