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Interview with Radio Free Russia on Wikistrat's projections for 2013 (surprises)

Did the interview Thursday morning and it ran Friday morning.  I didn't write this one up, so it was good to see a sim run within the community and resulting in a solid product by a senior analyst (Wikistrat is maturing as a start-up in good order).

From the page:

WASHINGTON -- Wikistrat runs simulations on future events by crowdsourcing hundreds of online analysts, and hopes to be the next big thing in prediction.

Kim Brown interviews Managing Editor Chrisella Sagers Herzog, ofDiplomatic Courier Magazine, and Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, chief analyst of Wikistrat: 


Wikistrat bills itself as "the world’s first Massively Multiplayer Online Consultancy (MMOC)". It is made up of hundreds of analysts, connected globally through the internet, who run simulations on possible future events.

Large companies and even the federal government have expressed interest in using Wikistrat, who runs simulations for a consulting fee. Right now, they're working on predicting the future of Syria and Assad's regime.

Find the page here.


Does Obama let the transatlantic bond fade too casually?


I have been preaching for well over a decade now that America needs to realize that it's most productive allies going forward, when it comes to security affairs, are going to be different from those upon whom it relied in the past.

It's a simple logic that fits global trends:  Europe was incentivized big-time before, it's far less so now.  America feels a different responsibility on a global scale.  China and India rise, their global interests expand, and they display more and more interest and capacity to defend those interests.

So not a hard leap:  you work with those most similarly incentivized in the era that you're in right now.  You don't hold to nostalgia.  You want allies with big (and growing) militaries), growing interests, and a clear willingness to go place and kill people to protect those interests.  Crudely put, but there it is.

We are currently in an age of transition from a familiarity and comfort-zone with Europe to one in which we are inevitably drawn into cooperation with India and China to manage this world from a security perspective.

And yet, there is a part of me that says, what matters most going forward is who gets to the shared future in the best shape.  And that means, who processes (as I've said in the brief for a while now) the widespread populist anger and pursues a sufficiently progressive agenda to clean things up and get their countries in shape for the economic competitions still to come.  By that last part, I mean, we see a global middle class rise now, and we face an era of extreme technological change as a result.  Why?  The compelling global need to disconnect standard of living from consumption - plain and simple.

For now, I like the path America is going to have to go down regarding painful reforms and improvements better than I like those of India or China (also a staple of my brief).  We've engaged in such progressive eras before and we're well suited to that task.  We simply lack the political leadership now.

And here's the rub that creates the doubt.  

If we run off too seriously in our strategic "pivot," I fear we engage in the usual escapism ("Look Ma!  I'm fixing the future!") instead of looking within and making the necessary changes happen.

Europe faces many of the same advanced challenges.  We unconsciously model ourselves on them, and they on us, far more than either cares to admit.  Read the Economist if you don't believe me.

So my concern is this:  are we missing the great opportunity for co-evolutionary dynamics if America turns too swiftly and deterministically on this pivot?

Obama is an arrogant man and an even more arrogant president.  Not as bad as Bush, but still.  

I fear this strategic "pivot" is one of the most poorly considered shifts the US has ever made.  I usually cite the foolishness of picking fights with one's banker, and there are many more, but this time I think we're losing our center of gravity some inside globalization.

I also fear we're missing a chance to reform ourselves as needed.  We'll find no answers in China and India on this score.  And - again - the sense of geo-political escapism is palpable regarding the Arab Spring, Africa's churn, our need to integrate more with LATAM.

Don't get me wrong: I don't see scarier worlds out there that need more US military operations.  I see a world of small threats, small wars and small - networked - efforts.

And then I see a president with this grand notion of boxing China in - no matter what fine words he's using - and I see a narrow vision arrogantly pursued.


A heal-the-force national security team

Obama selecting Chuck Hagel as SECDEF and John Kerry as SECSTATE could not send a stronger signal: two Viet war vets with intimate knowledge of the hollowed-out force phenomenon of the later 1970s.

Look for both to do their best, now that Iraq is done for the US and Afghanistan is slated for closure next year, to avoid sending US forces anywhere if possible.

