Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reading list from Wednesday, December 29

So I read a lot. Maybe too much. Every day I scour the web and use Twitter to find articles that interest me. These days, for obvious reasons, the topics tend to skewer towards China and China’s relations with the West, but they really can be all over the place. For instance, I am a transportation and urban development geek. I love to read about gender issues (especially in the developing world) and my old pre-law major rears it’s ugly head sometimes and I get all in a tizzy about legal ephemera. Then there’s politics and diplomacy…

Anyway, from time to time I’ll post my reading list for the day here, along with my thoughts on the articles. I’ll only take time to post what is interesting to me and sometimes I’ll only post one and write extensively on it. I may not have the time to do it every day, but whenever I can post items of interest here I will.

A Foreign Woman in Beijing” by Laura Fitch – An interesting collection of profiles of women who have chosen to live in Beijing. A bit dated (it’s 9 months old) and there’s not much else than the respondents’ sometimes paltry survey answers, but some of the insights are right on with why Beijing is such a great place to live. It would have been nice to hear more of a women’s perspective about things in Beijing though.

Getting Corruption Right” by Jagdish Bhagwati – Some insights into what corruption is in India and how cultural context can help to explain why some things are permissible in one country but are seen as unacceptable in another. The first half is the best part.

China Squeezes Foreigners for Share of Global Riches” from The Wall Street Journal – A slanted headline and a wonky article, but one that tracks some interesting developments in the world of international business. US and other Western companies are starting more and more joint ventures with Chinese firms. It’s something that I had been noticing recently with some of the smaller firms that I regularly deal with but I hadn’t seen it gong on with such heavy hitters as GE and GM. Basically, Western know-how and innovation is being combined with China’s better access to developing markets (like in Africa and Southeast Asia) and cheaper labor to create new pipelines of products. It’s sourcing on a new scale and implies a closer inter-mingling of our economies. One thing that the piece doesn’t go into at all are the implications for China’s currency policy. More international joint-ventures with global purpose will create more pressure for China to ease restrictions on the trading of the Yuan, if only to make accounting issues easier to deal with, but most especially if they start to become a de facto third party transaction hub.

New Japan WikiLeak: A ‘Yuan-Yen Co-Prosperity Sphere?” from Japan RealTime – More diplomatic scuttlebutt with some very telling tidbits. Namely, that China has been actively exploring (though via back-channel discussions) ways to disentangle themselves from the Dollar, or at the very least to start healthily diversifying. What raised my eyebrows: “MOF [Ministry of Finance] officials have stressed how existing international financial institutions, such as the IMF, appear to be increasingly irrelevant in dealing with global economic problems.”

French Deal to Sell Ships to Russians is Criticized” from The New York Times – The fall of Russia’s once mighty military-industrial complex and the shifting role (and perhaps increasing irrelevance) of NATO are all shocking developments, especially for somebody who grew up during the Cold War. This is the kind of event that presages a rule set change, and it is one that I happen to think that NATO is quite overdue for.

Is This China’s First Stealth Fighter?” from Wired’s Danger Room – Before anybody panics you need to remember that no country on Earth will even fly planes against the US anymore. Not only is the size of our fleet overwhelming but our people are the best-equipped and most well-trained. Not to mention that our technology is way ahead of anybody else. That being said, China has been steadily increasing their military budget every year. All those trillions of US dollars in cash reserves that China’s built up from financing our mortgages and stocking our Walmart shelves? This seems to be where an ever-increasing amount of it is heading.

The Chinese Consumer: Still Projecting and Protecting" by Tom Doctoroff – Wonderful summary of what makes Chinese consumers tick. A little on the light side because it’s a Huffington Post entry, but really enlightening. A very good read.