A stimulating look at the tectonic forces impelling China and America toward a financial earthquake.

FINANCIAL COLD WAR

A VIEW OF SINO-US RELATIONS FROM THE FINANCIAL MARKETS

China and the United States may be on a collision course provoked by the forces of international finance, according to this study.

Fok, an investment banker and former executive at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, surveys the intricate interplay of domestic and international economics, government policy, and intense rivalry that shapes the relationship between a United States that sits atop the global finance system and a China with burgeoning fiscal clout. He examines the “geo-economic warfare” between the two powers. This conflict involves the trade war started by then-President Donald Trump, featuring tariffs, sanctions, and bans on Chinese tech companies; the tensions over China’s huge trade surplus with the U.S.; China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which uses foreign investments and aid to draw other countries into its economic orbit; and military confrontations in the South China Sea. But he probes the deeper structural forces beneath the surface clashes. One is the role of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, which lets America borrow endlessly from other countries at low interest rates but requires it to run huge balance-of-payments deficits to supply liquidity to the global economy. Meanwhile, the dollar’s structural overvaluation makes U.S. exports and manufacturing uncompetitive. Another factor is China’s investment-led growth model, which causes it to build too much industrial capacity while keeping wages and consumer spending artificially low, exacerbating trade imbalances. And both China and America, the author contends, have followed economic and tax policies that favor wealthy corporate elites. The author’s recommendations include international cooperation in ending the dollar’s position as the global currency and progressive taxes and campaign finance reform in America. China, for its part, could ease off industrial investment, boost wages and consumption, and make governance more transparent.

Fok offers an insightful analysis of the world economy that extracts underlying patterns from the confusion of everyday commerce. He sets it against an intriguing, if meandering, recap of episodes from economic history, covering everything from the Great Recession of 2008 and the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference that launched America to world economic supremacy to the financial governance of medieval Venice and the Ming dynasty’s pullback from maritime exploration in the 15th century. The author makes this potentially dry material colorful and entertaining, with prose that is sophisticated and well informed but also lucid and accessible. His deep knowledge of the Chinese economy and financial system lets him discuss them in detail—“When investors sell their Mainland A-shares, the obligation to deliver back their cash falls on the Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company (HKSCC), a subsidiary of HKEX, which is subject to Hong Kong’s laws and regulations.” But he can also step back for elegant, big-picture perspectives. (“Far from being the last man standing at the end of history, America has arrived at the end of its unipolar moment a hobbled giant. Its finances overstretched, its military exhausted, its infrastructure crumbling, its society divided, and unpopular overseas, it would not be inapt to paraphrase the term used to describe the Ottoman Empire before WW1 and call the US the ‘Sick Man of North America.’ ”) Both finance professionals and lay readers interested in money, history, and geopolitics will find this a captivating, sweeping, and timely read.

A stimulating look at the tectonic forces impelling China and America toward a financial earthquake.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-119-86276-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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