This will be portrayed as an "abandonment" of the world, but it's chickens coming home to roost.  Bush burned out the force, so Obama is tasked with "healing" it.  "Heal the force" is a Pentagon term of art.  It carries great meaning and is emotionally charged when it comes to the subject of actual servicemen and women and their families.  It is a different definition of patriotism, and, quite frankly, it fits the times.  America is on the verge of significant renewal (if the politicians could only get out of the way), and it needs to husband key resources.


Tough week

Wikistrat is running a huge sim (about 100 analysts in all) for client and relatively extreme volume of content flow (almost scary number of scenarios) is keeping me buried (like more than 100 emails an hour announcing each change to each scenario page on the wiki - vritually around clock). It's exhilerating and it carries its own weird creative buzz (much like the effect I seek to create with my "fire hose" style brief), but it is killing me when it comes to this blog (which, oddly enough, takes a second place to my family).

I was at Lambeau Sat night with son Jerry  (working the wiki on my iPhone the whole way up and down in the car (wife drove to help out), plus during every timeout and throughout halftime), and I still haven't read a single web story on the game!  There is no more "busy" for me than that.

I will try to get back to things tomorrow.


China has to learn how to take better care of its own

NYT front-pager on how new model of outreach and service to HIV community is being appreciated as possible approach to host of underserved populations currently in the official shadows, to include the mentally ill, the extremely impoverished, and the environment. The key is letting NGOs rise as part of a general maturation of civil society.  The simple but harsh reality for the Party is that, by spending so much time obsessing over political speech (Kristof's point in his op-ed of same day), it's losing ground on a host of government support/regulation areas where the public desperately needs help.  The result?  Rapacious behavior all around, but especially on the part of the elite - a growing problem that only hyperventilates the already profound populist anger.

The conundrum is solved, in both instances, by the Party actually extending more trust to the public it claims to represent, because, right now, the combination of over-exertion on political speech and under-exertion on everything else is a losing battle.  As progressive agenda items pile up (what is more progressive than extending coverage to the underserved?), the Party ends up looking like it's only concerned with its own power - along with its own greed (all that corruption).

You put that all together, and I don't know how pundits see a triumphant Chinese model, because it's stalling at the same point that all industrializing powers do, and the answers are still the same - more and better democracy, or more opportunity extended to the people to take more responsibility for themselves and each other.

China's model is not "better" than ours by any stretch.  Instead, it's an insult (growing) to the Chinese people, who prove themselves to be smart and responsible and capable the world over - whenever they're extended the chance to prove that.

The Chinese Communist Party lives in fear of its own people, and that's sad - and ultimately self-limiting for all.

That's why democracy is coming.  People want more and achieving more requires it.


Indian women and the push against gender violence

NYT story on widespread protests in New Dehli over the apparent gang rape and (eventual) murder of a young female student (23) on a bus.  The woman died from her wounds, which included penetration by a metal rod.

Gruesome stuff, to say the least.

The nature of the violence isn't what catches my sense of historical timing.  Men in packs will do the most atricious things.  

What's interesting here (and it corresponds to a scenario proposed by a Wikistrat analyst at a recent sim we ran) are sociologists linking this growing pack violence against Indian women to a growing disparity in gender numbers - i.e., excess males after years and years of discarding female fetuses.  The result is an age cohort where there are too many guys, too few females to court, and a budding social anger among the males that translates into violence against women and implicit attacks on their rights and standing.  In short, too few women relative to men = social devaluation of females, making them "fair game" in the minds of angry young men.

I will tell you, I buy excess males turning against governments when jobs are not there, and I buy this too.  I've never bought, in the modern context, the bit about having to place excess males in the military and then going to war.  That's applying old logic to modern situations.

But the "war" does come, is the point.  It's just a war against women.

The upside?  It forces women to fight harder and more pervasively for their rights in society, and here the historical timing reminds me of the US in the 1960s and 1970s - a time of seismic and permanent change for women in American society.  I was born (1962) into one world regarding the role of women, but by the time I was a young male courting (1982, when I met my wife and started dating her), it was a very different universe. My wife was the only daughter of a woman who divorced her husband and left to pursue her PhD - I mean, really radical stuff in the early 1970s.  That experience made my spouse a very different person, and thus forced a different relationship (trivial but telling example:  my second middle initial comes from my taking my wife's maiden name of Meussling, thus rendering, in the eyes of the USG, my original name (Thomas Patrick Barnett) as my "maiden name" for all time).

