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In discussing this week’s Grenfell Tower tragedy in London, the British politician David Lammy has resorted to coruscating language. The inferno, he says, was a case of “corporate manslaughter.” Although he has not been specific about who he is accusing, several entities evidently have a lot of explaining to do. This includes most obviously the... Read More
Steve Forbes once joked that if you ever find yourself in a middle seat on a plane and want to create some elbow room, try starting a conversation about U.S. monetary policy. It is a subject whose power to bore the pants off fellow passengers may diminish in coming years. Of dozens of potentially explosive... Read More
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Few aspirants to the American presidency have ever deployed a more effective slogan than Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” Although Hillary Clinton professed to believe that America has never stopped being great, in the end countless voters sided with Trump – and in many cases did so passionately, oblivious to all the Trumpian scandals... Read More
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Financial markets are notorious for irrational mood swings. But even by past standards, the recent wild gyrations in both stocks and currencies seem to have set a new record for ludicrousness. The source of the panic has, of course, been the United Kingdom’s referendum vote last week to pull out of the European Union. The... Read More
Mark Carney at World Economic Forum, 2013. Copyright by WEF, Photo Moritz Hager.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Mark Carney is a globalist’s globalist. To say the least, this seems never to have held him back in the past. His luck may be changing. Born in Canada and educated at Harvard and Oxford, he worked for Goldman Sachs in London, Tokyo, New York, and Toronto, before going into public service. His wife is... Read More
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Last December I initiated a series of articles collectively headed “Why Trump Is Winning.” They were published at Forbes.com and, to say the least, my editors there seemed underwhelmed. After all, the almost universally touted conventional wisdom at the time was that Trump’s support had a low ceiling. Once the field started thinning, his negatives... Read More
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Donald Trump’s speech on foreign policy on Wednesday has been widely and predictably misrepresented. The Economist, for instance, claimed to see many “errors” there, yet curiously failed to identify a single one. In suggesting his proposed strategy is riddled with contradictions, the only substantiation the magazine offered was this: Pace the Economist and its compulsion... Read More
If the polls are any guide, Donald Trump should romp home in tomorrow's New York State primary. Besides a home-state advantage, he will have key economic issues working for him. The fact is that in few regions of the United States does his case against the decline of American manufacturing resonate so powerfully. As the... Read More
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Why the Media's Silence on Japanese Protectionism Gives Trump Another Priceless Opening
In few places has Donald Trump’s rise caused more unease than in Tokyo. Indeed it is probably safe to say that, underneath an ostensibly imperturbable exterior, top Japanese officials are running far more scared than even Trump realizes. They have a lot to be scared about. Much of what the Washington establishment thinks it knows... Read More
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Here Are the Lessons of History the Press Ignores
“You cannot hope to bribe or twist – thank God! – the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.” So wrote the witty early twentieth century British man of letters Humbert Wolfe. His assessment of American journalists isn’t recorded but, where pivotal issues are concerned, they have probably... Read More
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Donald Trump seems not to have noticed yet but the Boeing aircraft company has just handed him a perfect opportunity to target the middle ground in American politics. Boeing has for decades been perhaps the most egregious corporate exemplar of what Trump rightly denounces as the stupidity and spinelessness of U.S. trade policy. That policy... Read More
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A $10,000 Invitation to FT Editor-in-chief Lionel Barber
Dear Lionel: I refer to your public assurances that the Financial Times’s independence will not be compromised by the Nikkei takeover. You are misinformed. Frankly, I concur with the BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston who has tweeted that this is a “desperately sad” moment. As you know, I have spent 27 years covering finance and... Read More
For years, anglophone media ignored the Japanese economy’s strengths. Now it’s time for a rethink
For decades the Financial Times has hardly had a good word to say about the Japanese economy. It is a special irony therefore that the paper’s longtime British owner, the Pearson group, has now agreed to sell it to the Tokyo-based Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) group. How come it is Nikkei that is buying the... Read More
When the Enron scandal broke in 2001, it was not long before the press homed in on the company’s auditor Arthur Andersen. In the end Andersen was found guilty on criminal charges and was forced to exit auditing. So here is a question: which of the global Big Four auditing firms missed the recently reported... Read More
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For many U.S. and British economic commentators, recent developments in China have been only slightly less scary than the seemingly endless Greek debt crisis. Supposedly if the Chinese stock meltdown gets much worse, China could be headed for the sort of depression the United States suffered in the 1930s – and perhaps bring the rest... Read More
