Book Reviews, Economics

Geoeconomics – The Five Best Books

With its passion for neoliberal ideology, the US uses its economic weight clumsily in terms of foreign policy, says former state department official and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Jennifer M. Harris. Here she picks the best books for understanding the vital area of geoeconomics. She picks five books below is a brief excerpt from the interview followed by a description of all 5 of them.

  1. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngar
  2. China’s Superbank: Debt, Oil and Influence – How China Development Bank is Rewriting the Rules of Finance by Henry Sanderson
  3. Economic Statecraft by David Allen Baldwin
  4. Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization
  5. Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild
Books reading
Photo by OpenClipart-Vectors (Pixabay)

“The US often needs to make a choice between its principles and its bottom line”

Also at a personal level, I really admire both of these authors. Forsythe, in particular, got ‘PNG-ed’, State Department speak for [being made a] persona non grata, from Bloomberg and China for his reporting. Much of the best, early reporting on corruption and wealth in the Chinese elite was hat tip to Forsythe, and in my view, the Chinese government eventually presentedBloomberg with a choice: do business or do news in China. There were allegations that Bloomberg buried the story on heavy pressure from the Chinese government. The upshot is that now Michael is with the New York Times and continuing to do wonderful journalism, but the episode in itself offers a sharp reminder that the US often needs to make a choice between its principles and its bottom line in how our companies are faring in China.

 

  1. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngar

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

SELECTED ONE OF 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
MICHIKO KAKUTANI, THE NEW YORK TIMES

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • San Francisco Chronicle • The Seattle Times • O: The Oprah Magazine • Maureen Corrigan, NPR • Salon • Slate • Minneapolis Star Tribune • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Kansas City Star • Charlotte Observer • The Globe and Mail • Vancouver Sun • Montreal Gazette • Kirkus Reviews

In the near future, America is crushed by a financial crisis and our patient Chinese creditors may just be ready to foreclose on the whole mess. Then Lenny Abramov, son of an Russian immigrant janitor and ardent fan of “printed, bound media artifacts” (aka books), meets Eunice Park, an impossibly cute Korean American woman with a major in Images and a minor in Assertiveness. Could falling in love redeem a planet falling apart?

China’s Superbank: Debt, Oil and Influence – How China Development Bank is Rewriting the Rules of Finance by Henry Sanderson

Inside the engine-room of China’s economic growth—the China Development Bank

Anyone wanting a primer on the secret of China’s economic success need look no further than China Development Bank (CDB)—which has displaced the World Bank as the world’s biggest development bank, lending billions to countries around the globe to further Chinese policy goals. In China’s Superbank, Bloomberg authors Michael Forsythe and Henry Sanderson outline how the bank is at the center of China’s domestic economic growth and how it is helping to expand China’s influence in strategically important overseas markets.

100 percent owned by the Chinese government, the CDB holds the key to understanding the inner workings of China’s state-led economic development model, and its most glaring flaws. The bank is at the center of the country’s efforts to build a world-class network of highways, railroads, and power grids, pioneering a lending scheme to local governments that threatens to spawn trillions of yuan in bad loans. It is doling out credit lines by the billions to Chinese solar and wind power makers, threatening to bury global competitors with a flood of cheap products. Another $45 billion in credit has been given to the country’s two biggest telecom equipment makers who are using the money to win contracts around the globe, helping fulfill the goal of China’s leaders for its leading companies to “go global.”

Bringing the story of China Development Bank to life by crisscrossing China to investigate the quality of its loans, China’s Superbank travels the globe, from Africa, where its China-Africa fund is displacing Western lenders in a battle for influence, to the oil fields of Venezuela.

  • Offers a fascinating insight into the China Development Bank (CDB), the driver of China’s rapid economic development
  • Travels the globe to show how the CDB is helping Chinese businesses “go global”
  • Written by two respected reporters at Bloomberg News

As China’s influence continues to grow around the world, many people are asking how far it will extend. China’s Superbank addresses these vital questions, looking at the institution at the heart of this growth.

Economic Statecraft by David Allen Baldwin

A nuclear world desperately in need of alternatives to military force demands better understanding of all techniques of statecraft. In this book David A. Baldwin draws on social power analyses to develop an analytic framework for evaluating such techniques, and uses it to challenge the conventional view that economic tools of foreign policy do not work.

Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization

For all the attention globalization has received in recent years, little consensus has emerged concerning how best to understand it. For some, it is the happy product of free and rational choices; for others, it is the unfortunate outcome of impersonal forces beyond our control.  It is in turn celebrated for the opportunities it affords and criticized for the inequalities in wealth and power it generates.

 

David Singh Grewal’s remarkable and ambitious book draws on several centuries of political and social thought to show how globalization is best understood in terms of a power inherent in social relations, which he calls network power. Using this framework, he demonstrates how our standards of social coordination both gain in value the more they are used and undermine the viability of alternative forms of cooperation. A wide range of examples are discussed, from the spread of English and the gold standard to the success of Microsoft and the operation of the World Trade Organization, to illustrate how global standards arise and falter. The idea of network power supplies a coherent set of terms and concepts—applicable to individuals, businesses, and countries alike—through which we can describe the processes of globalization as both free and forced.  The result is a sophisticated and novel account of how globalization, and politics, work.

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild

From the acclaimed, best-selling author Adam Hochschild, a sweeping history of the Spanish Civil War, told through a dozen characters, including Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell: a tale of idealism, heartbreaking suffering, and a noble cause that failed

For three crucial years in the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War dominated headlines in America and around the world, as volunteers flooded to Spain to help its democratic government fight off a fascist uprising led by Francisco Franco and aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Today we’re accustomed to remembering the war through Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and Robert Capa’s photographs. But Adam Hochschild has discovered some less familiar yet far more compelling characters who reveal the full tragedy and importance of the war: a fiery nineteen-year-old Kentucky woman who went to wartime Spain on her honeymoon, a Swarthmore College senior who was the first American casualty in the battle for Madrid, a pair of fiercely partisan, rivalrous New York Times reporters who covered the war from opposites sides, and a swashbuckling Texas oilman with Nazi sympathies who sold Franco almost all his oil — at reduced prices, and on credit.

It was in many ways the opening battle of World War II, and we still have much to learn from it. Spain in Our Hearts is Adam Hochschild at his very best.

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