It's a tiny example of how much change happened in the US on womens' issues across the short timespan of my first 25 years of life.  I can't possibly guess at the rate of change that older civilizations like India and China will enjoy/suffer.  I can just speculate that this awakening is coming, and that it's going to be huge.


Paging China's muckrakers!

Great NYT piece that's filling in for the missing muckraking function within China (although it's emerging, it just doesn't manage stories like this because only sacrificial lambs [mid-level Party functionaries] may be sacrificed - officially):  investigative piece showing how the giant state-owned shipping company, Cosco, managed to sell off its stakes in Ping An Insurance in the period prior to its IPO to two companies essentially owned by the families of senior political elites (the third is owned by a HK magnate who, we can presume, is a good friend of the Party). The result is not all that different from the robber-baron phase of Yeltsin's reign in Russia: a few insiders go from rich to billionaires overnight.  One family was that of just departed PM Wen Jiabao, so"Uncle Wen," for all his platitudes and caring, takes care of his own and the masses be damned.  The other involved the family of the former central bank chief who oversaw the insurance industry.  Talk about brazen!

The "princelings' rationalize all this by saying the transition from state-ownership to private-ownership needs to be safe-guarded by the "party," but this is robber-baron, oligarch greed of the highest order.  If they took some, and let the rest go "free" into the market, they'd get away with it, but they want close to all of it.  Their greed knows no bounds.

This kind of behavior will create massive populist anger over time, as more and more of these stories are written. 

We will be reading this stuff for the next two decades...  


World's biggest snowman sighted in Indiana


WAPO WonkBlog: "What will we smuggle in the future? Drones, coal, and honeybees."

Psst, got any HCFC-22?Everybody’s making predictions for 2013 right now, but why not aim farther? Recently, the consultancy group Wikistrat ran a large crowd-sourced simulation to try to figure out what sorts of items would be smuggled in 2050.

That’s right, smuggled. The idea is that you can tell a lot about a society by what’s available on its black markets. And over the next four decades the combination of new technologies, environmental pressures and shifting consumer preferences is likely to lead to a whole slew of products and behaviors being banned or restricted.

So here’s what Wikistrat expects will thrive on the black market by 2050. Note that the group mainly focused on identifying new types of contraband — no doubt old crowd favorites like drugs and guns will still be trafficked for decades to come:

Read the entire post at WAPO's WonkBlog.

The pic and caption are apt.  I got the idea for designing the sim from reading a newspaper account of how freon is now a smuggle-able item. Of course, we used it for decades in air conditioning units, but then, about 20 years ago, it was ordered phased out by an international treaty.  So voila!  Two decades later it's perfectly illegal - in some parts of the world, thus the smugglers' market.

Well, that got me thinking:  If we project ahead to 2050, which of today's legal items would become illegal? (And no, I disagree with the blog author noting that we "omitted" foreign arable land sales and leasing as "unconventional" smuggling, because that's an abuse of the term when the item in question cannot be moved across sovereign borders.  Although the concept makes me laugh to remember Woody Allen's "Love and Death" where his Russian father carries around a chunk of sod, pulling it out for friends and declaring, "Someday, I hope to build on it!")

Several dozen analysts cranked a few dozen ideas.  I then grouped them and wrote up the report.  It was a pretty good sim, and it generated (as I suspected it might) the right kind of material that a MSM outlet might like to publicize.

Access the full Wikistrat report (PDF) here and the executive summary too.


Time's Battleland: National Security - Just How Intelligent is the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030?


Every half-decade, the National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends” series produces a roughly 20-year predictive analysis of the world’s evolution – an analysis considered to be the best long-range geopolitical forecasting conducted by the U.S. government. These multi-year efforts involve consultations with hundreds of experts from around the world (the last two drills have featured interviews and presentations from yours truly.) The NIC also conducts global “road shows” to collect feedback for great powers like RussiaChina and various European states.

Simply stated, the biggest problem with this year’s Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds is the lack of internally consistent logic throughout each of the worlds presented.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


12/21/12 Battleland post footnote #1: My case for Sino-American partnership

*First footnote to Battleland blog post "A Critique of the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds:

  • See also Blueprint for Action:  A Future Worth Creating, see Chapter 3: "Growing the Core By Securing The East," in the subsections "Locking In China At Today's Prices" and "In The Future, America's Most Important Allies Will Be New Core States."


