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Enterprise China: what western businesses need to know w/ Prof. Allen Morrison  – EP171

Professor Allen Morrison has been studying China for over three decades, and he’s an expert on the Enterprise China model, the close relationship between business and state in China. Chinese companies take the lead from Beijing to help meet state objectives, including reduced dependency on the west. In return, they get competitive advantages over western businesses trying to break into China. In this episode, Prof. Morrison, from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, talks to show host Gene Tunny about his new book with INSEAD’s Prof. Stewart Black on Enterprise China. 

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com or sending a voice message via https://www.speakpipe.com/economicsexplored

What we discuss with Prof. Morrison

  • How the business model in China differs from the model in the west [01:50]
  • How the Chinese Communist Party oversees businesses in China [10:20]
  • What western businesses need to know when doing business in China [12:40]
  • Does China have an imperial ambition? [17:28
  • Companies which have done well and those which have done badly in China [22:29]
  • Challenges to the Enterprise China model and the CCP [27:48]
  • Gene’s takeaways from the episode [39:30]

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com or sending a voice message via https://www.speakpipe.com/economicsexplored.

You can listen to the episode via the embedded player below or via podcasting apps including Google PodcastsApple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher.

About this episode’s guest: Allen Morrison

Allen J. Morrison is professor in the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Morrison previously served as CEO and director-general, senior advisor for global management education and executive education initiatives at Arizona State University. Before joining ASU in 2014, Morrison was professor of global management and the holder of the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Chair for Responsible Leadership in the Maritime Industry at IMD. Professor Morrison was also director of the IMD Global CEO Center, which focuses on the challenges CEOs face while leading their companies in the global economy.

For further information about Prof. Morrison, check out his ASU page:

https://search.asu.edu/profile/2551923

Links relevant to the conversation

Get a copy of Enterprise China: Adopting a Competitive Strategy for Business Success:

https://amzn.to/3YMb1aI

Prof. Morrison’s article “Competing with “Enterprise China” vs. Chinese Enterprises” on the Thunderbird School of Global Management website:

https://thunderbird.asu.edu/thought-leadership/insights/competing-enterprise-china-vs-chinese-enterprises

William Kirby’s HBR article “The real reason Uber is giving up in China”:

https://hbr.org/2016/08/the-real-reason-uber-is-giving-up-in-china

Transcript: Enterprise China: what western businesses need to know w/ Prof. Allen Morrison  – EP171

N.B. This is a lightly edited version of a transcript originally created using the AI application otter.ai. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but should be pretty close. If you’d like to quote from it, please check the quoted segment in the recording.

Gene Tunny  00:00

Coming up on Economics Explored.

Allen Morrison  00:03

The Chinese model is the enterprise China model. If you want to do business, you will wait for the signalling and the support of the government, the government or the there that like the puppeteer is controlling this.

Gene Tunny  00:16

Welcome to the Economics Explored podcast, a frank and fearless exploration of important economic issues. I’m your host, Gene Tunny, broadcasting from Brisbane, Australia. This is episode 171 on enterprise China. My guest is Professor Allen Morrison of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. Allen is the co-author of the new book enterprise China, adopting a competitive strategy for business success. In this episode, I chat with Allen about the close relationship between Chinese companies and the Chinese government and what that means for businesses wanting to compete in China. I also ask Allen about just how worried we should be about China’s global ambitions. Please check out the shownotes relevant links and information and for details they can get in touch with any questions or comments. Let me know what you think about this episode. I’d love to hear from you. Right now in my conversation with Professor Allen Morrison on enterprise China. Stick around to the end of the conversation for what I think are the big takeaways. Thanks to my audio engineer, Josh Crotts visit assistance in producing this episode. I hope you enjoy it. Professor Alan Morrison, thanks for joining me on the programme. 

Allen Morrison  01:30

Great to be here. 

Gene Tunny  01:33

Excellent. Allen, I’m keen to chat with you about your new book, Enterprise China. Could you begin please, by explaining what motivated you to write this book? And then what do you mean by Enterprise China, please?

Allen Morrison  01:50

Right. Right. Well, thank you. It’s good to be here. Thanks for having me. So I’ve been working in and around China for my entire professional career, well over 30 years. In fact, I was in China in Beijing in Tiananmen Square when they declared martial law. I’ve been a visiting professor several times in China, I’ve spent well over a year living in hotel rooms in China, advising Western companies, Chinese companies, also state enterprises in China. So my interest in background in China goes back more than three decades. What has fascinated me about China is that the story about China is very different than anywhere else in the world. And the business model is very different, how the approach to business is very different. In the West, we have long held the belief that if we invest in China, China will grow and it has grown. If we help them with technology, China will grow, and it has grown. And we have believed based on our own experience and values that as China advances up the per capita income curve that the public would hunger for democracy, China would open up would befriend everyone in the West. We also believe that as capitalism flourished, the role of the state would diminish. China has flourished, the economy has prospered the people are richer, 800 million people have been taken out of poverty. But the system didn’t change. In fact, the state is doubling down. And what has emerged is a very successful model we call the enterprise China model, where the state and the enterprise in a free market environment, a free market background, if you will have come together to create a very different model of competing, the model has enabled China to prosper. And we in the West are a not we’re not accepting of the model. We just don’t understand it. We are convinced it’s going to fail. It hasn’t failed and may not fail, and we don’t have a good solution for it. So that really prompted us my clue my co author, Professor Steward Black, was affiliated with INSEAD great business school, that really prompted us to better understand how the Chinese model works with the state and companies working together and how we in the West can best respond.

Gene Tunny  04:40

Gotcha. What I think is great about the work you’ve done, Alan, is that you’ve highlighted just how extraordinary this change has been just what’s been happening with China and there was an article that you wrote a couple of years ago Competing with Enterprise China versus Chinese enterprises, which summarises this, and I might just read this out, because I think it’s fascinating. In 2020, China dethrone the US from the top of the Fortune Global 500. In 2021, China extended its lead with 13 more firms on the list than the US, 135 versus 122. And I think that would, that would surprise a lot of people. So could you tell us a bit more about this enterprise China model, please? How did you learn about it? What is there a framework? I mean, are they are these companies? Are they been directed by the administration? I mean, how does it work?

Allen Morrison  05:39

Yeah, so enterprise, China consists of three types of Chinese enterprises, which captures most of the economy. Okay. On the one hand, we have state owned enterprises owned by Beijing, we’ll just say 100 of these firms. Not many of them. Many of the biggest firms in the world on that Fortune list are these firms. They are owned by the state, they’re an appendage to the state. The second level of firms are also state owned enterprises. But they’re owned by provincial governments, municipal governments, there’s 150,000 of these firms. Some of the big firms on that list are also in this set. But there are a lot of these firms out there, the third set are privately owned enterprises. These are firms like Alibaba, Tencent, and so on. But these firms are also heavily influenced by the state. And that owner influence comes in two ways. One is the state typically owns a small piece of these enterprises. They own 4% or 8%, or 12%, either of the parent or subsidiary organisations. So you scratch the surface of we’ve been quite, quite rigorous and looking at a whole swath of mid sized and large Chinese firms. Every single one of them has some component of Chinese ownership, albeit 4% 6%. So the second way they influence these firms is simply by, you know, through regulation or through signalling. So for example, you know, we go back to 2020, when, when Alibaba Jack Ma, Alibaba has, you know, market cap was $665 billion. Jack Ma himself personally was worth about $50 billion. And part of Alibaba is ecosystem is this company called Ant Financial, Jack Ma wants Ant to go public, it would bring in about 300 would value at $315 billion and bring in about $35 billion from the IPO, that would value add at more than Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Barclays, ING, Goldman Sachs, together, huge. But then Jack Ma makes a few comments that this state viewed as disrespectful, shall we say? The IPO is shut off. Jack Ma is basically exile, the stock plummets in value. And this is just a signal to other tech companies that who’s in charge. It’s the state. And so the state can influence these and they influence them directly and indirectly, that what is very typical with these firms, even the privately owned firms are those that are traded in Hong Kong or those that are traded in the NASDAQ. These firms will partner with a state enterprise or a municipality, and they’ll say look, you know, municipality will say here’s the deal, we’ll give you the factory, we’ll give you the land. We’ll provide infrastructure, we want 6% ownership of your company. And we’ll give you discounted finance. So the Chinese partner, the Chinese, privately owned enterprise, they work with the state, then the state will say we’d like you to work with another company, a sister company, and so they’re matchmakers that put it together. This is this kind of ecosystem. If you want to compete in China, you have to be part of that ecosystem. And that we kind of refer to as the enterprise China It ecosystem. Right. Okay.

Gene Tunny  10:03

Now, this is yeah, this is interesting. I think I understand how they’re getting a competitive advantage. It’s because they’re getting some support from the state. Is that right? You mentioned that they might get land for a factory or there could be some rights, some incentives.

Allen Morrison  10:20

Right, but it’s more than that. It’s the ability to play in it to be in the game. Okay. So if you want to compete in China, you will be part of this ecosystem. You know, the, the Japanese had their model, the Keiretsu Model, the Koreans had the Chaebol Model, the old Hong’s of Hong Kong, it’s these interlocking ownerships and so on, the Chinese model is the enterprise China model. If you want to do business, you will wait for the signalling and the support of the government, the government or the there, they’re like the puppeteers controlling this. So it’s not just that we’ll give you a little discount on the financing, it’s not just that we’ll give you an old factory, it’s that if you want to play the game, here, you will listen to take direction from the subordinate to the state. One other thing many in the West don’t recognise is that companies in China with 50 or more employees must have on site and office of the Chinese Communist Party. They have a representative on site, medium companies, well, any company over 50 employees. So they’re all listening waiting for the signalling of the state. So it’s a matter of, you know, come almost arranged marriages and partnerships, that, that and I don’t want to say that that government is always, you know, always has tremendous foresight, they don’t. But even if the initiative is taken at the company level approvals, and a wink and a nod from the government, at the state, municipal level, are, are essential. Now I have to say, that’s a Chinese from a Western perspective, you have to think so what are we as are, what do we do about that? We want to do business in China? How do we integrate ourselves with that model? And that’s what much of our book is focused on? What do we in the West do about this?

