Chua, Amy 1962- (Amy Lynn Chua)

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Chua, Amy 1962- (Amy Lynn Chua)


Born October 26, 1962, in Champaign, IL; daughter of Leon O. (a professor) and Diane G. Chua; married Ted Rubenfeld, October 15, 1988; children: Sophia. Education: Harvard College, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1984; Harvard Law School, J.D. (cum laude), 1987.


Office—Yale University School of Law, P.O. Box 208215, New Haven, CT 06520. E-mail—[email protected]


Educator and attorney. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Washington, DC, law clerk to chief justice Patricia M. Wald, 1987-88; Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton (law firm), New York, NY, associate, 1988-93; called to the Bar of the State of New York, 1990; Duke University, Durham, NC, associate professor of law, 1994-99, professor of law, 1999-2001; Yale University, New Haven, CT, professor of law, 2001-05, John M. Duff Professor of Law, 2005—. Visiting professor of law at Columbia University, 1999, Stanford University, 2000, and New York University, 2000. Consultant to Ford Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, and American Bar Association.


American Society of International Law (member of executive council, beginning 1999), Phi Beta Kappa.


Duke University Excellence in Teaching award, 1998; International Affairs fellowship, Council on Foreign Relations, 1998-99.


World on Fire: How Exporting Free-market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Violence and Global Instability, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2003.

Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance—and Why They Fall, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to journals and other periodicals, including New York Times, Columbia Law Review, Yale Law Review, and others.


Teaching globalization, international business, and ethnic conflict as part of her curriculum as a professor of law at Yale University, Amy Chua has also authored a book that draws from similar subjects in exploring an issue at the center of the U.S. war on Iraq in 2003. In her book, Chua questions the logic at the heart of the assumption expounded by George Gilder, Thomas Friedman, and other proponents of globalization, that exporting free trade and a democratic form of government to many regions of the world will bring peace and improve human welfare. Instead, she argues in World on Fire: How Exporting Free-market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Violence and Global Instability that, as Michelle Goldberg explained in her Web site review, "rapid switches to majoritarian rule and free-market democracy in many Third World countries benefit certain ethnic groups over others and lead to vicious sectarian strife."

Citing examples from Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America to substantiate her theory, Chua contends that newly developed free markets, rather than creating wealth for a population as a whole, create instead a small class of wealthy people—what she terms "market-dominant minorities"—who are usually members of an ethnic minority. Among the many examples Chua includes is that of the Philippines, where the Filipinos of Chinese descent make up less than two percent of the population yet control almost all that nation's banks and most of its large-scale retail outlets. The consequence of this is a backlash by the "have-nots" against the ethnic group represented by the wealthy class, resulting in ethnonationalist governments that use such class divisions as a justification for public policies that confiscate such wealth and exact revenge.

Reaction to Chua's theory has been positive overall. Goldberg praised the argument set forth in World on Fire in her Web site review as "so clear and persuasive it almost seems as if it had been obvious all along." Praising Chua as a "careful, precise writer," Goldberg added: "No matter how politically incorrect it is to talk about, her book makes clear that minority market domination is a reality in much of the world, one that's tied up in many ways with smoldering group hatreds and explosions of mass slaughter, and one that's made worse by Western policies." While calling Chua's argument "grim and thoughtful," Mother Jones reviewer Chris Lehmann added that the author is "none too clear on how these ethnic time bombs are to be defused." Calling World on Fire both "fascinating and disturbing," Business Week contributor Paul Magnusson noted that Chua "sees no inherent evil in capitalism, thinks representative democracy is a good thing, and writes with an authority born of rigorous research." A Kirkus Reviews critic added to the positive consensus, describing Chua's book as a "nuanced contribution to the debate over whether free markets spread democracy or merely advance the McDonaldsization of the globe."

In her next work, Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance—and Why They Fall, Chua proposes that there is a direct correlation to the rise of major superpowers in the global arena and the attitude of the nation in question to issues of ethnicity, cultural diversity, and race, with the most successful nations demonstrating an impressive level of tolerance and acceptance of multiculturalism. This exemplary behavior leads to dominance in the political, economic, and military aspects of the country's global position. The reverse is also true, according to Chua, in that nations that fail to maintain their levels of tolerance and multiculturalism, and that instead become exclusionary and/or intolerant, find that their position in the global hierarchy is weakened as a result. Chua acknowledges that there are other factors playing a role in the success of any given nation, such as military prowess. However, using a number of diverse countries—ranging from the United States to Persia to the Roman and Mongol Empires—as historical examples, she picks out the common threads that appear in the social attitudes of each of the countries, and uses them to illustrate how these major powers each demonstrated a certain level of tolerance that was unusual when compared to less successful nations of their time. In Roman times, despite the maintenance of a state-supported religion and other signs of homogeneous preferences, the state also allowed for the ongoing use of other languages and religions among its citizens. Mongols allowed their citizens and those they conquered to pray according to their own religious beliefs. Reviewers have criticized Chua's thesis and the validity of her argument based upon a number of points. Some have found fault with her defined superpowers as she uses them to serve as examples of successful societies operating under extreme tolerance, given that some are ancient civilizations while others are more modern, and the example of the United States is quite contemporary. A reviewer for the New Yorker pointed out of Chua that "her conceptions of what constitutes a hyperpower and what constitutes tolerance are distinctly elastic." Steve Weinberg, in a review for Legal Times, opined that "Chua's research into ancient hyperpowers is impressive up to a point. But her evidence about the levels of tolerance in each society seems sketchy." He went on to add: "I am unconvinced that the wielders of power in the Mongol Empire, to name one example, opened the doors to a wide range of influences." Other critics found the work worthwhile. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly dubbed the book "an illuminating survey of the benefits of tolerance and pluralism." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews stated that "this analysis of world-dominant powers from ancient Persia to the modern United States yields an intriguing set of common traits and progressions."

Before entering academia, Chua worked as a practicing attorney specializing in international business transactions for the New York City-based firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. She is proficient in Hokkien and Mandarin Chinese, and has a reading knowledge of French and Spanish.



Business Week, December 20, 2002, Paul Magnusson, review of World on Fire: How Exporting Free-Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Violence and Global Instability.

Commentary, June 1, 2003, review of World on Fire, p. 24.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2002, review of World on Fire, p. 1439; September 1, 2007, review of Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance—and Why They Fall.

Legal Times, October 29, 2007, Steve Weinberg, review of Day of Empire.

Mother Jones, January-February, 2003, Chris Lehmann, "A Globalized Tinderbox."

Newsweek International, April 7, 2003, review of World on Fire, p. 46.

New Yorker, January 21, 2008, review of Day of Empire, p. 81.

Publishers Weekly, November 18, 2002, review of World on Fire, p. 55; September 24, 2007, review of Day of Empire, p. 57.

U.S. News & World Report, October 21, 2002, Jay Tolson, "World Disorder?," p. 56.

ONLINE, (January 13, 2003), Michelle Goldberg, review of World on Fire.

Yale Law School Web Site, (January 22, 2003), "Amy L. Chua."