12/21/12 Battleland post footnote #2: My criticism of past NIC Global Trends reports from "Blueprint for Action"

*First footnote to Battleland blog post "A Critique of the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds:

** from Blueprint for Action: A Future World Creating, 2005, Chapter 1:  "What the World Needs Now," subsection "Barnett's A-to-Z Rule Set on Processing Politically Bankrupt States."

The National Intelligence Council is sort of the “Supreme Court” of the intelligence community, which is spread across fifteen individual agencies, including the well-known CIA. The Council, or NIC, as most people in the business call it, is made up of a collection of National Intelligence Officers (or NIOs), each of whom is the government’s top expert on some particular subject, such as “economics and global issues” or “East Asia.” Collectively, this organization issues significant reports known as National Intelligence Estimates, which guide senior decision makers throughout the national security establishment in matters of war and peace. But to the public (and especially the Web community), the NIC is probably best known for its “global futures” reports that regularly project the future of the planet ahead a good fifteen years or more. These reports are by far the best examples of futurology to be found within the national security community, in large part because the authors eschew the usual doom-and-gloom of the Pentagon’s futurism, which always portrays the world going to hell in a handbasket. Why? Because that’s just good for business.

Over the course of my career I have participated on several occasions in the NIC’s long process of consulting with “outside experts” as they build these “mapping the global future” reports, and National Intelligence Officers came to virtually every workshop I ever put on at the Naval War College. I came to respect the NIC’s institutional process of looking ahead, because of its willingness to listen to alternative viewpoints, meaning those that posited hopeful or at least benign developments lying ahead and not just the negatives. Soon after The Pentagon’s New Map came out, I was asked by the Intelligence Council to participate in one of these gatherings, a workshop focused on the future of war. I was given the question “Does the United States face a never-ending future of subnational and transnational violence?” I answered yes, and that this was a good thing compared with the Cold War’s far higher levels of interstate warfare and the threat of global nuclear clashes between superpowers.

But I didn’t stop there. I said that future was benign enough only if the United States took it upon itself to try and fashion new rules and new international organizations designed to focus on these particular problem sets. Absent this effort, our tacit acceptance of heightened worldwide levels of such civil strife and terrorism certainly would be bad, in large part because if we didn’t deal with these problems, inevitably some other great powers would feel compelled to do so on their own, possibly triggering intra-Core arms races or—worse—the return of great-power rivalries inside the Gap (i.e., wars by proxy).

Well, the resulting NIC report, Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project, lived up to the Council’s usual fine standards. It lacked the typical hyping of the threat and presented future scenarios in highly imaginative ways. Naturally, when it came out in early 2005, a lot of my Weblog readers pressed me for comments, knowing I had been involved in the process. The blogosphere, the universe of bloggers, was discussing the report at length when it came out, and the judgment of this crowd, full of both amateurs and professionals, was rather uniform: “a very sobering and disturbing view of the future.”

My take was a little different. All the NIC really said in its projection of the world in 2020 was the following: the United States wouldn’t dominate global affairs as it does today; China and India would be far more powerful players; Russia and the Central Asian republics might take several steps backwards politically; the Middle East could experience some serious democratic reform—or not; terrorism would still exist but would be expressed in different, probably more challenging forms, especially as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction continued; and the UN would probably be far more marginalized as new political realities emerged in the global security order as a result of all this change. That’s it. That’s the “very sobering and disturbing” future the blogosphere was gobbling up and digesting as a source for pessimism about the world in 2020.

In my view the report was basically a careful, realistic, straightforward projection of today’s trends over the next decade and a half—absent any sort of imaginative response from the global community as a whole. It was like a warning from a physician to his middle-aged male patient: “If you don’t change your lifestyle whatsoever, this is what you’re going to look like in fifteen years: older, flabbier, and generally less healthy.” Surprise, surprise.

