Review: Chinamerica: Why the Future of America is China

Name:  Chinamerica: Why the Future of America is China

Author:                Handel Jones

ISBN 978-0-07-174242-9

In many respects this book seemed to me to describe the natural follow on from much of what Tom Friedman had pointed out in his excellent work, The World is Flat.  China’s wealth is growing – and with it, its influence and power.  America’s preeminent position on the world stage is under threat, slipping and, in some fields, gone.

We are familiar with the themes: hard work and ambition, flexible labour force, growing population, currency manipulation, lack of respect of intellectual property rights, powerful, central control, controls over imports, growing foreign currency and gold reserves.  Jones provides interesting commentaries on developments in specific industries: automobile, electronics (including contract manufacturing), steel and software.  He also deals with the assimilation of Hong Kong and forecasts a future assimilation of Taiwan – driven by economic imperatives on both sides.

With respect to the US Jones has a number of concerns, including: non competitiveness, lack of commitment to research, disproportionate influence of the agriculture lobby, slipping educational standards.  Most importantly he sees a lack of strategic (medium and long term) planning in the context of competing with China (and other countries).

Living in Ireland I was particularly struck my Handel’s analysis of the educational backgrounds of top leaders in China (pp142-145).  The group is dominated by people with engineering and science backgrounds.  Perhaps this explains the target of 1,000,000 engineering graduates per annum by 2015.  In Ireland we seem to specialise in having governments dominated by teachers, lawyers and accountants.

The automobile industry is an excellent example of contract between US and China.  The US industry has recently been bailed out.  It is crippled by high costs – including the health benefit costs associated with retired workers.  China is currently ahead of its plan to build 15,000,000 cars and trucks per annum by 2015.

China is not without its challenges – in terms of mass poverty, underdeveloped rural society, rising expectations of its people, creating work for its people, competition from other countries, requirement to improve quality of its products.

Jones has not given up the ghost on America.  But he sees a need for change – and outlines this in his 8 point ‘restructuring plan’ – to include:

  • 5 and 10 year planning
  • National metrics
  • Financial support for building corporations to compete
  • Cuts in social spending
  • Financial incentives to increase exports
  • Tax subsidies to build new industries
  • Efficient manufacturing within US

In conclusion Chinamerica provides a useful comparison between industrial and economic growth in America and China over the last 10-15 years.  Jones provides useful insights into the reasons for the divergence and proposes a number of actions required to be taken in order for America to compete on a level playing field.  Will be very interesting to watch how this plays out in the next 5 -10 years.

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Browser software to help manage privacy

Good to see Mozilla and Google following Microsoft in looking to assist us in managing our online privacy more effectively.

Looks like Firefox and Chrome should include functionality to assist in maintaining your ‘opt-out- option in dealing with online advertisers.  Good summary in this recent article from the Wall Street Journal.

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Book review – The Club by Christy O’Connor

I read The Club over the Christmas Holiday. The book is based an account of 12 months activity in the Clare GAA Club, St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield.

The Book appeals to me on several fronts: as a book about amateur team sports, as a book about the GAA, and, to a lesser extent, as a book about dealing with personal challenges.

I have played on lots of teams over the years – be that rugby, cricket or golf. I have captained a number of teams. I have also coached or mentored teams. And I have participated in club committees across a range of sports – committees all made up of members giving freely of their time. All of those experiences have included highs and lows, rewards and frustrations. Christy catches most of this in the book – power hungry committee members, frustrated coaches, family loyalties, passionate team talks, failed training sessions, elation after great wins, competing demands on people’s time, the beauty of the game itself.

On the GAA front he brings out a number of issues – pressures on finances, importance of youth structures, competing demands for dual players, competing demands from other sports for players, the physical element of the game of hurling, the impact of the County Championship on Club sides (often prepared and ready to go – only to have matches put back to accomodate County matches). There is also some flavour of the tensions between new and old within the organisation.

In terms of personal challenges he experiences tragedy in his own life – and in some respects turns to what he knows, sport, as an escape (or perhaps to buy himself time as he deals with it). You also get some insight into the demands that senior club and intercounty sport put on the players and their loved ones. I did not feel the book dealt effectively with the group dynamics within this group of players – in fact to some extent that seemed to be missing in this particular group in this particular season. Great emphasis was put on winning the championship in memory of a player who died suddenly. If anything the book demonstrates that this is not enough to pull a team together to to drive to winning a championship.

I think sports people in general will enjoy the read – and empathise with many of the events and outcomes. I would not limit recommending the book to GAA people – in fact I think most GAA people will be only too familiar with many of the challenges, the highs and the lows.

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How do you do succession planning when you are Apple?

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

We all talk about succession planning – at CEO level, at functional head level, in key skills areas.  And then I look at Apple.

Don’t get me wrong – there are things about Steve Jobs that drive me mad.  In some respects while he is a pioneer he also holds back the industry through insisting on living in his world – your music in iTunes, etc.

But…he is a genius.  And he is unforgiving in his drive for excellence and his commitment to design.

And I guess that’s the question that Steve Jobs poses – how does succession planning work when you need to plan to have someone succeed a genius?

Here’s hoping that he cheats his illness again and makes another comeback. The world is a hell of a lot more interesting because of this guy.

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Depressingly sloppy attitude to privacy by facebook

Facebook logo
Image via Wikipedia

Pity to be kicking off 2011 blog by having to return to the subject of privacy.

Seems to be very little sign that in 2011 Facebook is intent on changing its attitude to respecting people’s privacy.  This report is depressingly in line with previous sloppy approaches to managing the security of members’ data.

One begins to wonder whether this is deliberate or a further manifestation of some level of incompetence.

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