Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Established in 1946, the Far Eastern Economic Review was a pioneering force in journalism providing cutting edge, in-depth investigative reporting and objective and clear analysis on Asia. Founded after the Second World War by Eric Halpern, an Austrian Jew, the magazine converted to a monthly publication in 2004 following acquisition by Dow Jones in 1986 (previously a minority shareholder). The final issue was printed in December 2009.
The Asia Society last night commemorated the tenth anniversary of the weekly magazine’s closure by hosting a discussion session with former distinguished Review editors and writers. Those present included renowned journalist Philip Bowring, who started his career at the Review from Sydney in 1972, and who subsequently moved to Hong Kong in 1973 as the Review’s business editor. Michael Vatikiotis, another former editor, fielded questions from the floor. He began his career at the Review reporting from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and today writes works of fiction and non-fiction on regional politics and Indonesian culture. Many of the former editors and writers who had gathered for the discussion were dedicated readers and subscribers of the Review, having discovered the magazine hidden in academic libraries during their university days.
The Review was founded in 1946 by Eric Halpern, a Jewish immigrant from Vienna, who initially settled in Shanghai and ran Finance and Commerce, a biweekly business magazine. He later moved to Hong Kong where he founded the weekly Review with backing from four key investors, focusing mainly on issues relating to China and Hong Kong. Leo Goodstadt, who participated in HKHP’s Hong Kong Oral History Programme in 2013, takes up the story: ‘FEER was established by a man who had edited a publication in Shanghai and came to Hong Kong, where I’m not sure if he was even a native English speaker but it didn’t seem to make much difference, and he was quite friends with a well-known printer here … and the pair of them had this concept, and a couple of them went to the Kadoories and a couple of other businessmen and they set it up and they were going to have a Chinese partner who disappeared from folk memory but whose family are cousins of mine on the female side … there were four shareholders originally, so there was the printer, there was the Kadoories, there was Jardines and there was the Bank’.

Initially the magazine’s circulation was very low, estimated at around 15,000. In 1958 Dick Wilson was invited on board from the Financial Times as editor and publisher, operating out of Queen’s Building (today’s Mandarin Hotel). At that time there were no full time correspondents, only freelancers and contributors. In 1964 Wilson was succeeded as editor by Derek Davies, a Welsh journalist who had served in the British Foreign Office. During his 25 year tenure, coverage of South East Asia rapidly expanded and the magazine attracted a wider readership mainly from Malaysia and Singapore. The Review was known for the independence of its coverage, whether on the 1967 riots in Hong Kong or the Malaysian race riots of 1969. In 1972 the Review acquired its first staff correspondents outside of Hong Kong, marking a period of growth and expansion. For more than 60 years, Hong Kong was home to the Review, one of Asia’s finest media institutions.
The HKHP Archive holds original copies of the Far Eastern Economic Review from 1946 – 1965. 

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