By its very nature, the intelligence community feels that it must never engage in advocacy of any particular policy, meaning it defines its job as “just projecting the trends, ma’am,” as it avoids telling the US Government what it should or should not do in response to such projections. That’s their code: Analysts don’t have opinions, just analysis. So what happens when the NIC projects a global future is that the authors feel compelled to describe what every other country in the world will do in response to this unfolding series of events while essentially keeping the United States itself static, meaning the whole world’s experiences change while the United States does not—at least not in any proactive way. Sure, we’re allowed to “age” like everyone else in the scenarios, but the maturation process of other states is dynamic, whereas ours is not.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that in its zeal to avoid policy advocacy, the NIC comes up with future global scenarios that essentially ignore the ability of the play’s leading protagonist to develop further as a character across the unfolding plotline. This is not only ahistoric—meaning it doesn’t jibe well with America’s long-standing role as a generator and purveyor of new rules for the global system—it also sends all the wrong signals to unsophisticated readers about what’s truly possible. By its very character, the NIC can describe only the future “floor,” not the “ceiling.” It can only give us a sense of the natural decay of international order, not its potential for positive regeneration. In short, reports such as these can only describe how bad it would get if America basically did nothing, not how good it could get if we chose to do something about it.

The problem is that most people read these reports and take them as the gospel truth (“After all, these guys know all the secret stuff, right?”), but instead of motivating them toward action, these scenarios drive readers toward fatalism and passivity. Most futurology has this effect: after you put the book down and contemplate its depressing description of what lies ahead, you either want to get the frightening image immediately out of your head or—as so often is the case now—go online and Chicken Little it to death. Frankly, that’s why my blog readers tend to be so loyal: I am a shining beacon of counterintuitive analysis, which in this environment means I am a cockeyed optimist.

Why is that? Aren’t we all working off the same trends? Sure we are. We just choose to view those trends differently. Whereas most national security analysts define their professional environment as “futures to be avoided,” I focus on a future worth creating. They see trends that are inescapable, and so their goals tend to involve finding ways that America can shield itself from dangerous outcomes. I see trends that determine reasonably identifiable incentives among major players, incentives that can be structured in ways that turn potential flash points into opportunities for new rules, new relationships, and safer outcomes. In sum, your average security analyst doesn’t want to engage the future but escape its inevitable grasp (“America will be less powerful!”). What I want to do is embrace that future and shape it from within. So my advice is always, When you see fear, start running toward it.

I can’t write a global future with the lead protagonist stuck forever in some Hamlet-like pose of “To shape the security environment or not to shape, that is the question.” My America has always shaped the future, typically arriving there years before anyone else. As history goes, we’re not the kid in the backseat asking incessantly, “Are we there yet?” Hell, we’re the teenager at the wheel going way over the speed limit, assuming we’ll live forever because we’ll be forever young. And you know what? That spirit is what I like best about this country, and deep down, it’s what the rest of the world likes best about America. We are an insanely optimistic people, and because we are, our brand of leadership tends to scare more than soothe. Because every time the world thinks it’s got the current rule set down in its head, those “damn Americans” try to come up with a new one, always describing it as some “revolution” or something. It’s the “sexual revolution,” or “women’s liberation,” or the “information revolution,” or the “cyberrevolution.” Whatever the rule set, it’s always cast as some damnably unstable impact on global order—and, of course, that’s what it usually is.



Chart of the day: globalization vastly improves death

NYT story.  Simply fascinating.

There's no arguing this:  over the last 20 years, or the apogee of globalization's rapid expansion, more babies live into childhood, more children live into adulthood, and adults live longer.

So much for globalization impoverishing everyone and making their lives more miserable.

Check it out:  communicable yields to lifestyle diseases.

The tough work for any global progressive effort is already done.  Now it's all about living that much longer - primarily - because we'll eat that much healthier.  Obesity feeds all the major lifestyle diseases.

Overall, striking evidence that globalization has improved lives the world over:

The shift reflects improvements in sanitation, medical services and access to food throughout the developing world, as well as the success of broad public health efforts like vaccine programs. The results are striking:infant mortality declined by more than half from 1990 to 2010, and malnutrition, the No. 1 risk factor for death and years of life lost in 1990, has fallen to No. 8.

At the same time, chronic diseases like cancer now account for about two out of every three deaths worldwide, up from just over half in 1990. Eight million people died of cancer in 2010, 38 percent more than in 1990. Diabetes claimed 1.3 million lives in 2010, double the number in 1990.

“The growth of these rich-country diseases, like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, is in a strange way good news,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, chairman of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “It shows that many parts of the globe have largely overcome infectious and communicable diseases as a pervasive threat, and that people on average are living longer.”

The truth is good.



Shale gas revolution triggers FDI boom for US

FT front-page story on shale gas boom in US already identifiably responsible for additional $90b foreign direct investment flow into US.