When Lee Kuan Yew, the late Singaporean patriarch, was asked to name the twentieth century’s most consequential invention, he gave a characteristically counterintuitive answer. Not for him anything so obvious as television, antibiotics, the transistor, or the internet. His suggestion: the air-conditioner. It is a topical thought as, with the arrival of July, we enter... Read More
With the Shanghai index down nearly 20 percent from vertiginous heights reached in mid-May, a lot of people are wondering what next – and not a few are suggesting the Chinese economy is headed off a cliff. Pat Choate begs to differ. “The connection between Chinese stocks and the real economy is zero,” he pronounces.... Read More
The other day the New York Times highlighted anti-black discrimination in Japan. Focusing on the experiences of Ariana Miyamoto, a half-black/half-Japanese beauty queen who was born in Japan and enjoys full Japanese citizenship, the Timespresented a troubling and convincing account of a degree of explicit racial discrimination long unthinkable in respectable circles in the United... Read More
The news from Europe today is that the Euro-cent is fighting for its life. The coin, which is very similar to the U.S. Lincoln penny in value, color, and size, has already been abolished in the Netherlands, Finland, and Belgium. According to the Dublin-based Irish Independent newspaper, Ireland will soon become the next EU nation... Read More
President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was at least temporarily sidetracked yesterday by a vote in the lower house of Congress. The TPP is a proposed trade and investment pact that would join the United States with eleven other Pacific-fringing nations. Presented as a major part of Obama’s “pivot” to Asia, the pact notably excludes China... Read More
The London-based magazine Restaurant is generating headlines this morning for its ranking of the world’s supposedly 100 best restaurants. Boy, is the list controversial. For the well traveled, America’s showing – 13 top restaurants – looks on the high side, and so does the United Kingdom’s five. (If Restaurant’s ranking is to be credited, the... Read More
Vietnam has largely dropped out of sight since the Communists won a bloody North-South civil war in 1975. But, with a population of 93 million, it has hardly gone away. Now it is in the news again thanks to Noble, an acclaimed new movie. Directed by Stephen Bradley and starring Deirdre O’Kane, Noble is a... Read More
In this space yesterday, I suggested that most Americans make common cause in wanting to stamp out all forms of human trafficking. Not a controversial statement, I thought. But Mr. XYZ, a regular reader who, like me, shares an understanding of the extent to which America has reneged on traditional values in pursuit of globalism... Read More
Americans of all political persuasions abhor human trafficking. So why is the Obama administration pushing a highly controversial trade pact that would reward nations with some of the world’s worst human trafficking records? It is a good question, and one that has been brought into sharp focus by reports overnight of the discovery of mass... Read More
Anyone puzzled by Scotland’s increasing disaffection should take a look at a book called British Enterprise. Written by Alexander Howard and Ernest Newman, and published in 1952, the immediate afterglow of the festival of Britain, it consisted of short descriptions of each of more than 100 then world-beating British manufacturing companies. It strikingly illustrates how... Read More
The obvious question about bitcoins is who invented them. The obvious answer – certainly obvious to me – is that it was not Satoshi Nakamoto. For sure the arcane treatise that launched the bitcoin concept was authored by a person of this Japanese-sounding name. But after nearly 27 years watching the world from a base... Read More
Even in these days of light-speed communication, some information still travels as slowly as in the medieval era. Take, for instance, the recent history of global manufacturing. In the Anglophone world, many if not most of the more prominent commentators have long held that a first-rank economy no longer needs manufacturing. The Economist magazine in... Read More
In this space last Sunday, I highlighted House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to address a joint session of Congress. As I pointed out, never before has a Japanese Prime Minister been accorded such an honor. Yet of all Japan’s post-1945 Prime Ministers, Abe would appear to be the least... Read More
Perhaps the highest honor the United States can confer on a foreign dignitary is to invite him or her to address both houses of Congress. Invitees join an exclusive club that has included such esteemed figures as Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Yitzhak Rabin, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, and Corazon Aquino. Now the currency is... Read More
Since the Netherlands became the world’s first nation to recognize same-sex marriage in 2001, the concept has spread rapidly. If Wikipedia is to be believed, at last count 16 national jurisdictions had followed suit. So had 36 U.S. states. The concept has had its greatest acceptance in Western and Northern Europe, but parts of Latin... Read More
It seems only yesterday that most of the world’s largest corporations were based in the United States. In the auto industry, for instance, there was General Motors, which not only towered over Ford and Chrysler but made Toyota and Volkswagen look positively Lilliputian. Those days are gone. On most measures Toyota and Volkswagen are now... Read More
Oil prices swooned on Thursday as John Kerry claimed a major breakthrough in talks with Iran. They later recovered a bit but markets remained unsettled. Will the deal sink oil prices? Probably not. Even if the Obama administration succeeds in getting a workable deal through Congress (a significant “if,” of course), there are at least... Read More
