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    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
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"The Story of Technology" is the best book I've ever read on the subject - hands down


As someone who’s penned bestsellers on the difficult-to-grasp complexities of today’s world, I know exactly how hard it is to tackle such subjects in a way that makes them more accessible to readers. It entails – believe it or not – a great deal of trial and error across a career, as you laboriously learn what works and what doesn’t with all manner of audiences. In this book, Dr. Daniel M. Gerstein tackles the daunting subject of technology and its impact on our planet over time. The result is an amazingly accessible volume of just under 300 pages of text – an impressive achievement that reminds of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Consider this: the book’s list of acronyms runs more than four pages!

Gerstein’s stated intent here is most laudable: a desire to address the growing social anxiety about the crashing wave of technological developments, or, as he describes it, “the convergence of multiple fields [with] the potential to fundamentally alter the human existence.” He accomplishes this difficult feat by providing structure and method to interpret the technological advances currently sweeping our world, drawing upon his decades in the U.S. military and later in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate.

My favorite parts of the book are its simplest, where Gerstein patiently walks the reader through a basic lexicon of science versus technology, research versus development, and innovation versus transformation – all the while covering events from the Bronze Age through Russia’s successful hacking of the 2016 presidential election. From there he lays out an “assessing framework” that parses out how technology developments unfold, linking their practical availability to society to their proper management across both government and industry. In sum, the book reads like an executive MBA in technology transfer – a genuine tour de force in a subject desperately in need of one.

But the greatest accomplishment of this delightful read (for me, one engrossing morning) is the understanding and confidence it imparts to the reader, whether they’ve long been interested in technology or have never summoned the courage to attempt a read this. As such, I would recommend The Story of Technology as both an intellectual salve to today’s angry populism, which harbors innumerous fears of technology’s coming “subjugation” of humanity, and as a must-have textbook for any leadership-focused curriculum.

Here's the Amazon link.

I got an advance copy from the author, whom I've known going back to shared experiences in the Pentagon. Keep an eye out for it. 


Tom Searcy's and Henry DeVries' "How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett"

Shameless book plug here.   I've known Tom Searcy for a while (see his interview of me here) and he's written a really cool book with Henry J. DeVries entitled, How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett: Lessons from the World's Greatest Dealmaker.  I did an early review a while back and offered a blurb which appears in the front material and on the back cover.  In full it reads:

Searcy and DeVries have made their own science of dissecting how persuasion leads to decisions leads to big deals.  This book is Dale Carnegie reconfigured for the business world.

--Thomas Barnett, contributing editor of Esquire and author
of Great Powers: America and the World After Bush

The book's promo page is found here.

The book basically parses out Buffett's many maxims on how to conduct one's business life, with the proximate focus being which deals to pursue and close. But like any good book, this one actually speaks about a whole lot more than the subject material at hand. In sum, it has an almost spiritual feel, as it's as much a guide to a life well led as a deal well structured.

I do highly recommend it.


WPR's The New Rules: Globalization in a Post-Hegemonic World

My third-to-last column at WPR:

International relations experts are pretty much down on everything nowadays. America, we are told, is incapable of global leadership: too discredited overseas, too few resources back home, too little will -- period. For a brief moment there, while China held up the global economy during the recent financial crisis, much credence was given to the notion that we were on the verge of a Chinese century. But that popular vision has also waned surprisingly quickly, and now the conventional wisdom centers on China’s great weaknesses, challenges and overall brittleness. Amazingly, where we spoke of a U.S.-China “G-2” arrangement just a few short years ago, now there is a sense that no one is in charge.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Emily Updates, Vol. 4, available online

Find the Kindle version here.

Find the Nook version here.

Find the iBook version here.

To remind on the series:

Seventeen years ago, authors Tom and Vonne Barnett were suddenly confronted with every parent’s worst medical “bolt from the blue”: their only child, 30-month-old Emily, was diagnosed with an advanced – meaning metastasized – pediatric cancer. At the time, the thirty-something couple was living in northern Virginia. 