Subtitles are telling:

  • Investments drive US industrial renaissance
  • European companies fear growing divide

Industries that benefit from cheap feedstocks are being targeted, and European counterparts fear they will be at systematic disadvantage in any industry that is fuel-intensive.

Yes, some of these same industries in US argue now for no LNG exports, lest the advantage slip away.  But most energy experts say we can export at will and probably raise the MMBTU price by maybe only one dollar.  We are now about 8-10$ cheaper than LNG prices in Europe and about $15 less than what Asians (mostly the Japanese) are paying.

So yeah, we can have our cake and eat it too.


No, but arguably for a solid generation's time.

So much for "peak oil" determining all.


The growing Sino-America co-dependency on food

FT story on a subject I've been harping on since my last book (and in it):  the stunning co-dependency that arrives with America increasingly feeding China, making our ag output as important to Beijing as the PG's energy exports.

Some data points on China's total imports (so not all NorthAm or US):

  • Cereal imports into China up almost 13,000 percent since 2008 to current 5.2m MT
  • Wheat up 6,000% to 3m MT
  • Rice up 264% to 1.6m MT
  • Overall rise from low-point of 2008 is from 2m MT to 12m MT.
  • China is now the 7th biggest importer in world, after Japan, Egypt (remember that when you imagine Egypt going rogue under the MB), Mexico, EU-27, Saudi Arabia, and SoKo.  Japan is #1 at just under 25m MT.

Note that US is biggest world exporter of wheat, corn and soybeans.

Yes, China is planting like crazy, so its own ag output is up.  It's just that demand is rising much faster.

The key line of the piece: 

China still has an official policy that mandates 95 percent self-sufficiency - a policy known as the "red line" - but recent comments suggest that the insistence on self-sufficiency is waning.

The US is waking up to China as THE ag export market.  Nebraska's top ag official:

China represents a huge export market . . . [and] a growing export destination.  

Nebraska's corn exports to China have doubled in the last half-decade.

China is already the world's biggest soybean importer (and - again - the US is the biggest exporter), and "is adding corn, wheat, barley and rice to its shopping list" (and - again - the US is the biggest exporter of corn and wheat).


Why I'm still in this business

FT story on preacher who "unites opponents of Assad."

Great quote from the man himself, Moaz al-Khatib:

  The international community has been in a slumber, silent and late as it saw the blood of the people bleeding and its children being killed for the last 20 months . . . When the international community intervenes at the right time and when it moves to defend people at the right time it makes societies stable.  The wrong international policies have led to extremism. (italics mine)

Yes, I was glad to see Obama recognize the rebels.

Like he said last night about the elementary school shooting, we have to change the way we do things.

All progressivism begins with this question.


Time's Battleland: Korea - Missile Launch Doesn’t Make NoKo’s Kim Jong-un a Dud


There’s a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Jack David saying latest North Korean missile launch proves Kim Jong-un won’t be a reformer and that — basically — anyone who still believes that is a dupe.

That’s specious logic in the worst, narrow-minded national security way.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.



Civilization = bad connectivity principle, but dream = good

Trio of stories (2 FT and 1 NYT) on evolving ideologies of Russia (old leader), Egypt (new leader) and China (new leader).

Putin is floating a unique Russian civilization idea - likely as his legacy signature concept in governance.  The purpose is setting the long-term course of how Moscow handles the federation's many nationalities.  For now, a trial balloon, but already the blowback is sensed and it's building.  These nationalities naturally feel like they're being told to assimilate or find themselves a bit lost in Russia's future - as defined by Putin et al.

Morsi in Egypt is now revealing a similar bias on his effort with the constitution.  He wants to make it so Islamist that Egypt's many minorities are reacting badly, seeing no good space for themselves in Egypt's future on this basis.

My point in raising both issues:  when you argue civilization and, on that basis, identity (typically tied to religion), then you're saying, "This is how we're going to run this place and this is how we're going organize our connectivity with the outside world - by requiring this sort of homogeniety at home."

Problem is, the self-limiting nature.  If you want connectivity, you want to promote diversity.   That attracts the bodies and minds and the money.  This is an old concept, as in back to Amsterdam and the Dutch when they built up their global nets.  England picks up this vibe and does similarly.  The US gets the DNA via New Amsterdam-cum-New-York.

