A World on the Edge

Looting was the least of the injuries suffered by Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority in the riots that followed the 1998 collapse of the Suharto regime. Nominally democratic Indonesia was left reeling from the subsequent capital flight of $40-to-$100 billion. (CHOO YOUN-KONG / AFP / GETTY IMAGES)

A World on the Edge

Amy Chua

With the debate about globalization focused on economics and politics, Amy Chua raised an alarm in our Autumn 2002 issue about the dangerous escalation of ethnic tensions in many countries caused by the triumph of free-market democracy. Chua later wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011).

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One beautiful blue morning in September 1994, I received a call from my mother in California. In a hushed voice, she told me that my Aunt Leona, my father’s twin sister, had been murdered in her home in the Philippines, her throat slit by her chauffeur. My mother broke the news to me in our native Hokkien Chinese dialect. But “murder” she said in English, as if to wall off the act from the family through language.

The murder of a relative is horrible for anyone, anywhere. My father’s grief was impenetrable; to this day, he has not broken his silence on the subject. For the rest of the family, though, there was an added element of disgrace. For the Chinese, luck is a moral attribute, and a lucky person would never be murdered. Like having a birth defect, or marrying a Filipino, being murdered is shameful.

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About the Author

AMY CHUA, a member of The Wilson Quarterly’s board of editorial advisers, is the John M. Duff Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. This essay is adapted from her book World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2003).