Gene Tunny  12:29

Okay, okay. Well, I might ask about that, then, Alan, what do we do about it? I mean, I guess when you’re in Rome, you have to do as the Romans do, is that what you’re arguing in your book.

Allen Morrison  12:40

to some degree, it’s obviously not black and white. The first thing we look at in our book is, is we create a model or identify a model for strategy involving China. And on the one hand, one kind of strategy for China involves companies that are primarily focused on accessing China as the factory of the world. So I want to do business in China because I can buy, you know, my cheap couches or coffee pots, or whatever that is they become the factory that was so I’m interested in. That’s my, that’s my focus for China. There are other Western companies that are focused on the Chinese market. So I want to be in China because I want to access corporate or individual customer accounts. And in many industries, China is the second largest market in the world. And in many industries, it’s the biggest market in the world. So your approach to China depends in part on why you’re there. Most companies in the West there’s over a million companies in the West, doing business in and with China today, a million companies. Most of them are small, have a small, relatively inconsequential presence. They’re basically buying an option. They’re there, they don’t really understand why they’re there. They kind of burned the box checking business. Those companies are at risk. They’re at risk. So number one is understand why you’re there. Secondly, is to think very carefully about the industry you’re in because China has targeted 10 industries. Where if you’re a Westerner you’re going to be in deep, deep trouble. If you don’t think you know two or three steps ahead of the Chinese. These are the industries we typically think of associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the kind of the industries of the future, robotics, pharmaceutical, aerospace, advanced materials. The Chinese have put a big umbrella up You know, and they keep reading, readjusting the definition. But these are the industries most in the West who would say, look, we’d really like to be there. In those industries, if you’re a Western company competing in those industries, the Chinese have been clear about this. They have identified market share levels, hurdles, and they go from 70, to 80, to 90%, domestic production domestic market share in these industries. So if you’re an aerospace, it’s going to be about 80% of the industry must be controlled by Chinese enterprises, period, doesn’t matter how good your technology is, doesn’t matter how good your service is, your market share it has been determined will be reduced to at most that 20%. But you’re gonna have to cut that up and share it with other Western firms. So be very cognizant of what the Chinese are after the Chinese are, after three things, they’ve been very clear about this, it’s been published, it’s not, you don’t have to be a spy and go in there and take pictures of their, you know, secret ID documents, their strategy is based on three steps. Number one, we want to become less dependent on the west, we want to reduce our dependency. Number two, they want to dominate domestically. And number three, they then want to go out into the world and lead the world to flip that dependency relationship. So we in the West are dependent on China. That’s that’s their approach. And they’ve been doing this for 30 years. And they have articulated it since the early 2000s. And so in the West, we need to be very aware of, of what we’re up against. That does not mean that China wants to decouple from the west. I think the worst thing that could happen to China is it would decouple from the west. And by the way, it would not be a good thing for the West to decouple from China. But they clearly have an engagement strategy and a strategy. That’s whose objective is to ultimately win and flip that dependency relationship.

Gene Tunny  17:28

So do you think that’s the main thing thereafter? It’s, it’s reducing that dependency, rather than? I mean, to what extent do they have imperial ambitions I suppose you could call it was one of the concerns we’ve had in or people in Australia have had is that there are concerns about espionage. And we blocked the telecommunications company, Huawei from being involved in our 5g rollout. So to what extent should we be concerned about that? It’s not just about them, wanting to become more independent. It’s a broader, it’s a bigger game.

Allen Morrison  18:08

You have a former, well, relative of mine, Morrison, who was the prime minister who lashed out on some of this. So yes, by the way, if we’re not closely related, okay. Don’t blame me. So look, I think that the Chinese to understand the Chinese you understand need to understand the history. Every country has its history. But China fresh in China’s memory is what happened in the 19th century when China was subjugated by the West by Britain, to a lesser degree, the US, but you know, that particular animosity visa vie, the Japanese, it was a last century is the century of embarrassment for them. A humiliation is what they refer to it, as they do not ever want to go back to that. They that is, even though it’s 150 years old, it is still part of the Chinese psyche. So they, rather than think of them as imperialist, I would think of them more than seeking respect and seeking a return to what they we all refer to as the Middle Kingdom of China. You know, for 900 years, China led the world as the world’s biggest, most influential, most prosperous economy. And they want to return to that. And so, you know, to the degree imperialism, you know, helps, sure, they’re not going to push back on that, but it’s not. They’re not culturally, an imperialist by mentality, as opposed to say the Russians. So it’s about respect. It’s about power. It’s about control. It’s about influence. More than I would think it’s about imperialism. Now, does that mean we shouldn’t be a lot smarter about it? We should be a lot smarter about how we think about China. And we’ve been, I think, pretty naive about the Chinese. And we’re starting to wake up in the West about what it means to contain the ambitions of China.

Gene Tunny  20:26

Right? And what does that mean for a company say that? I mean, there are plenty of Chinese companies that are operating in the West, does that mean we need to have closer there needs to be closer scrutiny? There’s a lot of talk about tick tock in the US, for example. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Allen Morrison  20:45

Yeah, I mean, that what you need, just think about the kind of mindset I hope we can communicate with with this book, is when you think about China do not think about it as Chinese enterprises, as individual entities, think of them as having an umbilical cord back to the state. So when you do business with Chinese enterprises, you are ultimately doing business with this whole ecosystem, and ultimately, with the state, so it doesn’t mean you can’t do business with them. But you have to recognise that whatever you share, whatever you give them will be absorbed and spread throughout the Chinese eco ecosystem. In terms of best practices. I think that one of the keys to the you know, for the West, is to understand how that model provides big advantages to China, but also provides some significant barriers and problems for the Chinese.

Gene Tunny  21:55

Okay, we’ll take a short break here for a word from our sponsor.

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Gene Tunny  22:29

Now back to the show. Allen, do you have any examples of companies that are engaging with China? Well, and then perhaps some that have been burned or that are doing it badly?

Allen Morrison  22:42

Yeah, absolutely. So the companies easily that had been burned or doing it badly. I think they come in a couple of different categories. The first stars are many of these tech companies, which have been pushed out of China. These are companies like Amazon and Uber, typically tap tech companies that have through because they’re threatened because of their target industries, their initial investments have been wasted, and they’re out of the country. So it’s not difficult to find those examples. Companies that have done it well, in China. I think I would, first we and we do this in the book identify kind of a continuum of what that means and how they’ve done it. But on you have companies like for example, Honeywell, Honeywell is approach to China has to basically go in with the following premise. That is, they want to be in China, for China. They’re not in China, you know, to suck profits out to invest in another part of the world. They are in China to look after the Chinese to as best they can to become an insider in the Chinese market. And because of that they’ve had a CEO who has become fluent in Mandarin. He just recently retired. They’ve been fully engaged with Chinese partners, ingratiating themselves with the Chinese ecosystem. And so other companies like Coca Cola have done the same. They have a myriad of partnerships in China. They every one of these has some tie in, typically with a municipal government. Their approach to China is to be in China, for China. Then you have a company like Yum brands, these are the guys who are Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut. They went so far as to say if we’re really going to be in China for China, we cannot have ties back to the corporate parent.  And there are some reasons for that because of public relations because of oversight. And so they have determined that for them, they need to create a separate publicly listed company, Yum China, which is only focused on China. And there are some good reasons for that. By the way, it does protect the parent company, from Chinese behaviours that many in the West will find embarrassing. So we’re seeing companies that are having problems in China, are the ones who, despite making lots of money in China, are compromising some of their values to be there. We’re seeing examples, left, right and centre, whether it’s Daimler Dolce and Gabbana, or the NBA National Basketball Association, whether it’s Apple, Apple, which has a heavy overhang in China, heavy exposure to China, they have made in many ways deals that would be unacceptable were they to be brought to full light in the West. One of those, for example is their iCloud, basically data farm, in that they’ve created with a Chinese partner, which they had to do to bring on a partner in order to do this. But they then stepped out to let the partner manage it gave them the encryption codes. And this partner has ties to the state. So if you are using Apple in China, the state can access all of your data. And by the way, that includes a data that could compromise potentially your identity and your and your personal security. In the West, Apple would never engage in this kind of behaviour. Nor if it was really made public. With China, would Apple be able to survive? I think the torrent of negative press that that would overwhelm it. So I think you’re seeing a lot of these deals going on, to make peace with China, through apology tours, that in the West, are going to cause some problems. So working in that, you know, that model of in China for China is going to require Western companies to rethink some of their global values and the degree to which they need to cut the umbilical cord, just like we’ve seen with young China.

Gene Tunny  27:48

Yeah. Okay. One last question, Allen. Can I ask you about how sustainable you think this enterprise China model is given that economists would argue that this is not the best way to run a company or that it’s going to you’d have less efficient corporations? I mean, how sustainable is this and also, there are the issues with the lack of democracy in China, just how sustainable is this whole model in the next, over the next decade, two decades, etc.

Allen Morrison  28:23

You know, we have been more than happy to interpret China through the prism or the lens of the West, which may not be the most effective lens out there. And let me add the other caveat, we’ve been wrong about China too many times to to do predict with any accuracy, what’s going to happen. So here’s a couple of things that the Chinese have to deal with, which are significant problems. Problem number one is the shift from what we call vertical China to horizontal China. Vertical China’s a command and control going back to Mao the state controls everything, you know, why did your factory makes shoes you know, pairs of shoes because we’re only told to make the left shoe and not the right shoe. Just stupid things that come when the state controls everything. That’s traditionally been the model, horizontal China’s where we have empowered consumers educated informed with resources with money, the ability to travel, the ability to think for themselves. And horizontal China also includes municipal you know, mayors and governors, which are pulling and tugging, you know, and trying to fight the horizontal model of Xi Jingping. So there is that pressure out there. And that pressure is not going away. If anything, it’s going to get worse. Number two, despite China’s efforts to break the dependency curve, the dependency cycle, they have not been able to do that in the areas of highest technology, which, you know, I’m thinking semiconductors microprocessors, for their most advanced three nanometre chips. They are wholly dependent on Western technology, including Taiwan Semiconductor, which is, you know, across the straits. They don’t have the capability to do they barely have, they certainly don’t have enough capacity by indigenous Chinese firms even handle five nanometer technology at a level that would satisfy demand. They have not been able to do this. They’re several generations behind. They have committed $250 billion to kick starting this. But there are some reasons why I’d be concerned that they’ll be able to do this, I’m not sure they will be able to do this, because we in the West have increasingly stopped allowing the shipping of tools, foundry tools and so on for these plants. Number three, there are some phenomena in China called a byline, which translates to let it rot. That’s it. That’s this kind of younger millennials, the Gen Z age who are, you know, 28 years old, who are because of the clamp down on technology in particular, finding themselves unemployed, underemployed, and spend their days playing video games, and fighting and chafing against the state, the state with the motto in the West, translated, let it rot, we hope the whole system burns down. So there’s this anger palatable. I would also argue demographics are, are probably China’s worst enemy. We saw this exact model play out in Japan, where we saw the Chinese population peak in the 90s, has been on a steep decline. It’s paralleling that in China, Chinese population reached its peak in about 2007. Between now and 2050, China’s slated to lose about 230 million people, 230 million people, when the economy shrinks by that amount, the only way the economy can keep its own, if you will, is by dramatically increasing its productivity levels to offset declining population, or they can open the door and have all kinds of immigrants coming in. There’s not a chance of the second happening. And, so can they increase productivity? Not like they have in the past. They have many internal problems, those agrarian farmworkers who left to come to the cities, that’s all played out the ability tp increasingly used capital, that’s to drug jackup product that is decreased, particularly as the economy gets so big, this issue of the challenge of numbers. So China is facing some serious headwinds. And we haven’t even talked about the political blowback from the west restrictions increasingly blocking the transfer of technology. Huawei, you mentioned earlier, Huawei is in many ways, yes, absolutely world class company. But pretty much every major technology advanced made by China made by Huawei, was made outside of China at Huawei facilities outside of China. So China’s seem very adept at importing expropriating technology from the West, not the greatest at doing it in house. They are facing a lot of headwinds, China.

Gene Tunny  33:52

Right. Okay. So I mean, are you saying that we’ll look at there are a lot of challenges. So look, I mean, who knows what could happen? I mean, there is there is this growing dissatisfaction. That we’ve got the demographic issues. So yeah, the whole, so the legitimacy of that administration. Am I right, that it was based on strong economic growth since the 80s. Since the liberalisation and bringing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty that underpins the legitimacy of the administration. Right.

Allen Morrison  34:30

right. Yeah, it does. And, of course, COVID crackdown hasn’t helped. Yeah, I’ll just share one story with you. And maybe the the audience would be interested in this in the late 1980s, when I was in in Beijing, and we had all those demonstrations and martial law. I had dinner with a very senior university administrator, very senior, I don’t want to embarrass him or implicate him. And we were talking about These demonstrations and the tanks rolling and so on, I asked his opinion, his opinion it kind of shocked me, very informed guy. He said, first off, I doubt that the demonstrations really took place the way they’re portrayed in the West. Like, really? Secondly, he said, but even if you’re accurate, he said, What you fail to understand in the West is that in China, we don’t care particularly about democracy. I said, Really, that’s shocking to me. He said, Here’s the reason what I am one vote. In a country with over 1.2 billion people. My vote has no impact on anything. What I care about, is economic prosperity. That’s what I care about. And so when you look at this, from that perspective, where that stability and prosperity, what will propel the regime forward is prosperity, economic growth, and so on, when you start to make compromises, and when you start to say, no politics trumps prosperity, politics trumps economic growth, then you’re going to see this, you know, empowered middle class and upper class begin to change more and more and more, I’m by no means predicting that, you know, that we’re going to see a change in regimes in Beijing, what I am predicting is that tensions within China are going to continue to rise. And either the government will clamp down on that, or we’ll have to become more open. And I’ve taken great, you know, satisfaction and seeing Xi Jinping relaxed, some of those COVID restrictions, based a week or 10 days ago on kind of this groundswell of, of opposition. So I think the Chinese are in for a very interesting 5,10, 15 years going forward. I’m not predicting that, you know, we’ll see a groundswell of change. But I do think that the Chinese model will evolve. One final thing I will say about this is that, it would be a mistake to think that Western companies, by in large, are losing money are getting somehow hammered in China. Some of Western companies, most profitable businesses, one of the kind of ugly secrets out there, they’re coming out of China. There many companies are making embarrassing amounts of money in China. And the Chinese are fine with that. The Western companies are kind of hiding that obfuscating that through transfers, through creating, you know, trading centres in Malta or something, and funnelling money, very smart about this. Where the Chinese will get very upset is if you’re in one of these targets, very upset, and focus is your one of these target industries. And if you refuse to play in their sandbox in their ecosystem, you can figure out how to do that. And you can get out of the way of these strategic industries, China can and will remain or can be and will remain a very viable market for Western firms into the decades ahead.

Gene Tunny  38:37

Okay. Oh, that’s, that’s been great. I think it’s a well researched book, published by Wiley. Is that right? So very reputable.

Allen Morrison  38:46

Wiley and yeah, thank you. We love the book.

Gene Tunny  38:50

Yes, absolutely. So I’ll put a link in the show notes to it. So people who can get a copy. Any final thoughts before we wrap up?

Allen Morrison  38:58

No, I’m delighted you’re you’re talking about this. China’s a huge issue of the day. I will only say that our book steers clear of politics, and focuses on what’s happening with business and what business leaders can do to prepare their companies better in a world where China is not going away.

Gene Tunny  39:19

Okay, gotcha. Righto. Well, Professor Allen Morrison, thanks so much for appearing on the show. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Allen Morrison  39:27

Thank you so much.

Gene Tunny  39:30

Okay, so what am I big takeaways from my conversation with Allen? My first takeaway is that enterprise China, this close relationship between business and government has a wide reach, and it has huge implications for companies wanting to do business in China. In the words of Allen and his co author, enterprise, China extends far beyond this core cluster of state owned enterprises and includes virtually all privately owned enterprises of any significant size or importance. That’s pretty concerning if you’re trying to compete in China. This leads into my second takeaway, but it is very challenging for Western businesses to do business in China. Various Western companies such as Uber have lost a lot of money trying to break into the Chinese market. It couldn’t compete against enterprise China. I found a great quote from Harvard Business School professor William Kirby in 2016, about what happened with Uber. Uber is leaving China, not because of interference from its rivals, but because of interference from the state. It was worried about the prospect of unfavourable national regulations that would damage its business in China. Disney is another prominent example of a company which has had difficulties in China. As Allen and his co-author noted the book Disney’s 2020 Milan film was not only bad for Disney’s reputation in the West, because it was filmed in a region where Uighurs are oppressed. But the Chinese government shut down coverage of the film in China, so very few Chinese people ended up seeing it. The government apparently was concerned that a lot of the media coverage drew attention to China’s human rights abuses. Reflecting on what happened with Disney, Allen and his co author write in the book, beyond appeasing the Chinese state with carefully chosen words and at the ready heartfelt apologies. Western companies face an even larger challenge, responding to rules and regulations that are inconsistent with their home country values. Many of these rules govern the collection and sharing of sensitive data with the Chinese state. As an example, many Western executives in China report being pressured to facilitate China’s social credit system that uses data on such things as credit scores and parking tickets to determine social benefits, and even employment opportunities for Chinese citizens. Okay, that’s very concerning for sure. My third takeaway is that China faces some big headwinds, which will challenge the enterprise China model and the regime in the coming decades. These include China’s ageing and declining population, demographic changes will reduce the rate of economic growth. As I discussed with Allen, economic growth in recent decades has helped the regime stay in power. And I expect that as growth slows, the regime will become even more unpopular as an economist to expect that the enterprise China model will ultimately deliver inferior results to our more free market style of capitalism in western economies. Okay, those are my big takeaways from my discussion with Professor Allen Morrison on enterprise China. Do you think I pick the most important ones? Do you agree or disagree with my takes? If you’re willing to share your own takeaways from the episode, please send them to me via contact@economicsexplored.com or send me a voice message via SpeakPipe. You can find the link in the show notes. Thanks for listening. Okay, that’s the end of this episode of Economics Explored. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please tell your family and friends and leave a comment or give us a rating on your podcast app. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, you can feel free to send them to contact@economicsexplored.com and we’ll aim to address them in a future episode. Thanks for listening. Until next week, goodbye

Thanks to Obsidian Productions for mixing the episode and to the show’s sponsor, Gene’s consultancy business www.adepteconomics.com.au

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Podcast episode

China, Taiwan & the Indo-Pacific w/ Dr Greta Nabbs-Keller – EP146

The next big global economic shock could come from a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a shock which would probably have more extensive economic impacts than the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Joining show host Gene Tunny in episode 146 to discuss China and Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific more broadly is Dr Greta Nabbs-Keller, Senior Specialist in Defence Research at The University of Queensland and the Program Director of the Australian Program Office for Advanced Hypersonics. 

You can listen to the conversation using the embedded player below or via Google PodcastsApple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher, among other podcast apps.

About this episode’s guest – Dr Greta Nabbs-Keller

Dr Greta Nabbs-Keller is a Senior Specialist in Defence Research at The University of Queensland (UQ). She is also an Affiliate Senior Specialist at UQ’s Centre for Policy Futures where her current research project centres on issues of contestation and coherence in Indonesia’s national security policy making. Greta has extensive professional experience working on Australia’s bilateral relationship with Indonesia and continues to utilise her Indonesia country expertise in consulting, research, and international development roles. She contributes regularly to media and think-tank analysis on regional strategic, political and foreign policy issues, and engages with policy communities through submissions, dialogues, conferences and executive educations programs. Greta’s broader research interests include Indonesian civil-military relations, Indonesia-China relations, politico-security developments in Southeast Asia, and Australia’s regional foreign policy. Greta is an Executive Council member of the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) Queensland and Adjunct Research Affiliate at Griffith Asia Institute.