What followed was the defining crisis of their now 25-year union: an intense 20-month battle to keep their first-born alive. About six months into the struggle, Tom started writing a weekly update on Emily’s progress (or lack thereof) for interested parties. Vonne contributed to this blog-like diary, and it was sent out by email, fax and regular mail to several hundred relatives and friends who spontaneously organized themselves into their family’s extended support network. Over time, the couple came to view the updates as something more important: a real-time memoir that would someday prove crucial to Emily’s understanding of how she became whom Tom and Vonne hoped she would become. 

The journey from blog diary to this eBook serial is worth recounting. The original diary ran about 400,000 words, or somewhere in the range of an 800-page book. In the late 1990s, Tom edited the text down to approximately 200,000 words and posted the 45 updates online at a website he created specifically for that purpose. Having received a lot of positive feedback from readers, they sought publication as a regular book, but then fate intervened in the form of a new job for Tom in Rhode Island and the project was – pun intended – shelved. 

But the recent meteoric rise of eBooks has convinced Tom and Vonne that now is the time to give publication another try (Vonne, for example, is a Kindle fanatic!). After all, the Emily Updates basically constituted a blog before there were blogs, so eBooks struck the authors as an entirely appropriate venue for the material, especially since they’re interested in making it easily available and they know - from first-hand experience - how parents and relatives of patients experiencing medical crises typically turn to the Internet to locate sources of information, comfort and inspiration in their time of need. 

What you now have the privilege to read in this series of eBooks are the original weekly updates as Tom wrote them – with Vonne’s continuous inputs – across all of 1995 and into early 1996, a period encompassing the last 14 months of Emily’s treatment protocol. Those 45 updates constitute Chapters 3 through 9 in the series: Chapter 3, which concludes with the birth of their second child, in included in this volume; Chapters 4 and 5, which cover the difficult summer of 1995, make up Volume II; Chapters 6 and 7, which chronicle the family's final push on the chemotherapy, fill out Volume III; and Chapters 8 and 9, which encompass the post-treatment diagnostics – and Make-a-Wish trip to Disney World, constitute Volume IV. 

The first two chapters presented in this Volume I are actually recreations of the events surrounding the initial diagnoses (Chapter 1) and the beginning of in-hospital treatment (Chapter 2) in July of 1994. Tom put these diary-like remembrances together in June of 1995 to mark the one-year anniversary of the diagnosis, and they are based on the voluminous medical records from that time period. 

The concluding fifth volume in the series is written from today's perspective, to include that of a grown-up Emily - the girl who lived!

The authors haven’t made an effort to “improve” the updates from today’s perspective. Tom and Vonne now claim to be wiser on a host of subjects that arise in this family memoir, but a lot of that wisdom stems directly from these experiences, so they felt it made most sense to share them with you, the reader, in this unaltered format. 

If this eBook serial helps you better understand an analogous past experience or ongoing crisis in your life, then Tom, Vonne and Emily have accomplished what they set out to do by sharing their intense story.

Fifth and final volume will appear 12 December.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  Look for us at the Pack-Lions game!  It'll be Joel Zamel and I and my six kids.


Emily Updates Volume 3 photos online

Pretty normal thing for little girls - the fascination with horses, but Em had it bad - real bad.  Later, in Rhode Island, she did years of show riding and jumping.

But for the purposes of our story, what's key to know is how her stable of horses got her through all manner of very bad times. They were her totems, talismans, whatever you want to call them.

Find all the pix from Chapters 5-6 (summer of 1995 and deep into the chemotherapy protocol) here.


Emily Updates Volume 2 videos online

Find the rest here.


Emily Updates Volume 2 photos page up on the book site

Find the page here.

Believe it or not, this was our first family portrait.  Vonne had bought some package earlier in the year, from Sears I think, and we had this one portrait sitting left that we had to use up before the end of 1994. Em was falling apart at this point from the nonstop chemo of the "induction phase" lasting 13 weeks post-diagnosis in July, so we figured, this might be the only family portrait we'd ever have that included her.

I really love this photo.  My raccoony eyes from fatigue give me away (I was drinking heavily at the time too), and Vonne, starting her second trimester with son Kevin, is looking wan, but she musters something like a smile. Emily is happy enough, if a bit ghostly with her complete lack of hair (notice the missing eyebrows). We are barely holding it together in the fall of 94.

Then again, we held it together enough to write the Vol. 5 retrospective this last August.

The portrait was shot during the "missing" time of Volume 1 (after the first two chapters but before I started the diary), so we include it here because I described the picture in Chapter 4 of Volume 2.


Interview in new peace movement book called "Let it begin with me"

A while back I gave a long interview to Mindy Audlin on her radio show.  That interview, along with twenty others, is bundled up into her new book, "Let it begin with me: 21 voices of the new peace movement."

Yes, I realize that it's not my typical venue, but Mindy is a bigger thinker than most.

Find the book at Amazon.



"Emily Updates" Photo Gallery: Emily during the first nine months of chemo

Emily makes it to her third birthday

Photo gallery of almost 60 pix chronicling the discovery of her cancer (while on a short vacation in Wisconsin in July 1994) through the first nine months of her treatment, culminating in the birth of our second child - now 16-year-old Kevin - in March of 1995. We had coincidentally conceived Kevin just days prior to the diagnosis (when you're hot, you're hot).

Emily came home yesterday from college for the weekend. Someting to think about: our being so ecstatic that she made it to her third birthday and now we're talking about her junior year abroad in Japan.

Good things come to those who fight.

Find the complete gallery of photos here, all annotated.


Got the Volume 1 files for Kindle, iBook & Nook (The Emily Updates)

Came from the company Ebook Architects.  Will be loading this weekend to B&N, Amazon, and the iBookstore for launch on Monday.

Book website pretty much prepared for Volume 1, with photos and videos from that time period.

Below is a video my sister shot of me "changing" Emily's Broviac chest catheter in Novemeber 1994.

Find this and other media at



Understanding where China's head is at

FT book review of "Tide Players: The Movers and Shakers of a Rising China" by Jianying Zha. I just really liked the opening bit by reviewer David Pilling, an FT journalist/columnist whose beat is currently China:

Many westerners who are rightly incensed at the treatment of dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo or Ai Weiwei probably have a false impression of what modern China feels like. They imagine a uniformly repressive society in which people are afraid to speak out and where the heavy hand of the state reaches into every crevice of life.

This view is not without some truth. But for many middle-class city dwellers, China could not feel more different. For them, today’s China is a fantastic adventure, a lunge into a world of previously unimagined possibilities. Even among the generation that lived through the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, this is widely regarded as the most optimistic time to be alive in China in hundreds of years.

I think that simple notion is very hard for most in the West to understand, especially since our grasp of the Cultural Revolution's depth and historical reach is hard to understand. Take Xi Jinping, who will be the next president and rule through 2022: his bio includes being jailed several times as a teenager by the Red Guard because of his father's ideological sins. Xi is considered a very company man - very careful. And his early years probably account for that.  

So here we are: seeing political leadership impact stretch a good half century past the actual events. In the US, comparable experiences would be the Civil War and WWII (think of GHW Bush as the last WWII president leaving office in 1993 - almost 50 years post-WWII). It's that big of an event, and it creates a profound sense of optimism and wariness in its shadow: people remember well how bad it was and value highly how good it's been since the "rise" began.

And you know what? The vast bulk of them don't want to mess with that at all - for now. But a new tipping point looms - I believe - in about 20 more years, because the Xi's of China are replaced by the kids whose first memories are all Deng-and-beyond. For them, Mao's insanities are just stories their parents and grandparents tell. They have known only the "rise" and thus will be far more demanding. They're mostly carefully thinking and acting along these lines today, and as their numbers move into power, and as  they face even greater demand - and less historical awareness from below, the change will come. 

It can always come a bit earlier or a bit later because of this or that unforeseen event, but the demographics will make it so.

And that's why I don't worry too much about China and democracy - as we misuse the term. The true and comprehensive republic will come; it's been there before. It'll come because the Chinese will demand it.

This is why I can work with the Center for America-China Partnership and still be critical of China.


Deep Reads: "Mystery Women: An Encyclopedia of Leading Women Characters in Mystery Fiction (Volume Three: 1990-2000, revised)" (2010)


The latest revised edition of my Mother's life work in literature: an exhaustive encyclopedia of female protagonists in English-language mysteries  Volume I covered 1860-1979, Volume II covered 1980-1989, and Volume III finished the century out. Protagonists are entered by the year of their first of their multiple appearances.  

The growth in the genre is made apparent in this manner:  from 1861, when "Mrs Paschal" is the first bona fide English-language mystery female protagonist, to 1979, 347 series characters were introduced, or just over 3 a year.  Then, in the 1980s, 298 were introduced, or roughly 30 a year.  In the last decade of the century, the number jumped to 547, or 55 a year.

The book starts with an analysis of how the portrayal of women in mysteries changed over time, reflecting changes in society.  The entries for Volume three include:  marriage and children, parents and siblings, pets and cars as substitutes (for the previous, as many protagonists are motherless women with distant, cop fathers), villains, ethnic and  gender sub-genres (lotsa lesbians over time), handicaps and skills, education, settings, innovations, and how all this reflected the real world of the 1990s.  The entries tend to run 1-2 pages.  The volume runs 1,056 pages.

My Mom's bio is a great example of her clean and direct writing style:

Colleen A. Barnett was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the daughter of a trial attorney [and Packer Hall of Fame inductee!] and his wife.  She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin in Madison [I was the only child to follow her in political science, but now you know where I got it from]. She dropped out of law school after three semesters to marry fellow student John Barnett. When they moved to his home town of Boscobel, Wisconsin, where he joined his father in the practice of law, she remained at home to raise their family of seven children [two early sons died in their first two years]. By the time their youngest child [my younger brother by 3 years] was in grade school, older children were entering college and that was expensive.

Colleen began work as a volunteer coordinator for the Grant Country Department of Social Services [I used to appear in radio spots for Big Brothers], rising to supervisor of the resource unit. Later, she took early retirement with John's encouragement to re-enter the University of Wisconsin Law School where she received her law degree cum laude [and threw her cane over the goal post at Camp Randall during halftime of the homecoming football game, as is the custom].

Later she was employed as an attorney and mediator, and as a lecturer in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Richland Center.  She retired at age 75 to focus on the revisions of the first three volumes of Mystery Women. Her future plans include spending more time with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and reading for pleasure.

After John's death, Colleen moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where her two daughters live.  She is a member of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime.

The volume series is an amazing accomplishment for a women who's led a busy life.  It is exceptionally well organized and has multiple indices (author, year, character, book).  It is considered one of the definitive reference works in the mystery field, and Mom was nominated several times for major literary awards (Edgars, Agathas), winning one along the way (an Agatha from Malice Domestic in 2002).  I went to the Edgars with her in 2004 (during a break in my Pentagon's New Map book tour) when this book was nominated for best criticism/biographical.

My mom still attends the major conferences every year with my wife Vonne, often chairing panels. They'll be at Malice Domestic in DC in early May.  Last year Vonne got to sit in for a long workshop chat with Charlaine Harris of "True Blood" fame.

The series is available on Amazon.  Mom includes Metsu and Abebu in this edition's dedication.


FT: Good book on Chinese economy

Made it to Raleigh-Durham last night, to my amazement, via Charlotte.

Spoke for 2hrs before mid-career class of DoD/USG/private sector logistics managers at Rizzo Conference Center owned by U North Carolina.  Then did 45 Q&A, then did 30 signing books, then did 30 lunching.  Audience of probably 100.