In the spring of 1995 – twenty years ago almost to the day – I published a book about Japan entitledBlindside. Endorsed by such long-time Japan watchers as James Fallows, Sir James Goldsmith, and John Kenneth Galbraith (Galbraith had clocked considerable on-the-spot experience as a senior official of the American occupation in the late 1940s),... Read More
When Singapore’s success first attracted notice, American and British economists scrambled to claim it as a victory for textbook laissez-faire. Supposedly if only the United States and the United Kingdom would let markets rip, they too could enjoy Singapore-like growth. This could hardly have been more wrong. In common with virtually ever other economy, Singapore... Read More
A famous maxim has it that in the short run markets are voting machines, but in the longer run weighing machines. The point is that though short run movements can be remarkably fickle and irrational, markets do – eventually – self-correct and produce reasonable prices. But “eventually” can be a long time, especially where currency... Read More
The Financial Times this morning carries an important exclusive on British Prime Minister David Cameron’s defiance of a White House effort to counter Chinese financial power. The White House had been trying to organize a G7 boycott of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is seen in Washington as a Chinese-inspired rival to the... Read More
Those who know their history know that the British have a special knack for pioneering influential new political ideas. A latter-day example is Nigel Farage, head of the anti-EU UKIP party, who today threw down the gauntlet in a daring challenge to Europe’s unpopular continent-wide free market in labor. He argued for a reverse-course in... Read More
How much silicon is there in Silicon Valley? Not much, if we are talking super-pure monocrystalline silicon, which is the high-end material driving the digital revolution. As with countless other advanced materials these days, most of the world’s semiconductor-grade silicon comes from Japan (yes, Japan Inc has kept on trucking even if this is rarely... Read More
The big news this morning is that “Jihadi John” has been identified. According to the Washington Post, the barbaric executioner who has featured in several ISIS beheading videos is Mohammed Emwazi. Born in Kuwait, he is a British citizen who grew up in a well-to-do family in London and earned a British degree in computer... Read More
In my early days as a financial journalist, I worked for the Anglo-French publisher Sir James Goldsmith. Although I can’t say I knew him well, he was a presence around the building, and he went on to provide a fulsome commendation for a book I published in 1995. One of his memorable characteristics was his... Read More
U.S. corporations have sometimes made the mistake of believing they are loved for their own sake in China. In reality an ever-calculating Beijing has welcomed the intellectual property and marketing expertise they bring. And now that they have been largely sucked dry, Beijing no longer sees any need to make nice. Quite the contrary. Under... Read More
Even judged by the usual indiscriminate scorn heaped on the Japanese economy these days, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge seem exceptionally dismissive. In their latest book The Fourth Revolution, they contend that illegitimate entities have acquired a “frightening” chokehold on the Japanese government, and add that for decades Japan has “failed to fix its sclerotic... Read More
The biggest ship in the world is the Pieter Schelte. At least it was until yesterday when plans were announced to give it a less provocative name. A giant oil services catamaran recently completed in Korea and soon to enter service in the North Sea oil industry, it is one of the most magnificent engineering... Read More
Not many noticed but as the world last week mourned the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, a ship called the Pieter Schelte quietly slipped into the port of Rotterdam. The Pieter Schelte has two claims to fame: It is the largest ship ever built. Its name counts as one of the most... Read More
For anyone who sees the world from an East Asian standpoint, recent sex accusations against Britain’s Prince Andrew pack a special punch. Here we have Britain’s long-time Special Representative for International Trade and Investment accused of having sex with an underage girl. Although Andrew has consistently denied the allegations, already by 2011 he was sufficiently... Read More
For decades the Boeing company has been quietly transferring large tranches of advanced U.S. aeronautical technology to Japan. The deal – which has gone almost entirely overlooked by the American press – is that Boeing engineers teach Japanese companies how to make more and more of each succeeding airplane model, and in return Japan’s state-controlled... Read More
Ships don’t come bigger than the Pieter Schelte. They don’t come more controversial either. Built in Korea at a cost of nearly $3 billion, the gargantuan new ship is now sailing towards the Netherlands, where it will soon enter service in the European offshore oil industry. A huge catamaran, it is expected to boast a... Read More
The news from China today is that President Xi Jinping has sensationally ratcheted up his anti-corruption campaign. Although the Western press has mostly taken it at face value, something else has evidently been going on – something perhaps so destabilizing that the tremors might be felt around the world. What is clear is that the... Read More
This story appears in the December 2014 issue of Forbes Asia. Honda and Toyota stand out as the Japanese automobile industry’s strongest players. So when in 2008 Honda launched the FCX Clarity, the world’s first plausibly commercial fuel-cell car, people wondered why Toyota was nowhere in this exciting new technology. Now the shoe is on... Read More
In these dumbed-down days, we seem to be so inundated with tweets that our attention span has been reduced to a couple of seconds. It is past time we rediscovered the art of long-form reading. Here are five books I have read in 2014 that deserve special credit for their depth and intelligence in questioning... Read More
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