Links relevant to the conversation

Greta’s articles at the Lowy Institute Interpreter:

https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/contributors/articles/greta-nabbs-keller

Greta’s articles at ASPI’s the Strategist:

https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/author/greta-nabbs-keller/

Greta’s conversation article on Australia’s relationship with South East Asia:

https://theconversation.com/how-well-has-the-morrison-government-handled-relations-with-southeast-asia-181958

Background reading on China and Taiwan:

https://www.cfr.org/blog/what-xi-jinpings-major-speech-means-taiwan

Transcript of EP146 – China, Taiwan & the Indo-Pacific w/ Dr Greta Nabbs-Keller

N.B. This is a lightly edited version of a transcript originally created using the AI application otter.ai. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but should be pretty close. If you’d like to quote from it, please check the quoted segment in the recording.

Gene Tunny  00:01

Coming up on Economics Explored…

Greta Nabbs-Keller  00:04

I think Biden has, whether there were slips or not, he’s made it quite clear that the US will intervene, but I think it’s increasingly likely that we would be looking at essentially World War III if China did decide to attack Taiwan.

Gene Tunny  00:21

Welcome to the Economics Explored podcast, a frank and fearless exploration of important economic issues. I’m your host, Gene Tunny. I’m a professional Economist based in Brisbane, Australia, and I’m a former Australian Treasury official. This is episode 146. On China, Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted how geopolitical developments can disrupt global markets and economies. The next big geopolitical and global economic shock could come from a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The Chinese government claims Taiwan belongs to China. It has an ambition of taking over Taiwan by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, following the Communist Revolution led by Mao Tse Tung. Various actions of the Chinese government and its military in recent years, have raised concerns that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could happen sooner rather than later. Obviously, this would have profound implications for the global economy, and hence, I feel it’s important to cover the issue on the show.

Joining me in this episode of chat about China and Taiwan, among other geopolitical issues, is Dr. Greta Nabbs-Keller. Greta is a senior specialist in Defence Research at the University of Queensland, UQ, here in Brisbane. Currently, she is the interim Program Director of the Australian program office for Advanced hypersonics. Greta has an extensive background in defence and foreign policy issues with a specialization in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

I invited Greta onto the show because I thought she’d be a great person to help us understand what’s happening with China and Taiwan, and what China has been up to in the Indo-Pacific region more broadly.

This episode, you’ll learn why foreign policy experts are so concerned about China, because it’s what they call a revisionist power, one with a goal of remaking global institutions and rules for its benefit. In the show notes. You can find relevant links and details of how you can get in touch with any questions, comments or suggestions. I’d love to hear from you. So please get in touch and let me know your thoughts on this episode. This is a big issue we deal with in this episode, and allow him to return to it in the future for a closer look at the potential economic impacts of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, if that were to happen.

Right on, now for my conversation with Dr. Greta Nabbs-Keller on China, Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific.

Thanks to my audio engineer, Josh Crotts for his assistance in producing this episode. I hope you enjoy it.

Dr. Greta Nabbs-Keller, welcome to the program.

Greta Nabbs-Keller  02:57

Thanks very much, Gene.

Gene Tunny  02:57

Excellent, yes. Good to have you on the show. I thought I’d invite you on; I had a recent conversation with Michael Knox, who’s the Chief Economist at Morgan’s, which is a major stock broking wealth management firm, here in Australia. And I asked Michael about China. And I must say I was rather, surprised by his answer that he was so concerned about a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan sometime in the future or in the next few years. So that’s, that was the original reason I thought I’ll be good to have you on the show. And then I know you’re also an expert on Indonesia and Southeast Asia. And we’ve got a new government here in Australia. And the first trip the PM made was to Jakarta and he had a bike ride with Joko. So, we got to ask you about Indonesia too.

But before we get into all of that, would you be able to tell us please, what is the Australian program offers for advanced hypersonics? That’s where you’re the interim Program Director. Can you tell us a bit about that, please?,

Greta Nabbs-Keller  04:10

Yeah. Thanks, Gene. Well, my position at UQ on both senior specialists Defence research in our engineering, architecture and IT faculty. And my other hat is the program director of the Australian program office for advanced hypersonics which is probably one of the most exciting titles, I think I’ve ever had Gene. Essentially, the program officer, the APOAH, as we abbreviate to it, it’s fundamentally about bringing Australian university expertise in hypersonics together So, University of Queensland is the world’s largest hypersonics group. And I don’t think many people are aware of that that the southeast Queensland with the University of Queensland and USQ are home to considerable expertise in hypersonics science and technology and indeed, I think really the genesis or the story of hypersonics in Australia from Professor Ray Stalker’s time, for around 35 years is largely been centered on the University of Queensland and the subsequent integration with US hypersonics program.

So, the Australian program offers for advanced hypersonics it’s fundamentally, a team Australia approach to advancing hypersonics research and more blue sky or beyond, you know, near horizon research, things around electric propulsion and plasma field engine. And it’s also fundamentally about workforce pipeline. As you know, Gene, Australia is facing increasing shortage of STEM graduates and the APOAH look at pathways to citizenship and basically developing a nurturing that workforce pipeline that’s in such demand by Defence and industry.

In essence, the APOAH provides a single gateway into the Australian university hypersonics ecosystem to include UQ, USQ, University of New South Wales, and RMIT. So, we’re developing that concept to be ready to provide Australian Department of Defence with hypersonic solutions and capabilities.

Gene Tunny  06:26

Okay, so hypersonic, that’s five times the speed of sound?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  06:30

That’s correct. Mark five and above. And I must say, Gene from a non-science and engineering background, and you introduce me as an Indonesian specialist. So obviously, I have more on international relations or comparative politics background, I’ve been on a steep learning curve about hypersonic about scram jets and various modes of propulsion. And it’s been very, very interesting for me.

Gene Tunny  06:56

Yeah, well, it’s certainly relevant in geopolitics, because one of the things that I’ve heard is that I mean, the Chinese, they’re making great advances in hypersonics. So, and I don’t know whether they’re ahead of the Americans or ahead of us or the British, I don’t know. But I know that that’s one of the concerns that’s out there. I mean, there are these hypersonic missiles that have been developed, or is that the Russians do?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  07:23

It’s both. You’re both right. I mean, the Russians have long had hypersonics technology and other players are India and Japan. And indeed, there may be others because a lot of that is closely guarded. Chinese did fire a advance hypersonic missile last year, which caused some alarm, at least in media reporting, Gene within the Pentagon and Washington. I think one senior US General described it as a Sputnik moment where the US I think, was, fundamentally alarmed at the advances in Chinese hypersonics technology.

Again, I’m not a hypersonics scientist myself, but certainly China’s formidable military buildup and integration of critical and emerging technologies is quite significant. And the rest of the world is looking at that with some unease, of course.

Gene Tunny  08:29

Right, okay. So, we might talk about China now. So, what stunned me as an economist in the last few years, I think it’s the last few years, is just how much that relationship with China has deteriorated. Because there was so much excitement about China joining the WTO in 2001. And I mean, we all saw the economic gains to Australia from the growth of China through them purchasing our coal and iron ore and what that meant for that sector. So yeah, this is all come as a real shock. And it looks like I mean, there’s been a real; it’s a big challenge for our country, and also for our allies, the US and Japan. And I suppose we’re part of this quad group now with India. So, I’d like to ask you about that later. What’s that all about? Because I thought India was not aligned. But now it looks like it’s aligned.

To begin with, could you just describe what’s your assessment of the current strategic environment, the current environment facing Australia and I suppose the US as well in the Indo-Pacific, I mean, how concerned should we about what’s going on?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  09:55

I think it’s deeply concerning, Gene, for those of us who follow international political and strategic developments closely, I think there are real reasons for concern and you know, indeed, in terms of Australia and take Australian strategic guidance and defence and foreign policy documents, you know, they describe the environment as more uncertain, and more complex and more dangerous. You might recall Peter Dutton talking about the drums of war, a beating and being criticized for that. But I’ve seen in my own career, particularly over the last, I’d say, post COVID, particularly Gene that that word war, is being more openly discussed and acknowledged as a real prospect due to the deteriorating strategic environment and rising strategic tensions between major powers.

So, I think in a nutshell, many of the current geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific centre on a rising and a revisionist China and of course, it’s not only sino US strategic rivalry that we can see, you know, playing out, across economics, geo-economics, around technologies, around trade, around human rights, around maritime strategic competition. But of course, one also has to remember that it’s not only US and Australia have difficulties with China, but indeed, many countries even actually, European countries as well. Particularly, you mentioned the Koba particularly Japan and India, of course, as significant Indo-Pacific powers. And they have their own issues, which are probably, to some degree more concerning and more pressure than Australia’s facing, particularly India, on the line of actual control up there on the border. And definitely, India and China have gone to war previously. Over their contested border, they’re in the line of actual control up there in the Himalayas, you see increasing pressure on Japan, particularly in the maritime domain in the East China Sea.

So, China under current president, Xi Jinping and I acknowledge, as you introduced me, I’m an Indonesian specialist rather than a China specialist. But of course, I follow these developments closely. And a lot of these uncertainties centre on China and a more assertive, and aggressive China and decision Jinping’s presidency and how various states in the region are responding to these pressures and constraints. I think particularly with Australia, if you’re an observer or student of Southeast Asian politics particularly, you would have seen some of the coercive and punitive behavior playing out previously on Southeast Asia that was later applied to Australia, particularly once our former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, called for and rightly so, an independent inquiry into the origins of the COVID 19, the virus.

Indeed, in Southeast Asia we’ve seen for a number of years, very coercive tactics, particularly in the maritime domain, and some implementation of coercive trade practices against Asian states like the Philippines, over tensions in the South China Sea; rival maritime claims in the South China Sea. And if I’m not mistaken, there was some tariff barriers put on Banano, a Philippines banana export. So. there have been a number of precedents here.

