…Clifford and Engardio tell a story that goes well beyond the usual statistical analyses, vividly describing the unprecedented inflow of capital and real-estate bubbles guided by poor investment judgments that helped cause the crash. In human terms, they identify the specific Asian business practices—crony ties, disregard for profitability, and misguided fantasies of instant wealth—that made the boom possible in the short term but doomed in the long run.
Foreign Affairs


On July 2, 1997, Thailand made a decision to devalue the baht. At first, the move seemed merely another in the ceaseless cat-and-mouse game between bankers and speculators in exotic currencies. Yet the event would trigger a financial earthquake to shake a continentz In just over a year, the once wondrous Asian economy would lie in ruins. Today the aftershocks ripple from Sao Paolo to the Silicon Valley. How could a region that had been the most dynamic growth zone for a decade self-destruct seemingly overnight?

Senior specialists at Business Week who have covered Asia’s economy from boom to bust to the wrenching aftermath, Mark Clifford and Pete Engardio vividly tell the story of this debacle. Drawing on interviews with the region’s leading politicians, industrialists, and technocrats, the authors explore the causes and implications of the most severe financial collapse since the Great Depression. The Asian economic “miracle” was not a mirage. The continent’s development strategies went terribly wrong due to a tendency to carry initiatives to wild excess, compounded by problems hidden by authoritarian political systems. Can Asia’s economies get back on the growth track? What safeguards might keep other developing countries from crashing? Does the global financial system need urgent, basic reform? Meltdown confronts these critical questions and more for compelling reading.

Co-authored with Pete Engardio

Published in 1999 by Prentice Hall Press.

Purchase the book at

REVIEWS OF “meltdown”

“There is no simple, formulaic explanation for East Asia’s astounding rise — and no one set of villains responsible for the tragedy that followed,” write the authors in this clear-eyed examination of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Drawing on hundreds of interviews they conducted, Clifford and Engardio discuss the perspectives of industrialists and government leaders as well as those of workers and farmers whose lives were shaped indelibly by forces beyond their control.
Harvard Business Review

…few have told the story in as riveting a way as Mark L. Clifford and Pete Engardio in “Meltdown: Asia’s Boom, Bust, and Beyond”… Forget those dry economic treatises that so many have delivered about the Asian crisis. “Meltdown” reads more like a novel, with the story told through the eyes of the key players. The life force of the book is thousands of interviews conducted by the two journalists and their colleagues with the movers and shakers of the Asian Tiger economies…

Clifford and Engardio, BusinessWeek journalists with significant experience in Asia, set out to explain the region’s recent fall in fortunes. In a methodical progression of steps, specific countries, from Korea to Hong Kong to Malaysia, are put under their analytical scope. They outline recent history since WWII, from political turmoil to the growing development of infrastructure and real estate and the growth of heavy industry and export markets, all the conditions that made the region ripe for rapid growth. Profiles of personalities, from dictators to creative industrialists, add a human face to the otherwise broad perspective. The authors make candid observations about human error, flawed political structures, greed and international monetary policy. There are lessons to be learned and a hopeful message that some of the participants in the Asian debacle have, indeed, learned a lesson, even though the authors, at the end of this incisive and illuminating study, are not holding their breath.
— Publisher’s Weekly