Saw this book review of Red Capitalism in FT by John Plender.  It's a good review of what seems like a great book that I will check out in airport stores.

Here's the bit that sold me:

The financial crisis has delivered a heavy blow to the American model of capitalism. Chinese officials do not hesitate to trumpet the point as they rejoice in the shift in the balance of economic power to Asia. Yet there are questions about how well their own model stands up to scrutiny. In Red Capitalism Carl Walter and Fraser Howie, both long-standing experts in Chinese banking and securities markets, ask quite a few; and their conclusions are unflattering.

There are, in effect, two Chinese economies. One is dominated by foreign-owned and family-run private companies that generate phenomenal growth mainly in Guangdong and the Yangtze River Delta. These two areas, which operate a free market form of capitalism not unlike Britain’s in the 19th century, attract 70 per cent of China’s foreign investment and contribute more than 70 per cent of exports, albeit with the help of a manipulated exchange rate.


Then there is the slower-growth economy dominated by state-owned enterprise, which still provides some social security for its workers. This is a bank-based model, even if the stock exchanges of Shenzhen and Shanghai are dominated by minority stakes in state-owned companies.

While the state-owned system has many of the trappings of western financial models such as stock exchanges, bond markets, interbank markets and so forth, Walter and Howie argue that this is just camouflage. On the exchanges, initial public offerings merely redistribute capital among state entities with occasional leakage to retail investors. The government bond market mainly shuffles paper between different arms of state enterprise at officially administered interest rates no different from those charged by banks. Capital allocation is controlled by the Communist party.

If the book has a hero, it is Zhu Rongji. While premier, he opened up state-owned enterprise to foreign capital and to increased market discipline. The big four banks, saddled with non-performing loans that state enterprise had declined to service, were recapitalised. This reform programme was taken forward after Mr Zhu’s departure in 2003 by officials at the People’s Bank of China against fierce opposition from the Ministry of Finance.

Come the global crisis in 2008, a huge stimulus package driven by frenetic bank lending swept away 10 years of reform. Having set up its own sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation, in competition with the central bank’s fund, the Ministry of Finance used it to claw back control of large chunks of the banking system. The collapse of Lehman Brothers thus robbed the reformists of credibility and influence.

Wonderfully concise bit of history-writing there, with credit to Plender for summarizing.  Worth filing away mentally.

Bottom line:  why hopes and fears of the rise of redback won't be realized soon.  This underlying weakness in the banking sector makes Beijing too conservative to press ahead with the liberalization of the capital account necessary to take what is not an internationalization of the RMB and turn it down the path of becoming a serious reserve currency.

It's almost the financial equivalent of China being unwilling to have overseas military bases.  You can cite the "internationalization" of the military, but it's a thin veneer with nothing solid to undergird it.

The realistic Chinese are not being humble when they say, "We are more a developing country still than a developed one."  The notions of China surpassing the US in the power realm, as I have often recently argued, remain somewhat fantastic.


Israel plays start-up to China's big firm

Tweeted this one earlier this week, but want to post as well.

WSJ technology columnist Peter Stein noting how Israeli private equity firm is specializing in marketing intellectual property from small local high-tech companies to big Chinese manufacturing firms.

You read Baumol et. al's "Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism," and you come away with the argument that the best mix is to have big go-to-market firms surrounded by a sea of small, innovative high-tech firms that feed the beasts. The authors claimed that America was basically there, in terms of that evolution, having added the high-tech small firms with the IT revolution energizing our innovation base in a number of industries.  Their addition evolved our economy past the big-firm era that marked the post-WWII decades through the difficult 1970s.  The authors also argued that big-firm China was trying to make a similar evolution happen and was succeeding somewhat.

Now with the Great Recession, we get two counter-arguments coming to the fore:  1) globalization is slowly robbing America of its industrial base through off-shoring of manufacturing and losing the proximity between innovation and manufacturing is making us less competitive; and 2) China's increasing reliance on/championing of national flagship companies signals a retreat from further marketization.

My sense is always that linear projections usually fail, so waxing and waning is the norm.  You go too fast down one path, so you pull your foot off the pedal for a period.  I think some American companies in some sectors are recognizing the need to more closely tie innovation with manufacturing.  But in others, like automotive, you don't have a whole lot of choice given the market expansion going on in Asia and Latin America.  

In general, I'm a big believer in IBM CEO Sam Palmisano's notion of a globally-integrated enterprise that sources local, R&Ds local, hires local, manufactures local and sells local--just all over the world.  It's the truly globalized or truly distributed version of the old multinational.  I think companies that do that will fare best over the long haul, understanding that, as countries "rise," they're naturally going to want to carve out space in their expanding domestic market for national flagship companies.  To me, this is China's path right now, along with a firm desire to lock-in access to raw materials around the world through their state-run extractive industries and farm land leasing/purchases.  I think that mindset is a bit 20th century (supply risk oriented versus price risk oriented), but there you have it when a single-party state remains in power.  

Now how China seeks to extend its evolution toward that big firm/small firm mix is to force foreign companies who seek entry into its expanding domestic market to turn over their technologies in joint ventures, something that's naturally going to create a lot of friction.

Less friction filled is what this Israeli private-equity firm is doing. Infinity Group is simply treating China like one giant big firm to which new technologies can be sold, with it playing matchmaker. The process reminds some of when Silicon Valley did the same for Taiwan way back when. Like Taiwan, China wants--nay, NEEDS--to move up the food chain rapidly in order to bring similar development to its better-than-a-half-billion interior rural pool that it has to-date achieved with the urbanized coastal provinces. Then there's China's demographic clock ticking, reflected in the long-term loss of 100m workers by 2050 and the piling up of 400m-plus elders by then.

To me, this is a next, natural phase for globalization, with smart small countries becoming more Israel-like and big, labor-filled developing countries emulating China's strategy, which, quite frankly, isn't unique whatsoever and really is just an updating of what Japan did (the Michael Pettis argument).  If China were to achieve the same per capita GDP growth that Japan did, it could grow rapidly for another quarter century, says Martin Wolf, but . . .

The most interestingly pessimistic view comes from Michael Pettis of Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. The characteristic of Chinese growth is that it is “unbalanced”, as Mr Wen notes: it is highly dependent on investment as a source of demand and driver of supply (see charts). It is, in a sense, the most “capitalist” economy ever.

Thus, between 1997 and 2009, gross investment rose from 32 per cent to 46 per cent of GDP, while household consumption fell from 45 per cent of GDP to a mere 36 per cent. This must be the lowest share of consumption in any significant economy ever. In a country with hundreds of millions of poor people, it is even shocking. Meanwhile, the rising investment rate has been the main driver of growth. In the early 2000s, “total factor productivity” – increases in output per unit of input – were also important. But the contribution of higher efficiency has been waning.

This, Prof Pettis argues, is a “souped-up version” of the Asian development model we saw in Japan and South Korea in earlier decades. The characteristics of this production-oriented approach are:

  • transfers from households to manufacturing, via low interest rates on savings
  • repressed wages and a depressed exchange rate
  • very high investment
  • rapid growth of exports; and 
  • high external surpluses. 
China is “Japan plus”: its investment rate is higher, trade surpluses larger, rate of consumption lower and exchange rate intervention bigger.

This has been an extraordinarily successful development model, but, notes Prof Pettis, it eventually runs into the constraints of “massive over-investment and misallocated capital”. He continues: “In every case I can think of it has been very difficult to change the growth model because too much of the economy depends on hidden subsidies.” Moreover, China’s scale will shift the price of imports, particularly raw materials, against it, so accelerating the decline in profits.