I think China, after COVID-19 obviously became more brittle and much more brittle and more sensitive to international criticism over the origins and the management in the earlier days of the COVID 19 pandemic. And I think a number of, you know, even seasoned foreign policy experts and senior Australian public servants are probably shocked by Australia’s treatment by Beijing after calling for that independent inquiry into the COVID 19 pandemic. But also, I think, a number of countries, we saw what was characterized as wolf warrior diplomacy, by Beijing, that list of 14 grievances against Canberra.

But there has been some precedent here in their treatment of other countries and indeed, it’s not just Australia that’s experiencing these problems as I said, countries like Japan are really at the frontline of increasing coercion and intimidation.

I think also China’s willingness to engage in grey zone tactics. And that’s something that Russia has also employed successively in Ukraine. Prior to the actual invasion of Ukraine, and you see, militia groups that, rather than they’re not Russian military forces, per se, but there are militia groups, you see disinformation campaigns, and I think China has increasingly engaged in those grey zone operations or what is termed hybrid warfare. So, their acts of intimidation and coercion, shorter warfare. And I’ll give you an example on that Gene, in the maritime domain. You’ll see China deploy heavily armed paramilitary vessels escorting their fishing fleets in the South China Sea, rather than PLA Navy vessels, for example, increasing cyber intrusion, cyber hacking against Australia, but a range of countries all around the world.

You’re seeing increasingly, aggressive and assertive China that looks to fundamentally kind of reshape the Indo Pacific and probably more broadly the global order; more convergent, with its own interests. So, I think there’s no doubt that, you know, China has achieved particularly, in Southeast Asia, increasing political, economic; in terms of military balance of power, that’s something we can discuss. I think it was quite a shock for Canberra and the Australian public to be on the receiving end of that rough kind of diplomacy and treatment post March 2020.

Gene Tunny  16:56

Absolutely. Well, they applied higher tariffs on many of our products on beef, barley; they restricted the imports of our thermal coal into their ports. I’m going to have to look at those sporting grievances. That’s interesting. And you mentioned Peter Dutton, was he a Defence minister?

Greta Nabbs-Keller 

Yes, former Minister for Defence.

Gene Tunny 

So that’s why those comments were picked up and he was accused of being, was it sensationalist? It was the right word to describe that. But yeah, there were people who were thinking that sort of commentary wasn’t helpful at the time. Right. Can I ask you what you mean, by revisionist? What do you mean by a revisionist China?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  17:42

The concept of a revisionist power, is a power or a nation state that wants to remake the international order, an international system and the rules. As I said, it convergent with their own interests. Undergraduate students studying international relations and politics, they understand about the post Second World War kind of US led global system, whether and of course, you Gene, you’re more an expert on the international trading order and the WTO, and the basis of rules and norms, and that extends, of course, to international legal norms that govern the maritime domain.

And so, it’s really that post Second World War Bretton Woods, US led system of strategic alliances that emerged out of the Second World War, where the US has largely been the dominant, the preponderant global power and that’s very much been changed. And I give a practical example, because it sounds abstract. So take the maritime domain and on class, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, and indeed, Indonesia, was one of the architects of on class the UN Convention, and as diplomats, played a key role being the world’s largest Arca pelagic state, and a system of rules and governance and norms that guaranteed maritime governance and nation states access to their territorial and the resources within their 200 nautical miles exclusive zone.

So, China has, increasingly refuted international legal norms, Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling 2016 which found in favor of the Philippines on rival maritime claims. China simply chose to ignore that and refute that. So, I think what you’re seeing more generally Gene, in terms of geopolitical tensions, you’re seeing countries like Russia and China who are more willing to challenge those established legal norms and international principles that have largely underpinned prosperity and security and stability in the Indo Pacific. And we’re seeing the erosion of that and that’s creating increasing uncertainty and tension.

Gene Tunny  20:21

Just on those maritime boundaries, is that what you were talking about before and China isn’t respecting what was decided by this international body? What does that mean, practically? Does that mean that they will help their fishing crews go into those waters and fish?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  20:45

Absolutely. The problem in the South China Sea; and you might be familiar with, China’s very ambitious South China Sea claim that takes in around 95% of the South China Sea, irrespective of those maritime boundaries that were decided under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982. So, you’re seeing effectively, Chinese paramilitary and fisheries activities inside our state’s exclusive economic zones. You’re seeing increasingly belligerent and coercive behavior against the Coast Guards; more often Coast Guard, sometimes military assets of Southeast Asian states, littoral states that have claims in the South China Sea. So, you basically have a very powerful nation state who’s not willing to follow the rules of the game and has the power and the might to simply ignore that. And of course, the US is not innocent of ignoring international law. Let’s be fair here. But, we’ve also had harassment of regional states like Vietnam and Indonesia and Malaysia with their exploration of hydrocarbons, oil and gas in the maritime domain and harassment of oil rigs and oil exploration activity. So, it’s kind of spans a range of activities in the maritime domain, but again, it undermines the principles of sovereignty, and of course, maritime sovereignty and of course, that’s inherently destabilizing.

Gene Tunny  22:29

Okay, we’ll take a short break here for a word from our sponsor.

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Gene Tunny  23:03

Now back to the show.

I thought it was interesting before you mentioned this concept of grey zone activities. And I mean, they’re also engaging in applying economic pressure in a way, aren’t they? Or that they’re coming into these countries and they’re signing memorandums of understanding or they’re doing deals and then there’ll be some financing. But then what can happen is that if they don’t meet the repayments the country, then the Chinese can take it over or they can apply leverage on those countries. That’s a concern, isn’t it? So, there’s a whole range of things that the Chinese are doing, they’ve signed a deal; there’s some sort of deal with the Solomon Islands, you know what’s going on there? Does that fit in with a sort of a grander or a broader plan to dominate the Indo-Pacific?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  24:01

You’re talking about debt? What’s term debt trap diplomacy. And usually that some understood in terms of China’s expansive infrastructure and connectivity program, the Belt in Road Initiative or the VRI and indeed, there have been legitimate concerns about these massive infrastructure projects, extending from Africa and through, South East Asia, Pakistan, and the Pacific. The problem, particularly of debt exposure of these countries; they’re taking on debts for infrastructure projects that they’ll never be able to repay.

One of the key-case studies there is Sri Lanka actually, and the Hambantota port; I think I might have a pronunciation regret. Hambantota port facility in Sri Lanka, and exposure to too much debt and China can effectively take control of that strategic port facility, which of course, not only has, civil applications and uses, but strategic and military benefits, of course, by buying ceding control of that.

So, I think countries are increasingly aware of some of these risks. And I think the US has even the State Department has done work in some countries, including Myanmar, to revise the terms of those infrastructure projects, which had, incredible interest levels and unfavorable term. And some of them have actually successively, successfully been renegotiated.

I think what you, I don’t know if admires the right word, Gene, but certainly, I think if you’re talking about grand strategy and sweeping strategy, and coherent whole of government strategy from Beijing, using all its policy arms, from military, from economics, from political to technological, and so on. It’s a very strategic approach to, if it’s not dominance, to increasing economic influence and political leverage, and ultimately, being able to project military forces. It’s very sophisticated.

And we’ll turn to Honiara deal for a moment, the Solomon Islands China deal. I mean, that’s deeply concerning on a number of levels. First of all, for the Solomon Islands, people and parliament, it was not a transparent negotiation process. So, that’s been of great concern. There’s also a sense also from looks at Southeast Asia; it’s an indication of what will increasingly happen in the Pacific and some scholars and analysts call it elite capture that you’ll find in Southeast Asia, for example, that, Beijing’s ability to wield significant economic blood, yes, it has some respects, captured some of the region’s elites. But that doesn’t mean that there’s broader strategic distrust in in those countries in Iran. I think you’re seeing the same sort of thing with the Pacific that China can successfully co op some of the region’s elites. But there’s certainly lingering distrust and unease remains around in the region’s politics.

I think on the Honiara deal, what what’s most concerning to Australia as well, that Solomon Islands is only 2,000 kilometers from Cannes and if you look back to your history in the Second World War, and the Guadalcanal, fiercely contested battles between the US and Japan, principally. I mean, that was basically about, preventing Japan from gaining a strategic foothold and strategic access, that would cut the US off from allies like Australia, and indeed, if China was to increasingly base or rotate, military assets and military personnel through Honiara, that’s a deeply destabilizing concerning strategic development for Canberra.

Gene Tunny  28:42

Right. I mean, was that a failure of diplomacy on our part, or on the US’s part? It just seemed to take everyone by surprise that that came up. I was stunned when I heard it.

Greta Nabbs-Keller  28:53

Well, I think, again, about sophisticated grand strategy that I think Washington and Canberra and a number of countries are being outsmarted by Beijing on a number of levels. And there’s a lot in this and I won’t unpack it all, but I think the previous government could have done more. In some ways, I think during the Morrison government’s pacific step up, which I think was announced, if I recall correctly, around 2017, or 2018, was somewhat an admission of neglect. Now, I don’t want to overstate the neglect because obviously, both Southeast Asia and the Pacific have a fundamental, foreign policy importance to Australia. There’s no doubt about that. But I think the step up was a recognition in the context of growing geopolitical tensions Australia needed to do more with our Pacific neighbors, or as Canberra terms it, Pacific family.

I think the US has also realized recently that they need to do more in the Pacific, particularly in response to China. Fundamentally, Pacific countries like Southeast Asian countries want to be taken on their own terms, they want to be considered on their own terms. And they don’t want their relationships with Australia or Washington to be viewed; you’re only within the prism of sino US rivalries or geopolitical tensions. Yeah, they have their own fundamental development concerns, and as you know, Gene, the Pacific with existential threats from climate change, rising sea levels are, an abiding concern for Pacific Island countries.

The other thing I’d say about China and Bina Indonesian specialists have a number of decades, something I note with interest, Gene, is that the China builds the capacity and regional expertise of its diplomats. So, they have Chinese diplomats who are real Pacific hands, they have years of rotational postings through the Pacific, so they become Pacific experts. And they engender that kind of expertise and the context and the relationships that come with that. And I think Canberra could do more, I think, to build again, or rebuild from what’s a generalist type model with our diplomats. And when I say diplomats, I don’t only mean Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Representatives, I mean, all our agencies that are involved in international engagement and diplomacy. And as you know, treasury and finance as much Defence and Home Affairs, and others are posted into regional capitals. I think we could do more; we need a more sophisticated approach, we need to recalibrate our policy settings and more whole of government approach to regional engagement, and particularly on the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Gene Tunny  32:01

It sounds like it. The way you were describing it earlier, it sounds as if China has this coherent strategy. So, there’s coordination between the different arms of the government, the different departments with state owned enterprises, perhaps? I mean, is it because they’re an authoritarian country with the President; I mean, is he President for life now or something?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  32:24

Constitutional change; I think there’s some more detail, I think, in the machinations that remain outstanding, whether that’s, guaranteed by the senior leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, but it seems that there were there was some agreement that his tenure would be ongoing, but I don’t know if that’s absolutely guaranteed genuinely in that context. But, it looks certainly a very, very strategic approach. I think you’re right, in an authoritarian kind of party-controlled state, centralized command, it is much easier, of course, to formulate and operationalize a very coherent kind of, strategy as opposed to democracies, where intrinsically, there’s more bargaining, there’s more difference, there’s more debate. And, indeed, the parliamentary system with the government and opposition that’s sort of; the foundations of Westminster democracy. So, I think it is much easier in a centralized party-controlled state to wield power and influence and sort of mobilize all your arms of government, and you mentioned State owned enterprise, for the purposes of very sophisticated strategic kind of policy approach.

Gene Tunny  34:00

Yeah, I found fascinating to that concept of; was it debt trap diplomacy? Yeah. Because I heard about what happened with Sri Lanka. I’m going to have to look more into that and probably cover it on the show. It’s fascinating and disturbing.

Right, my chat about Taiwan. How big a risk do you think that is? I mean, because that would be so disruptive to the global economy. I mean, we’ve seen what’s happened with Russia – Ukraine, but if China did invade Taiwan, I mean, it would have different impacts, but it’d be just as bad, probably worse. I mean, if you think about how much of the world’s industrial production has shifted to China, they make all the iPhones, they make computers. And then in Taiwan, it’s a major producer of semiconductors, I think, the chips that go into computers, I mean, this would be profoundly destabilizing.

Do you have a sense of how big a risk it is? And I mean, what would actually happen? Would the US respond? Would Australia respond? How would it all play out? I’m hoping it doesn’t happen; we’re all hoping it doesn’t happen. My feeling is that it’s unlikely but when I talked to people like Michael Knox, and then I, I listened to people like Ian Bremmer and other global commentators, I realized that the risk is much higher than I understand at the moment that I had expected.

Greta Nabbs-Keller  35:42

I think, again, I’m not a sonologist or China experts. I’m not privy to classified briefings. I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party and their thinking, but in broad terms, of course, I follow these strategic developments in the Indo-Pacific.

I think there’s no secret that Beijing, and Xi Jinping is made no secret of seeking, as they term it, to reunify with Taiwan, but of course, Taiwan, strictly speaking, was never part of China. The Republic of China was originally under Japanese controllers; Formosa and then the Shang Kai Shek. After the  China’s civil war, the remnants of his army fled to Taiwan. And, if not a country formally, it’s a very successful; indeed, it is a country whether it’s formally recognized as a sovereign country in political terms is another aspect. It’s been a very successful democracy, very dynamically, economically, and of course, it’s a democracy. And I think Beijing’s made no secret, it seeks to peacefully reunify with Taiwan, but they have not ruled out military force to do so.

I’ve been present at the Shangri La dialogue in Singapore, which is the preeminent security defence dialogue in in in the Indo Pacific region based in Singapore at the Shangri La Hotel, every two years and there’s no secret that, senior Chinese officials and generals, speaking at that dialogue, make no bones about it, that Taiwan, is an inseparable part of China, and they will seek to reunify.

Now, the implications of China’s invasion of Taiwan are memes, as you say. I mean, it’s almost difficult to really comprehend the massive implications. I mean, we look at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the flow on effects for the global economy, and indeed, food security for millions of people looks like they’re going to be threatened with food shortages, rising interest rates. And you’ve got the supply chain issues in China associated with COVID 19 lockdowns which are exacerbating that. And of course, you as an economist know very well about this.

Let’s look at some of the key implications, and there’d be many implications. But I think if China successfully invaded Taiwan, it fundamentally changes the Indo Pacific region, it gives China force projection. So, occupation of some of that first island chain, as we see that island chain along the eastern part of the South China Sea, it enables them to forward deploy military forces and to deny the US access, around the Philippine Sea, and more broadly threatens, they’re leaving implications, for us, us force disposition in Guam. Fundamentally, for Japan, this will be a profound concern for Japan because it effectively cut or deeply imperil Japan from US military assistance. So, in strategic terms, it provides Beijing with a forward presence to project military force and potentially control vital sea lanes and air space. So, I think also, it would have broader consequences, as we’ve seen it in Russia’s success in Ukraine, because it means authoritarian states can simply annex and occupy democratic ones. So, it’s more fundamentally a threat to democracies and those fundamental principles and values of democracies that we hold dear.

We hear about European values Gene, in the context of Ukraine, and Ukraine’s potential membership of the EU and NATO. And we talk about European values and what we’re talking about, there are the fundamental tenets of liberal democracy. And I think, more powerfully, in some respects, if the US did not successfully defend Taiwan, it’s the end of that post Second World War order, it’s very profound, it’s the end of basically US hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region, the US would lose credibility with allies and also mean the consolidation of a China centric order. And all that entails; I don’t know about you Gene, it doesn’t feel me, the prospect of living under a China dominated doesn’t fill me with great glee on a range of France from just environmental management. And I talked about maritime and the maritime domain about, exploitation of fisheries, you’ve got seabed mining emerging as a warrying prospect, but also, in terms of political liberties, surveillance, cyber intrusion, and coercion, it doesn’t fill me with confidence that if China could successfully take Taiwan, and then it would fundamentally impact on the balance of power and all that would entail.

I’d like to quote, Malcolm Turnbull actually on this, as what’s at stake here, more generally, with China’s revisionist tendencies, as Malcolm Turnbull, our former Prime Minister said, you, you can’t have a situation where the big fish eat the little fish and the little fish eat the shrimp. And that’s the basis of the international rules-based order, is making sure all sovereign states at least, have some equality in the international system. And I think China’s might and power is fundamentally eroding that rules-based order and this is the danger of highly destabilizing.

It’s hard to imagine; the economic implications are something you wouldn’t be able to talk about. But this would be profound, absolutely profound. And, the US has tripped itself up a little bit, particularly Biden on Taiwan, because there was a deliberate policy of ambiguity by Washington recognizing one China policy and ambiguity around whether the US would actually deploy military force to defend Taiwan. And I think Biden has, whether there were slips or not, is made it quite clear that the US will intervene, but I think it’s increasingly likely that we would be looking at essentially World War 3 if China did decide to attack Taiwan, because that would invoke Japanese involvement. And certainly, we’d be involved as well.

Gene Tunny  43:25

Right. Yeah. I mean, I just wonder what it would look like. Would it look like a block aid? I mean, I’m struggling to think of how they would respond; there’d be diplomatic pressure at first. I mean, we don’t know how it would go. Would the Chinese easily; would they take it over? I’m sure the Taiwanese have, I mean, they’ve probably been training for this, preparing for this. They would have their own military equipment to defend the island. So, it could be like Ukraine. I mean, that’s been a surprise that the Ukrainians have been able to push back on Russia so well. And I mean, the Americans have been supporting Taiwan, haven’t they? They’ve been arming the Taiwanese?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  44:13

Yeah. It’s been a number of congressional acts on Taiwan, the increasing number of US officials, much to Beijing’s consternation flying in into Taiwan. And that’s, of course, in China’s eyes, undermining one China principle. I mean, Taiwan, has some formidable military capability. So indeed, that the Taiwanese and Americans are looking very closely at Ukraine.

What has surprised strategic analysts about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that the Russian military was always considered, a formidable, and highly capable military force. But the Ukrainians in asymmetrically have been able to impose significant costs on Russia. You’ve got issues around morale, conscription with the Russian military, the use of drones; successful application of drones and sophisticated anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. Ukrainians have; they’re defending their homeland and they’ve done surprisingly well.

You could imagine, Gene, this would be quite devastating. I think the inevitability of war, as sad as it seems, it’s very hard to see this not being on a trajectory towards war, because there’s so much at stake as, as I stated, for the US and other countries in Taiwan. And from China’s perspective, they fundamentally see Taiwan as part of the Chinese mainland and homeland. Again, what makes it dangerous is there’s a sense of domestic political legitimacy in reunifying, with Taiwan for Xi Jinping regime, which perhaps makes it more dangerous and as economic trends and deterioration, the global economic environment will buffets China, as it will other states. Does that make Xi Jinping, more inclined or less inclined to consider an attack on Taiwan?

The longer the US leaves it, China grows inexorably stronger and more military capable as the years tick by. So, there’s very, very high risks at the moment, Gene, of a conflict or regional conflict emerging. And that’s what worries countries in Southeast Asia feel so much, you feel sort of, pawns and caught in the middle of these kinds of dynamics?.

Gene Tunny  47:12

So we’re recording this on the 23rd of June, 2022. On 22nd of June, 2022, CNN reported China sends dozens of war planes into skies near Taiwan. So, it’s acts like this that make people very concerned about the future.

Can I ask about the other sort of players in the region, the major countries, Indonesia and India? So where do they fit in this because they’ve traditionally been nonaligned. We’ve been in, was it Bandung? Did have a famous conference there. We were there on a course for the Indonesian Ministry of Finance and stayed in the Padma on the Gorge there, which was beautiful. But there was, was it the East West Conference? I’m trying to remember it. There’s that old colonial building in downtown Bandung where they had a famous conference back in the 50s.

