Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek: and why I think Rumsfeld is a traitor, not a patriot

I have not expected mass market magazines such as Times or Newsweek would run essays in the league of the Economist or WSJ. So I was quite surprised, and repeatedly, by Fareed Zakaria's columns. It turned out he used to be a managing editor of Foreign Affair.

Zakaria has yet another great column in a recent issue: Mishandling the China Challenge. His essays are freely accessible through www.fareedzakaria.com, or www.newsweek.msnbc.com. I am going to bookmark them.

Great insights in the above linked article
  • "And if the effect of the Unocal affair is to close the energy sector around the world to foreign investment, the damage done to American interests probably outweighs any gains in killing the deal. It also slows the opening of the Chinese economy, which is bad for the United States for both economic and political reasons.
  • China pursues this strategy not by making noisy threats, but by making itself crucial to other countries in the region. Consider the turnaround in Indonesia. Ten years ago, when Indonesian officials spoke of their security concerns, China was usually on top of the list. Today, they speak of China only as a partner.
  • China's growth strategy has been different from that of Japan. When Japan rose to power, it did so in a predatory fashion, pushing its products and investments in other countries but keeping its own market closed. China has done the opposite, opening itself up to foreign trade and investment.
  • China's rise presents great opportunities and great challenges for the world. But they are new and quite complex. There are some in Washington—like Rumsfeld—who seem to see it as a replay of the cold war, with China playing the role of the Soviet Union. This misunderstands both present-day China and the world we're living in.
  • George Santayana famously observed that those who can't remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Here's my variation: those who only remember the past are condemned to misread the future."

All great points. Since I only promised not to add my redundantnt view on Lee Kuan Yew (画蛇添足), I have not restrained myself from saying a little here.

  • China has been following a deliberate strategy as part of DenXiaoping's's will, of maintaining low profile and seek peace with all neighbors, called Tao Guan Yang Hui.
  • (Note it is not uncommon for respected leaders in ancient China to lead great advices in Chinese history or literature, e.g. Zhuge Liang left great tricks to scare off his nemesis Sima Yi as told by the Romance of the Three Kingdom. Such advices are generally followed through by successors)
  • My view is that China sincerely wants to make peace with its neighbors, because its leaders have recognized a peaceful neighborhood would benefit China, at least for the next 30-50 years, as we all know. Would China become aggressive 30 years later? My answers is: all the current leaders would have all left this world by then. Even if it is their plot, it is unlikely they could plan for anything like that -- so there is no need to get too sensitive for the fact that US is not invited into an East Asian Summit. I wonder if it is the collective decision of all East Asian nations (sans Japan) that they want to keep it, East Asian.
  • As for Rummy, I tend to believe Rummy is a very smart person and knows clearly what he is doing. Except that he is not intelligent enough to separate national interests from defense sector lobby interests or defense department funding interests. It is myopic to sacrifice national interest for selfish motivation of creating an enemy to justify the expansion of his department. It is treasonous to intentionally turn a potential friend into an enemy for your own country, eventually harming his own nation. For this I call these people traitors of the US.

Now, I have promised not to talk about politics for a while. Because it is the easiest way to attract subjective and irrational comments when one discuss about politics and people get emotional easily. I talk about Zakaria's essay because this post is related to strategy. General strategy has a lot in common with business strategy, and I think studying these cases would enhance one's business judgment. For example, companies like Merck has stuck to its corporate value of putting patient benefit first (mission statement), as part of its corporate culture and strategy ( "see the book Build to Last"). Although Vioxx related lawsuits are still in the air, I do believe its proactive disclosure in the Vioxx incidence is a great move to control damage (vs other option at the time), and this is going to pay off in the future. Similarly, China's peaceful development strategy will be proved to be its best option in the long run.


無塵工作室 said...

I remembered the Cox-2 case, and what surprised me the most was what Pfizer actually said afterwards, they said their own drug (Celebrex) was fine, it was Merck's drug (Vioxx) that had the problems...

Sun Bin said...

Yes, the COX-2 selective inhibitors work on similar pharmacological principles, as I understand. The reason that these variations received FDA approval is that the late-arriver needs to demonstrate some advantage among some sub-group of patients that it works significantly better (though in reality very often the difference is tiny, and the "improvement" is on certain loop-hole).

The molecular structures for Vioxx (rofecoxib)and Celebrex (celecoxib) are very similar (as inferred from their generic names "-coxib"). Therefore, there was a very high chance that they share similar side-effects.

I was actually very surprised at the high profile approach Pfizer took last year. I would trust Merck's social repsonsibility and honesty a lot more than Pfizer's. However, the media and the class-action made Merck the victim. The lawsuit is still going on. I hope Merck should not be hurt too much over this.

(The media also blamed Merck's CEO for the Vioxx incident. The fact is he did the right thing and his departure is probably related to Merck's disappointing R&D (and hence financial) performance in recent years.)

Sun Bin said...

For those who are interested in mainstream thinking within CCP, This article by Wang Jisi of Peking University and CCP Central Party School is good reading.

Sun Bin said...

我们是这样疏远美国的 (How we have been alienated by the American) lamented "as the US is departing from its highly regarded ideology of democracy and liberty, perhaps one day, US will become an [authorative] socialist country, and turn its back to fight the capitalist China"

Sun Bin said...

Here is a good perspective above how to deal with the china challenge, by Mahbubani in Foreign Appairs, via "china challenges",