When you don't care about identity/religion on this level, you take on all comers, meaning you're open for business with everyone.  That's how you succeed.

Third cite:  Xi Jinping in China resurrecting "Chinese dream" notion as part of his reform/progressive agenda.

That "dream" apes the US version, which is centered on success and the pursuit of happiness.  

Why good?  It says your identity is more about success than comformity and homogeniety.  You'll work with anybody, because the dream trumps the exclusionary identity.

So, my point:  if you go the civilization/religious identity route, you scare off connectivity and globalization (or certainly retard it), but if you go the "dream" route, you choose pragmatism over such identity.  Your identity is simply your culture of success.

I think both Russia and Egypt will learn the limits of this approach, and it will be a painful process. But these are natural growth patterns.

China, I think, risks the other pathway:  the cult of success makes it harder to promote morality.

So it's the old choice:  preserve the identity and the attached morality, or risk both by opening up and prioritizing success.

Why I always advocate the latter:  It simply works better on raising income, and when you raise income, it's a virtuous cycle, as the people become even more tolerant and open, seeing the value in this path.

Meanwhile, if you choose identity over success, you makes less money and achieve less, and you tend to trigger a vicious cycle, as the outside world becomes more evil in your eyes ("Why won't they do business with us on our terms?")

But this is why China succeeds where Russia (and I fear Egypt) will not.


I join the advisory board of an Indian "sysadmin" commercial firm

The company:

Negara Infracon Private Limited is a company, incorporated under company's act 1956, with the main objects of carrying on business of Irrigation, Solar Power production, Infrastructure and Light Rail projects. The registered office is situated at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh; the corporate office is situated at Bengaluru, Karnataka.

The website:

The vision:

It is our vision and hope to be an infrastructure company of the country that provides environmentally friendly power on most cost effective basis along with providing the most effective infrastructure such are Mono Rail, Metro Rail, Four or Six lane expressways and bridges.

We forecast to grow in the field of Irrigation by taking up projects to provide water to the farmers in India which is the life of Indian economy.

The endless source of energy from the sun is a great task to achieve and requirement of solar power is huge. We visualise our growth at a steady pace. The company is ensuring growth with ethics and prosperity for its stakeholders through inheriting trust, establishing bonds and fostering relationships. We envision a bright further where we stand a globally acclaimed company, synonymous with commitment.


  • Provide effective and modernized Mono/ Metro Rail for major cities in India. This will reduce traffic congestion.
  • Build Express roadways with international standards, safety measures and cope up the need in India.
  • Retain leadership positions amongst organizations in Infrastructure, while working with innovation and dedication in every project undertaken.


  • Provide efficient and modernized systems in transporting water to fertile lands of India.
  • To constantly work and ensure cost effective productivity and improvement in transporting water, the most essential element for human race.
  • Retain leadership position amongst organizations in irrigation, while working with innovation and dedication in every project undertaken.


  • Ensure efficiency of the most common available source of power for sustaining and putting India's growth and development on top gear.
  • Provide clean and green power for the future of Indians. Retain leadership position amongst organizations in solar power generation, while working with innovation and dedication in every project undertaken.
  • To continually innovate ways to ensure cost-effectiveness, enhance productivity, improve financial health of the organization and continual fulfilment of stakeholders' aspirations.


  • To be a transparent organization and technology-driven, that ensures dignity and respect for its team members.
  • To inculcate value system all across the organization for nurturing relationships between its constituents, associates and stakeholders those are based on mutual trust and respect.
  • To continuously upgrade and update both the knowledge as well as the skills of the human resource.
  • Be socially responsible through community development by leveraging our core competencies, resources and knowledge base.
  • To ensure excellence in every activity that is undertaken.

I am found on the Advisory Board page with others:


Manish Uprety



Mr. Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. is an alumnus of the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, India and the University of London, United Kingdom. The field of Management has been his research area where he explored the co-evolution of strategy and environment. He joins Negara to add to the strategic perspective of the company.