Greta Nabbs-Keller  48:09

You right Jean, that’s the Asia Africa conference of 1955, still lauded as one of Indonesia’s greatest diplomatic achievements and out of the Asia-Africa conference, which was essentially, that was in a cold war environment, but it brought the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa together. And it was the birth of the nonaligned movement. Of course, these countries who are effectively post-colonial states, didn’t want to be two sides between the US and the Soviet Union; a Soviet bloc in the Cold War, and they wanted to forge an independent path. And out of that, emanated the peaceful principles of coexistence and it was historically a significant development in an international political history.

There’s one thing I just want to pick up from your previous comment about the Chinese planes, PLA Air Force planes are flying into Taiwan border area air identification zone. This is what makes it so dangerous too, it’s not just the rhetoric, and the polemic around Taiwan, It’s China’s increasing willingness to engage in that kind of conduct both in the maritime domain and the air domain that make the risk of miscalculation and escalation so high, you can foresee a situation where, missiles are locked on and in this game of brinkmanship, you can see how something could go terribly wrong and escalate very quickly. And indeed, the ABCs reported this morning on more details of PLA Air Force interception of rafts Australian Air Force planes are flying out from the Philippines over the South China Sea around the Paracel Islands, challenging them in some very dangerous midair maneuvers. Things are escalating.

Now, Indonesia and India, very interesting states – pivotal states, of course. India is the second largest country in the world in population terms. And Indonesia, many people overlook is the fourth largest country in population terms and the world’s third largest democracy. So, India and Indonesia are pivotal states to the Indo-Pacific. And you’ll see India’s been very, interesting and you’d said, of course, they’re both formally nonaligned. India and Indonesia have a lot of historical and cultural similarities.

India, of course, has become increasingly concerned about Chinese actions on its Himalayan border there around Ladakh, in the line of actual control. There’s been physical skirmishes up there between PLA and Indian troops that saw at least, I think around 25, roughly, Indian soldiers killed, and the Chinese China never released the number of their troops killed in the physical skirmish up there.

So, that’s been of increasing concern. And certainly, India’s responded with increasing its military presence at Himalayan border significantly. They’ve banned dozens and dozens of Chinese apps. I’m talking about mobile phone apps around the risks of surveillance and intelligence collection, and intrusion.

And you’ve seen India move; although it’s formerly nonaligned, India has moved much closer to Washington, and indeed Japan and Australia, as those four states of the quadrilateral security dialogue or the quad, look to act in coalition and it’s not a formal military alliance with note, because of the nonaligned status of India. But you see, you’re increasing coordination between the quad members, around vaccine diplomacy and vaccine infrastructure, economic technological cooperation.

Now, the military component of the quad is probably the Malabar naval exercises. There’s sort of a tenuous link with the quad and as I said, the quadrilateral security is a dialogue. It’s not a military path or alliance, but perhaps the Malabar exercises for nation exercises and conducted in the Indian Ocean between those four states. You can see is the kind of the military defence component of the quad.

Now Indonesia, of course, is a country that’s been very much at the forefront of my research and professional interests for decades. Indonesia is an interesting country. It’s again, formerly nonaligned, it’s effectively the largest state in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Southeast Asia and effectively the veto actor. Indonesia has a foreign policy doctrine, a free and active foreign policy doctrine, and it seeks strategic autonomy and to manage the influence of what it considers external powers and I mean, the powers external to the Southeast Asian region. Although China’s proximate in Indonesia’s foreign policy conceptions, China, Japan, US and other countries are external to those ASEAN states.

And I think, Indonesia and many of the major Africa; the go back to Bandung Conference were born out. They were decolonized within this Cold War, polarized global political context, and they don’t want to be seen as pawns in great power rivalry. So, this is increasing policy complexity to Jakarta.

You’re acutely worried about rising geopolitical tensions and what that means for decades of stability and growth in Southeast Asia and you know, ASEAN as a bloc is a significant economy collectively. Over around 650 million people in ASEAN; significant collective strength in ASEAN.

So, Indonesia hedges and balances; it has close and constructive relations with China and very close and constructive relations with Washington, and of course, Canberra and Tokyo. Tokyo, and one cannot forget Japan; Japan is still a significant global economic power. And Japan before China was the engine of growth in Southeast Asia, for decades. It was Japanese investment – FDIs, you know, Gene, in Southeast Asia that really spurred, Southeast Asia’s growth there, for decades.

Gene Tunny  55:40

And so now China has taken up that role, has it? Within Southeast Asia, it’s engaging a lot of foreign investment. And so that’s giving them political leverage..

Greta Nabbs-Keller  55:51

Absolutely. As I said, don’t underestimate Japan, as an economic partner and political partner for Southeast Asia. But of course, like China, is a major trading partner of all Southeast Asian states.

It’s much more China and Japan are both very good in comparison to Washington I’d say through ASEAN mechanisms are more integrated than the US is into Southeast Asia, through ASEAN Plus mechanisms and economically. And also, I’d say, Gene, in the context of the COVID pandemic, as young countries turn to Beijing, because Beijing was able to roll out very quickly; the Sinovac vaccine was most readily available and cheaper to Southeast Asia, then, AstraZeneca or Pfizer, and even though Southeast Asian states knew that the efficacy of those vaccines was higher than the Sinovac or the Chinese manufactured variants, China, to be fair, has been able to offer the public, goods and the investment vaccines that the education opportunities that US has neglected to do, and I think you see, increasingly in Washington’s or regional policies that they’re looking to make up ground, and that it’s not only about the importance of military partnerships between Washington and Southeast Asia.

And I must say that for Indonesia, for Jakarta, Washington is a much more important strategic military partner than China. They know they have to do more work in infrastructure, in trade, in economics and climate finance to basically compete with China in the region. The US knows that too. And of course, Australia as well.

Gene Tunny  57:50

I think they’re finally woken up to the threat in the region. Or it’s become more apparent with what happened in Solomon Islands, because they sent one of the very senior State Department officials over, didn’t they? To go and visit Honiara, if I remember. Yes, I just remembered, we’ll wrap up soon. But I just remembered when we’re talking about the FDI, the Foreign Direct Investment, we were talking about Bandung before, there was that rail line; they were going to rebuild that line or was it a fast train high-speed rail from Jakarta to Bandung? That’s a Chinese Indonesian Consortium. But now, that’s been thrown into disarray, because the Indonesians are looking at moving the capital away from Jakarta, because apparently, Jakarta is sinking isn’t it? Do you know what’s going on there?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  58:42

Yeah. That’s been really interesting, Gene. As you know, we both worked on infrastructure courses and finance public policy courses that considered the Jakarta bundle high-speed rail. And, in many respects, I think the problem has been at Indonesia and to be fair, rather than China’s. Their huge problems from the start, I think when President Joko Widodo Giancoli turned over the soil; the groundbreaking ceremony, which was a number of years ago, I think even back to around 2017, 2018 If I’m not mistaken. There have been problems from land acquisition problems, these transport infrastructure corridors. They might identify the anticipation; but the land acquisition has not been resolved, which is one of the fundamental impediments to infrastructure projects in Indonesia, more generally.

 So, there’s been a range of problems with the Jakarta bundle high-speed rail. Part of it is built, I’m not up with the absolute latest, but I know there have been ongoing challenges which are blown out the timeline for delivery of that infrastructure project.

You mentioned about the move or relocation of the Indonesian capital to East Kalimantan Province, which many people know as Borneo, Kalimantan is Indonesian. Borneo, of course, you have Brunei and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak in the northern part of Borneo. There’s fundamentally some environmental challenges with Jakarta, it’s a capital that is widely understood to be to be sinking. Anyone who’s been to Jakarta knows that there are infrastructure challenges, some of the basic infrastructure has not been updated since the Dutch colonial times. There’re issues around governance and corruption and things.

So, Jokowi, the infrastructure president has announced and that’s been recently legislated to relocate the capital to East Kalimantan, a very, very ambitious project. And I think there are also benefits and risks, although it’s going to be a smart and Green City. I think there are broad implications for the environment and biodiversity and ecology up there. Whether this will be a white elephant project, Gene, which won’t outlast Joko Widodo’s presidency; we know the presidential elections will be in 2024. Whether this capital, I guess what I would say, if you take the, at a micro scale, the Jakarta bundle high speed rail project and extrapolate that to a much more ambitious infrastructure project in the new capital city, how successful and how protracted and how problematic? Will it be? It remains to be seen?

Gene Tunny  1:01:59

Yeah. One of the things that economists have observed over the years is that any mega project brings big risks of cost blowouts. So, you just see it all the time. I’ll have to cover that on the show in the future. Right oh! Greta, this has been fabulous. I think we’d like to wrap up have picked your brain for nearly an hour. Any. Any final thoughts? Before we wrap up? Anything we should we should have covered?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  1:02:27

No, look, I think you could talk for hours about strategic developments and regional dynamics, Gene, and there’s so much going on at the moment. It’s barely possible to keep abreast of all the developments. So, I’d like to thank you very much for having me today.

Gene Tunny  1:02:46

Oh, pleasure. Where can we find more about your work? Do you publish your work on, is it LowE Institute from time to time or SB?

Greta Nabbs-Keller  1:02:56

Yeah, I publish but it’s on that SB’s blog, the strategist and the Low E Institute for International Policy. The interpreter recently I’ve had some analysis published with the conversation and Australian foreign affairs, AFA on Indonesia and particularly the new government, Albanese governments, Indonesia policy settings.

Gene Tunny  1:03:20

Ah, right. Okay, I forgot to ask about that. I guess it’s early days. So, I’ll put a link to your article in the show notes so people can have a read of that.

Very good. Okay. Dr. Greta Nabbs-Keller, thanks so much for being on the program, really enjoyed it. Thank you. Okay, that’s the end of this episode of Economics Explored. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please tell your family and friends and leave a comment or give us a rating on your podcast app. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, you can feel free to send them to contact@economicsexplored.com And we’ll aim to address them in a future episode. Thanks for listening. Till next week, goodbye.