In China, a rising rate of investment is needed to maintain a given rate of economic growth. At some point, investment will stop rising and growth will slow. China will then face the Japanese challenge: how to sustain demand as the required rate of investment collapses. If, for example, the gross investment needed to sustain a 10 per cent rate of growth is 50 per cent of GDP, then the rate of investment required to sustain 6 per cent growth might be just 30 per cent of GDP. With its massive dependence on investment as a source of demand, any decline in expected growth threatens a huge recession.

One answer would be another government-driven investment surge, however low the returns. The more attractive answer is faster growth of consumption. There is evidence of that during the past two years. But, as Prof Pettis notes, for consumption to grow consistently faster than GDP, household disposable income must also do so. Yet if this is to happen, income must be shifted from the corporate sector. That implies a squeeze on profits, through higher interest rates, higher real wages or a higher exchange rate. But that increases the risk of an investment collapse, with dire consequences for demand. As Prof Pettis argues, in China “growth is high ... because consumption is low”. Rebalancing the economy towards household consumption could undermine the ability to sustain growth itself. If so, China is on an investment treadmill.

Old story:  there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.  How China has grown makes it harder--with each passing year--to get off the investment treadmill. But that investment level, and the requirements of a trade surplus to feed it, creates it own negative feedback look, which China is just beginning to encounter.  Can it run a huge trade imbalance with the developing world like it did with the West, using renminbi this time around?  Pretty tall order considering its resource draw.  Pettis's point isn't that China can't rebalance, just that it won't be a smooth journey.

But I can't help thinking that the work of Infinity Group is a big plus on this score:  helping move China up for the production/labor wage chain by outsourcing the start-up function to a certain extent while it slowly builds that capacity at home.  Naturally, if you're already a big firm and have amassed a lot of IP, you don't want to hand it over to China as price of admission, but if you're a start-up high-tech firm who needs a go-to-market partner, I can see you being indifferent on the nationality, meaning I think we'll see this become a significant trend in the global economy.  Like Baumol et. al's preferred model, I think we'll see something similar in terms of small and large states.  In a globalized world, tech firms in small states have no choice but to go global because the domestic market is so small (why Israel is such a high-tech incubator).  

On that basis, I become even more convinced that the "clash of civilizations" will end up being a big nothing in retrospect, meaning merely a fraidy-cat capture of when globalization starting truly opening up previously-closed civilizations, triggering a totally natural uptick in cultural friction.  But you look at an Israel making this happen with China and you say to yourself, in a clash-of-civilization world, this shouldn't work--yes?  And yet it does, because Israel needs to do this and China needs to do this and that economic logic surmounts all.


Deep Reads: "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" (1999)


Still by far my favorite Thomas Friedman book, it's easily the one that's had the biggest overall impact on my career, because when it came out I had been trying, for about half a decade at that point, to cast myself as a "globalization expert."  It was tough going in the sense that a lot of established experts pooh-poohed the notion even as the concept became ascendant.  Friedman's book really put it over the top and, by doing so, turned my quest from seemingly pathetic to seemingly prophetic.  For me, then, this was an immensely empowering book that helped enable the most important career evolution of my life to date.

When people send me emails about "The Pentagon's New Map" altering their life-paths, I truly appreciate the notion, because this is the book that did the same thing for me.  


Deep Reads: "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" (1979) & "Theodore Rex" (2001)

Edmund Morris' classic, with a prologue that is beyond brilliant--really the best preface I've ever read.  This book and its sequel in 2001 were huge influences on my "Great Powers."  

Until I read these books, I always wondered how you could put TR on Rushmore with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.  I no longer consider that a stretch for TR--whatsoever.

Anyone who's read my history-of-America in "Great Powers" knows TR is the pivotal figure in so many ways, not the least of which being the profound influence he had on his cousin--FDR.

If you're only going to read one, read the first, simply because the ride up is always more interesting than the time at the top. As soon as I read this book, I thought to myself, why isn't there a big Hollywood movie of such a seminal figure in our history. Scorsese is making a movie of the book, with DiCaprio in the title role. Scorsese makes a lot of sense, because of the NYC connection.

