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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
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
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
According to press reports this morning, the Japanese economy is now yet again in recession. Poor, poor Japan, you might think! How unlucky it has been, plagued by a bizarre series of economic accidents and miscues for nearly 25 years! Is it time we reached for our checkbooks and made a Christmas donation to the... Read More
Chinese leader Xi Jinping knows something Barack Obama doesn’t: America is finished. The U.S. economy is an ocean liner holed below the waterline. In the stateroom, the band plays on – but, on the bridge, the outcome is clear. With the arguable exception of the late-era Soviet Union, America is sinking faster than any Great... Read More
At a welcoming banquet in Japan in the 1980s, Ford Motor chairman Philip Caldwell received a memorably double-edged compliment. “There is no secret about how we learned to do what we do, Mr. Caldwell,” said the head of Toyota Motor , Eiji Toyoda. “We learned it at the Rouge.” Toyoda was referring to Ford’s fabled... Read More
Nobel prize winners are supposed to have done something useful. Marie Curie discovered radioactivity – and thus gave us, among other things, X-rays. As for Albert Einstein, even before he became famous for his theory of relativity, he won a Nobel for describing photons, whose most familiar latter-day application is in optical fiber communications. Meanwhile... Read More
Note: Several statements in this commentary have been disputed by Stanford University. A spokesman has suggested that Stanford’s relationship with Beijing may be “different” from those of other universities. He added: “Stanford has not ceded academic autonomy.” My response is that almost every Confucius Institute can claim uniqueness in some respect but this does not... Read More
The Chinese government is not used to defeats but it was dealt a stinging one yesterday when the University of Chicago announced it will close its Confucius Institute, a controversial school for teaching Chinese culture and the Chinese language. Explaining the move, the university commented that it was “guided by its core values and faculty... Read More
I have seen a few toppy stocks in my time but rarely have I seen anything as blatantly overpriced as Alibaba. Although in the short run this stock will probably scale even higher heights (thanks to bull market mania and the selling skills of Alibaba chairman Jack Ma), the longer run will surely prove quite... Read More
I don’t know whether Scottish voters will choose independence in tomorrow’s referendum. What I do know is that they should. They have little to lose and much to gain. In part my thinking is based on a lengthy study of state-of-the-art economic nationalism. I refer, of course, to the East Asian variety. As a veteran... Read More
Deliberations at the current NATO summit in Wales may or may not produce a reduction in tensions over Ukraine. But one thing is certain: irrespective of how the stand-off is eventually resolved, Vladimir Putin will emerge with his reputation powerfully enhanced. Basically Putin is the new Napoleon, and the Ukraine crisis is his diplomatic Austerlitz:... Read More
Later this month the Chinese government will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the founding of its worldwide network of Chinese-language training schools. Big deal, you might think, but not everyone is greeting the event with a yawn. Far from it. In an illustration of how complicated our globalized world is becoming, the anniversary is posing... Read More
How many times have you been told that America’s future lies in services? That America boasts a specially efficient service culture, and that in the fullness of time superior productivity will enable American service industries to close the nation’s perennially yawning trade gap? The “Services Superpower” story has been going strong since at least as... Read More
Those of us who hark back nostalgically to the glory days of Anglophone financial journalism in the 1960s and 1970s know that little of that tradition survives. For the most part the great newspapers of those days have fallen prey to bureaucracy and cost-cutting. Worse, their editors seem to care more about pandering to the... Read More
Disclosure: I own stock in GlaxoSmithKline. It sometimes seems like foreigners can’t win in China’s corrupt distribution system. On the one hand, they feel pressured to offer “consultancy fees” and other questionable incentives to move their goods. On the other, they risk being hung out to dry the next time the Beijing government launches one... Read More
President Obama is no doubt congratulating himself on today’s news of tough new EU sanctions on Russia. He shouldn’t count his chickens. Sanctions are one thing, but how rigorously will they be enforced? Several EU nations seem to be merely going through the motions and will no doubt prove creative in finding loopholes. The most... Read More
Almost everyone in the American establishment seems to support President Obama’s new round of sanctions against Russia. Almost everyone, that is, except U.S. exporters. Although they have been quiet on the crisis, U.S. exporters are hardly happy. They are censoring themselves because to speak openly would risk accusations of disloyalty. But they know in their... Read More
PastClassics
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
The evidence is clear — but often ignored