Credits

Thanks to the show’s audio engineer Josh Crotts for his assistance in producing the episode and to the show’s sponsor, Gene’s consultancy business www.adepteconomics.com.au

Please consider signing up to receive our email updates and to access our e-book Top Ten Insights from Economics at www.economicsexplored.com. Also, please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com or sending a voice message via https://www.speakpipe.com/economicsexplored. Economics Explored is available via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

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US Inflation, Woke Capitalism & China w/ Darren Brady Nelson – EP127

With US inflation at a 40-year high, who wins and who loses? Are greedy corporations to blame as some pundits are suggesting? Episode 127 of Economics Explored features a wide-ranging conversation with Darren Brady Nelson, Chief Economist of LibertyWorks, an Australian libertarian think tank, which also considers so-called Woke Capitalism and what’s going on with China. Here’s a video clip from the episode featuring Darren chatting with show host Gene Tunny about the 40-year high US inflation rate.

In the second part of the show, the Grattan Institute’s Economic Policy Program Director Brendan Coates explains the franking credits controversy, related to some peculiar Australian tax rules, to show host Gene Tunny.   

You can listen to the episode using the podcast player below or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher, among other podcasting apps.

About this episode’s guests

Darren Brady Nelson is an Austrian School economist and liberty evangelion as well as a C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton style Christian. He is currently the Chief Economist at LibertyWorks of Brisbane Australia and a long-time policy advisor to The Heartland Institute of Chicago USA. He is also a regular commentator in traditional and online Australian and American media. Check out his full profile at Regular guests – Economics Explored.

Brendan Coates is the Economic Policy Program Director at Grattan Institute, where he leads Grattan’s work on tax and transfer system reform, retirement incomes and superannuation, housing, macroeconomics, and migration. He is a former macro-financial economist with the World Bank in Indonesia and consulted to the Bank in Latin America. Prior to that, he worked in the Australian Treasury in areas such as tax-transfer system reform and macro-economic forecasting, with a strong focus on the Chinese economy.

Americans Return to Work as Biden Administration Work Disincentives Expire, but Jobs Remain Over 7 million Below Trend | Latest | America First Policy Institute (article referring to inflation tax of $855/year for an American family associated with a 7% yearly inflation rate)

Summers stumbles – John Quiggin

Woke Capitalism Is a Monopoly Game | Mises Wire

Joe Biden appears to insult Fox News reporter over inflation question

The implications of removing refundable franking credits – Grattan Institute

Here’s another video clip from the episode in which Gene and Darren compare the contributions to economics of Friedman, Keynes, and Mises:

Charts

US CPI inflation rate, through-the-year

US Producer Prices inflation rate, through-the-year

US inflation expectations – University of Michigan estimates

Clarifications

“Average hourly earnings for all employees on US private nonfarm payrolls increased by 5.7% year-on-year in January of 2022” (see United States Average Hourly Earnings YoY – January 2022 Data – 2007-2021 Historical) This compares with inflation running at 7.5% through-the-year. 

Amazon hikes average US starting pay to $18, hires for 125,000 jobs | Reuters

Abbreviations

CPI Consumer Price Index

PPI Producer Price Index

Credits

Thanks to Darren and Brendan for great insights and conversation, and to the show’s audio engineer Josh Crotts for his assistance in producing the episode. 

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com or sending a voice message via https://www.speakpipe.com/economicsexplored. Economics Explored is available via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

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120. Inflation, Covid, China & Crypto

2021 saw accelerating inflation in advanced economies, the pandemic continuing, cracks appearing in the Chinese economic model, and massive price growth in cryptocurrencies and NFTs. In episode 120, Economics Explored host Gene Tunny discusses the big issues of 2021 and looks forward to 2022 with frequent guest Tim Hughes.

The episode also features discussion on the COP26 climate change summit, the idea of “degrowth” advanced by some ecologists and environmentalists, and feedback on EP115 on the Opioid Crisis and the War on Drugs.  

Crazy Crypto charts Gene refers to in the episode

Australia’s largest bitcoin mine hopes to utilise unused renewable energy and lead the world on decarbonisation

Covid: Dutch go into Christmas lockdown over Omicron wave

 WHO forecasts coronavirus pandemic will end in 2022

China struggles to shrug off weak consumer spending and property woes 

China Evergrande reports progress in resuming home deliveries

Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it

EP115 – The Opioid Crisis and the War on Drugs

Thanks to the show’s audio engineer Josh Crotts for his assistance in producing the episode. 

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com or sending a voice message via https://www.speakpipe.com/economicsexplored. Economics Explored is available via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

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EP111 – Australian Senator Matt Canavan – COP26 Dissenting Voices Part 2

In Episode 111, Australian Senator Matt Canavan, Australia’s most prominent critic of the Net Zero by 2050 policy to address climate change, speaks with Economics Explored host Gene Tunny about the 2021 UN climate change summit, COP26 (i.e. the 26th Conference of the Parities) and policies to address climate change. 

About this episode’s guest – Senator Matt Canavan

Matt Canavan is a Liberal National Party Senator for the state of Queensland, Australia. Matt was first elected at the 2013 Australian federal election for the term beginning 1 July 2014. He was the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia between February 2016 and February 2020. Matt holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Economics (Hons.) from the University of Queensland. He has professional experience working as an economist in Australia’s Productivity Commission, and he has also worked as a consultant at KPMG. Matt’s main office is in Rockhampton, in Central Queensland.

Matt spoke with Gene over Zoom while located in his Parliament House office in Canberra, Australia. The conversation was recorded on Friday 22 October 2021. 

Links relevant to the conversation

FLASHBACK: Queensland’s hydrogen-powered car | 7NEWS

Global Coal Plant Tracker

EP110 – COP26 Dissenting Voices Part 1 – Dr Alan Moran

EP108 – COP26 climate change summit with Tony Wood, Grattan Institute

Thanks to the show’s audio engineer Josh Crotts for his assistance in producing the episode. Check out his Upwork profile.

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com. Economics Explored is available via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

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Podcast episode

EP110 – COP26 Dissenting Voices Part 1: Dr Alan Moran

In Economics Explored Episode 110, Dr Alan Moran, prominent Australian critic of climate change and renewable energy policies, speaks with show host Gene Tunny about the 2021 UN climate change summit, COP26 (i.e. the 26th Conference of the Parities).

About this episode’s guest – Dr Alan Moran

Dr Alan Moran is Director of Regulation Economics, a consultancy firm. He is a noted economist who, in his own words, “has analysed and written extensively from a free market perspective.”  Dr Moran was the Director of the Deregulation Unit at the Australian Institute of Public Affairs from 1996 until 2014. He was previously a senior official in Australia’s Productivity Commission and Director of the Australian Government’s Office of Regulation Review. Subsequently, he played a leading role in the development of energy policy and competition policy review as the Deputy Secretary for Energy in the Victorian Government. Dr Moran was educated in the UK and has a PhD in transport economics from the University of Liverpool and degrees from the University of Salford and the London School of Economics. 

Links relevant to the conversation

Beware a blind charge to net-zero emissions | The Spectator Australia

Australia’s Obscene Green Subsidy Machine – Quadrant Online

The Business Council of Australia’s green schizophrenia | The Spectator Australia

Bruce Mountain article The verdict is in: renewables reduce energy prices (yes, even in South Australia)

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET)

EP108 – COP26 climate change summit with Tony Wood, Grattan Institute

Thanks to the show’s audio engineer Josh Crotts for his assistance in producing the episode. Check out his Upwork profile.

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com. Economics Explored is available via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

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EP108 – COP26 climate change summit with Tony Wood, Grattan Institute

In Economics Explored Episode 108, energy and climate change policy expert Tony Wood from the Grattan Institute explains what COP26, the 2021 climate change conference in Glasgow, is all about and why it’s important. Tony discusses what Net Zero emissions means exactly, the prospects for nuclear energy, and implications for fossil fuel (e.g. coal) dependent economies. 

About this episode’s guest – Tony Wood AM

Tony Wood is Program Director for Energy and Climate Change at the Grattan Institute, a leading Australian public policy think tank. Tony has been a Program Director at Grattan since 2011 after 14 years working at Origin Energy in senior executive roles.

From 2009 to 2014 he was also Program Director of Clean Energy Projects at the Clinton Foundation, advising governments in the Asia-Pacific region on effective deployment of large-scale, low-emission energy technologies. In 2008, he was seconded to provide an industry perspective to the first Garnaut climate change review.

In January 2018, Tony was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of his significant service to conservation and the environment, particularly in the areas of energy policy, climate change and sustainability. In October 2019, Tony was elected as a Fellow to the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Links relevant to the conversation

Australia’s emissions strategy should be a countdown to zero

EP99 – Carbon border taxes

EP92 – Nuclear energy and decarbonizing economies

EP86 – Decarbonizing the Economy

Thanks to the show’s audio engineer Josh Crotts for his assistance in producing the episode.

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com. Economics Explored is available via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

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EP98 – Political legitimacy with Prof. Phillip LeBel

In Risk and the State, Professor Phillip LeBel argues the political legitimacy of governments worldwide is “under trial from questions of borders and national identity, from rising economic inequality, from the way in which information is gathered, managed, and disseminated, and from varying perceptions of risk.”

In EP98 on political legitimacy, host Gene Tunny interviews  Prof. Phillip LeBel about his new book published earlier this year by Brown Walker Press: Risk and the State: How Economics and Neuroscience Shape Political Legitimacy to Address Geopolitical, Environmental, and Health Risks for Sustainable Governance.  

Phillip LeBel is Emeritus Professor of Economics at Montclair State University, NJ. With a career combining academic research and teaching with professional consulting, Professor LeBel has accumulated a record of economic expertise in a variety of domestic and international fields. Over the years, he has lived in and/or worked in 30 countries, including Africa, East Asia, Central America, and Latin America.

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com. Economics Explored is available via Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.