A prolific speaker on international development issues, Mr. Manish Uprety has addressed various established platforms such as Banque de France, Paris; Mexican Parliament, Mexico City; TERI, New Delhi; EABA, Brussels; and ULPGC, Spain, among others. He was invested as a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (F.R.A.S.) of Great Britain and Ireland in October 2010. Mr. Manish Uprety was also conferred with "2006 Global Human Rights Protection Award" by the Indian Institute of Human Rights at the 8th World Human Rights Congress held in New Delhi, India on the World Human Rights Day on the 10th of December 2006. Mr. Uprety looked after the Technological and Institutional Development of CISRI-ISP / IIMSAM which is an inter governmental observer to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations . He is also associated with Kohima Komets Football Club (KKFC) which is a premiership club in the Nagaland Premier League (NPL), Nagaland, India.


Manish Uprety



Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett earned a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1984 (Russian Literature & American Foreign Policy), and then an A.M. from Harvard University's Russian Research Center. After earning a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard, Barnett spent a decade and a half working in U.S. national security, first for a defense think tank (Center for Naval Analyses) and then as a Professor at the U.S. Naval War College. Following a two-year stint in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Barnett entered the private sector as Senior Managing Director of a software firm (Enterra Solutions) focused on global supply-chain management. Dr. Barnett currently serves as Chief Analyst for the massively multiplayer online consultancy Wikistrat. A New York Times-bestselling author of five books, Dr. Barnett gives speeches all over the world to various private and public-sector organizations, and his own consultancy (Barnett Consulting) has advised global corporations and governments since 1998. He blogs on international affairs at his own site ( and is a Contributing Editor at Esquire magazine.




Mr. P. Shukla is a well known figure in the Indian Financal sector who has a Post Graduate degree in Science from the Lucknow University which he secured in the year 1974.  After securing his degree, Mr. Shukla ventured into the Indian Banking sector where he held important managerial positions in a nationalized bank for twenty seven years. Mr. Shukla's vast experience in the field of finance, accounting and foreign trade is his wealth of knowledge from which he contributes as a member of Negara's Advisory Board.

He is also a renowned freelance consultant for financial services like – financial investigations, investigative audit, project reports and more. Mr. Shukla also has an immense interest in learning foreign languages and holds diplomas in French and German.

Obviously, my role in the company is to help source infrastructure deals.


Turning point on US obesity epidemic?

From NYT:

After decades of rising childhood obesity rates, several American cities are reporting their first declines.

The trend has emerged in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as smaller places like Anchorage, Alaska, and Kearney, Neb. The state of Mississippi has also registered a drop, but only among white students.

“It’s been nothing but bad news for 30 years, so the fact that we have any good news is a big story,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner in New York City, which reported a 5.5 percent decline in the number of obese schoolchildren from 2007 to 2011.

The drops are small, just 5 percent here in Philadelphia and 3 percent in Los Angeles. But experts say they are significant because they offer the first indication that the obesity epidemic, one of the nation’s most intractable health problems, may actually be reversing course.

Crucial to get kids less fat, because fat kids are almost totally doomed to be fat adults, burdened by all manner of lifetime medical ailments.  Our obesity epidemic began with kids and it will end with kids.

Especially tough since so many kids eat majority of their weekday food at school (breakfasts + lunch + snacks). Health advocates have to fight food and beverages industry on this.  Good example:  big push to get sodas out of schools and Coca-Cola and others fire back with "energy drinks" that are just as sugary.  Sugary drinks are believed to account for half of the obesity epidemic.  

Then there are those cheap-skate Republicans in Congress who insist on labeling pizza a "vegetable," while insisting on more tests and thus less phys ed.  I can tell you that Indiana is nuts on that score (testing):  my kids are forced to prep and take these mindless (and useless) tests ALL YEAR LONG.  What a way to prep kids for the 21st century!

But I digress ...

Researchers are trying to figure out what's working.  All they know is this: "declines occurred in cities that have had obesity reduction policies in place for a number of years."

Looking ahead:

Though obesity is now part of the national conversation, with aggressive advertising campaigns in major cities and a push by Michelle Obama, many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work.

Exercising is required, but it never does it alone (and never will).  Key is reducing all those empty calories and portion sizes ("Want some fries with your pizza and Gatorade?").

What we eat in America is what is most profitable for US food companies and ag corps to sell - plain and simple. We subsidize grains big time and do virtually nothing for fruits and vegetables.

We've got a nanny state alright, and she's telling us that fat is good.

I admire Michelle Obama for working this issue.  Exactly the right focus for her right now.  Because when we solve the tripling of obesity that's unfolded over the past three decades (stunning, really), we solve a good deal of our healthcare crisis.

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