A third book, "Colonel Roosevelt" is allegedly coming out in a matter of weeks!


Deep Reads: "John Adams" (2001)

Pretty easy choice.  After reading "Truman," I knew I had to read this finally, especially as I liked the HBO miniseries so much.

McCullough does such a great job of according Adams his rightful place in American history. More than any man, he's behind the Declaration of Independence, even if Jefferson gets the credit for penning the text.

I'm only about a quarter through, and I keep the book by my bed for nights when I have trouble falling asleep, which means I treat it like an old friend.

My favorite bits all have to do with Adams' worrying about whether his life will have meaning and how he deals with his insecurities--very humanizing.

I wasn't ecstatic about Paul Giamatti being picked to play him, because Giamatti, while a great actor, doesn't exactly scream out New Englander.  But I loved David Morse as George Washington, a guy who deserves a serious HBO treatment all the more.

The Adams family has long been a quiet obsession of mine, along with Vonne, because we lived in Quincy for a couple of years and Vonne worked in Braintree, where Adams was born and lived. So we're very familiar with all the historical sites.


Deep Reads: "West From Appomattox" (2007)

Great book that a reader recommended during my run-up to writing "Great Powers," and it was a perfect suggestion.

The basic thesis:  Reconstruction wasn't North reconstructing South, but East integrating West--all according to Lincoln's vision, who front-loaded the process as much as possible with the Homestead Act, RR Pacific Act and so on.  He wanted a reconstructed America to be middle-defined--as in, middle America, the middle class, and "men of the West" (which he was). A real eye-opener and beautifully written by Heather Cox Richardson.

I scan through it now and notice the heavy notations I made throughout--always a good sign.


Deep Reads: "The Price of the Phoenix" (1977) & "The Fate of the Phoenix" (1979)

I have read a lot of Star Trek novels and fan fiction over the years, but this book remains my favorite.  It's almost exclusively a Kirk-Spock book for long stretches (exploring their unique friendship), although it contains my all-time favorite ST villain in Omne, a rogue leader of an anti-Federation insurgency of bad-ass planets.

The backcover teaser:

Captain Kirk is dead--long live Captain Kirk!

Spock, Doctor McCoy and the other crewmen of the Starship Enterprise experience a stunning double shock.  The first, painful blow is Captain Kirk's tragic death.  Then, Captain Kirk's miraculous rebirth reveals the most awesome force the Enterprise has ever encountered.  Spock is forced into a desperate gamble for Kirk's human soul against Omne--the ultrahuman emperor of life beyond life, and death beyond hell . . .!

Bonus:  The " Romulan commander" (Joanne Linville) is brought back from "The Enterprise Incident" episode (season 3) and plays a big role.

The sequel to the novel (The Fate of the Phoenix") is almost as good.  

Both were written by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.


Deep Reads: "Instant Replay" (1968)

I have probably read this book more times than any other in my life.


I grew up feeling like I was this lost prince of Green Bay Packer lore, because I missed out on the glory years (I have only the most fleeting of memories of Super Bowl II--meaning I remember hiding behind my Dad's chair as they watched the game) but grew up with my Mom's many stories of how her dad helped create the Packer organization with Curly Lambeau and others (now in their Hall of Fame, he is remembered as one of "The Hungry Five" who kept the franchise alive during lean years, to include his innovation of making them a public corporation).  So I always felt a bit out of time, like I arrived too late for everything that seemed to matter so much to my Mom and Dad.

This book, then, became my passport to the glory years (I came of age, remember in the disastrous post-Lombardi era), and I read it compulsively to connect.

It is a great book, but it convinced me to avoid pursuing a college/pro football career (semi-plausible given my size, great speed and vertical 40" my senior year in HS) because of its descriptions of the physical price paid--even then!  I just got this tragic sense of the best years of one's life passing too quickly, and that scared me off in the worst way, because my mind is one of anticipation.

Still the best single book on the Lombardi era.  I read it last when Favre led the team to the SB win in 1997.