A Few Things...

May 16 2019

Back in London…..

1. China. I’m still absorbing the China trip and understanding how it will change my thinking (thanks again to Aron for the encouragement). I think the scale of the change at the macro level can be best summed up by China’s Belt and Road initiative which isn’t a China story, but an Asia story and maybe a global story.

A recent Parag Khanna article in Politico summarized it well and is something both Peter Zeihan and Ian Bremmer have also alluded to.

I’ll share the key parts below (emphasis mine):

There is no doubt that China has first-mover advantage in building the new Silk Roads, but the reality is that China is far from alone in sharing in the benefits. According to World Bank and European Union data, annual Afroeurasian trade today is more than $2 trillion (compared with $1.1 trillion in trans-Atlantic trade) and growing steadily. In other words, Afroeurasia and its nearly 6 billion citizens is now the center of gravity of the world economy. As ports and pipelines, railways and fiber internet cables, trade and customs agreements, diplomatic gatherings and student exchanges all proliferate across the Afroeurasian realm, countries that once aspired to a future convergent with the West—Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey—have become significant and enthusiastic players in these new economic networks, seeing themselves as Eurasian or Indian Ocean powers and bridges. Russia, through which most trans-Eurasian rail cargo passes, is a Belt and Road enthusiast, viewing Chinese investment as a catalyst for a long-neglected overhaul of major Siberian provinces rich in natural resources and economic potential. Turkey is working with China to connect its freight railways all the way to China. And Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is following in King Salman’s footsteps with weighty state visits and investment agreements with India and China…….

…….Europe is showing how to engage with China while competing with it at the same time. It is precisely because Europeans have so much to gain from BRI that they successfully wrested concessions from China on cutting industrial subsidies and forced technology transfer before signing the final communique at the April 9 EU-China Summit in Brussels with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. And as Europe pursues free-trade agreements with Japan, the Association of Southeast Nations and India, BRI will give European countries better access to Asia’s other wealthy markets as well. Each year, eastbound trains to Asia are catching up to westbound trains from China in volume. The more connected Europe becomes to Asia, the more it can compete commercially and diplomatically to dilute Chinese influence across the region……

…..The greatest fallacy permeating geopolitical discourse today is the notion that the 21st century world must choose between American or Chinese leadership. The world has already voted, and the winner is neither. America’s share of the global economy and trade is shrinking, its military is overstretched, and its credibility is in tatters due to a combination of the Iraq War, financial crisis and Donald Trump.

….This is entirely consistent with a smart U.S. grand strategy of seeking a world order in which it does not have to intervene everywhere but rather balances itself, while providing greater opportunities for America to benefit from global economic growth on the other side of the planet. Remember that China did not dominate the ancient Silk Roads and will not dictate their future even as it has taken a lead role in rebuilding them. Beijing is building roads, but all roads won’t lead to Beijing…..

Next week we will have some friends from Tencent Ventures in town to discuss what they are seeing in China and globally in technology - look forward to that.

Also based on a recommendation from David H, I have begun listening The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan (so far it’s a little reminiscent of The Prize by Daniel Yergin)

Would love to hear what has been instructive for you on China.

2. Byron Wien - Thanks to Diana C, I’ll be meeting Byron tomorrow. Most people know him from being Morgan Stanley’s U.S. Investment Strategist for over twenty years, or for writing the Ten Surprises piece annually. For me it’s the piece he wrote on Lessons Learned in His First 80 Years.

The three lessons from his life that really resonated with me were:

Network intensely. Luck plays a big role in life, and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible. Nurture your network by sending articles, books and emails to people to show you’re thinking about them. Write op-eds and thought pieces for major publications. Organize discussion groups to bring your thoughtful friends together.

When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend. Assume he or she is a winner and will become a positive force in your life. Most people wait for others to prove their value. Give them the benefit of the doubt from the start. Occasionally you will be disappointed, but your network will broaden rapidly if you follow this path.

Read all the time. Don’t just do it because you’re curious about something, read actively. Have a point of view before you start a book or article and see if what you think is confirmed or refuted by the author. If you do that, you will read faster and comprehend more.

3. Three things worth watching or listening to: 

A. Recent audio lecture given by Jordan Peterson at the Civic Arts Plaza in CA (thanks to Louis W for sharing)

B. Exercising is actually good for your brain according to NYT.

C. Marketplaces are big business. Some of the most powerful businesses of our time are marketplaces, think: Amazon, Netflix, Priceline, Airbnb. This great article by NFX, the venture firm discusses fin-tech enabled marketplaces.

I’d love your help & feed back because you know me well: I’d love your advice on what you think my strengths or super power are and more importantly what are my weaknesses. Where can I improve. All thoughts welcome.

Quotes I am thinking about:

‘And yet the menace of the years; Finds, and shall find, me unafraid…I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.’

- Invictus, William Ernest Henley

‘If you hear a voice within you say, “you cannot paint”, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’

- Vincent van Gogh