6-Star Utterly Brilliant Survey and Strategy, April 19, 2016
The author of this book has done something no one else has done – I say this as the reviewer of over 2,000 non-fiction books at Amazon across 98 categories. For the first time, in one book, we have a very clear map of what is happening where in the way of economic and social development; a startlingly diplomatic but no less crushing indictment of nation-state and militaries; and a truly inspiring game plan for what we should all be demanding from countries, cities, commonwealths, communities, and companies, in the way of future investments guided by a strategy for creating a prosperous world at peace.
This is a nuanced deeply stimulating book that makes it clear that China’s grand strategy of building infrastructure has beaten the US strategy of threatening everyone with a dysfunctional military that crushes hope and destroys wealth everywhere it goes; that connectivity (cell phones, the Internet, roads, high-speed rail, tunnels, bridges, and ferries) is the accelerator for wealth creation by the five billion poor that most Western states and corporations ignore; and it provides to me more surprises, more factoids I did not know, more insights – than any five to ten other books I have read over time.
At one point it occurred to me that in some ways the author is our generation’s successor to Alvin Toffler, Peter Drucker, and Robert Kaplan, combined. I really am deeply impressed, in part because the author’s insights come from years of crisscrossing the world and touch reality in a hands-on manner not achieved by any diplomatic, intelligence, commercial, media, or academic network in existence today; and in part because the book comes with 38 glorious color maps that are each alone worth the price of the book [an appendix points to 38 web sites that supplement the book and are a discovery journey of their own].
This is the best book – the deepest and the most useful – the author has produced to date. This is a book that should be read by every prime minister, president, senator, organizational chief – and by those who aspire to such positions. Many people publish content – few publish context – this book has both.
I have over ten pages of notes – below are just 4 quotes and 10 insights from among the hundred or so I took notes on – and strongly recommend this books for all libraries, all war colleges, all university overview courses on civilization and its malcontents.
QUOTE (175): “America’s nominal power is unsurpassed, but subtract for deterrence, distance, and competence, and its effective power is less formidable than appears on paper.”
QUOTE (199): “Eurasia represents two-thirds of the world’s population, economy, and trade, and that is before it genuinely fuses together into a connected mega-continent through voluminous durable infrastructures that will smooth and speed commerce.”
QUOTE (225): “No amount of ‘soft power’ can substitute for cutting a fair deal.”
QUOTE (287): “Guangzhou’s first lesson is the importance of administrative harmony. … The second lesson from the delta region’s evolution is leveraging openness.”
3/4 of the world’s population lacks basic infrastructure and utilities – this is the center of gravity going forward.
China has 2,000 commercial maritime vessels compared to 200 for the USA at the same time that Chinese high-speed rail is the 21st century alternative to air and road travel around the world.
China also has multiple sucking chest wounds, including the loss of half its rivers such that its population has one fifth the per capita water compared to the rest of the world; buildings that last fifteen years instead of thirty-five.
Devolution (smaller sovereignty/control zones) is inherently both democratic and efficient – we are migrating from sovereign space to admin space, in which hybrid governance where all non-government players have equal voice and vote) removes friction and increases flow.
Global warming is good for Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Russia – the Arctic is the next frontier, and ideally will be kept demilitarized – a priority championed by Norway.
Iran is the most connected nation in the Middle East.
Muslim violence in the Middle East is politically fostered and neither inherent in Islam nor ideological.
Russia, for lack of infrastructure, is losing swaths of its previously controlled territory, citizens, and resources to Europe in the East and China in the West; Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia are all under-performing for lack of investment in infrastructure (communications and transportation).
Special Economic Zones (SEZ) represent the unbundling and remixing of territory and resources, the relative demise of the nation-state in the face of superior agility at the city-state level.
Systemic change happens every couple of centuries – we are on the cusp of a global systemic revolution that will change every paradigm from economics to governance to lifestyle.
I have one caveat about this book, easily corrected in future printings and translations. The book comes with the most incomplete index I have ever encountered in a book of this quality and depth. If the book as a whole is a six-star work, the index is at best a 2 and barely so.
Readers interested in going into depth on any particular threat or policy (e.g. poverty as a threat or water as a policy) can find my 2000+ summary reviews online sorted by category at Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog.
Below are ten books I recommend as supporting complements to this great work.
Transforming the Dream: Ecologism and the Shaping of an Alternative American Vision
The Big Disconnect: Why The Internet Hasn't Transformed Politics (Yet)
Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)
The Lessons of History
Homeland Earth : A Manifesto for the New Millennium (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity and the Human Sciences)
A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It
World 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve It
Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order
God and Science: Coming Full Circle?
Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure
ROBERT David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability