America First -> People First


I spent the day in Hermanus, near Cape Town again, managing to do some writing and research, as well as another cliff walk. I tried to go kayaking or out on the boat but the waves were too big and they canceled it. A friend who I knew from Hong Kong – ex financier – kindly drove down to see me and we discussed a number of global issues. Like other smart Africans who I have met, he said people underestimated how long the effects of apartheid would linger. It wont be solved in just one generation.  That said, I have met many who are optimistic about the longer term prospects of South Africa, and all of Africa. I share that optimism. For many years I restricted my global analysis to the Americas, Asia, Europe and a bit on Australasia. But I never commented on Africa. This is now changing as I believe its important because of both its history and future. I noticed that Goldman Sachs has also rated South Africa as its top emerging market pick this year and the rand has been rising since the change of President.

In terms of the history,  I just met archeologist Dean Liprini in Cape Town who has studied about the ancient civilisations which used to live in Southern Africa. Things are getting quite interesting nowadays as they keep finding older and older human remains, and they all keep discovering ruins which are older and older. The conclusion might be that we have underestimated so much about human history. And I have a lot of interest in the idea that previous technologically advanced human civilisations existed. More on that soon.

Trump @ Davos

I am still going through some of the talks and insights from Davos. But I thought Trump’s talk was significant. If you don’t like Trump you probably wmouldnt have bothered to read his talk at the World Economic Forum.

Here was one Twitter I saw.

A lot of people complain about Trump’s nationalism and approach to the world. Having lived in Asia for many years of my life and travelled to a fair few  countries, I am not sure that Trump is so extreme.  I spoke at a conference for the Chinese government last year and the Chinese were a lot more jingoistic than Trump. They literally want to economically go out and conquer the world with the new Belt and Road Initiative. And although the world’s media often fawns over President Xi, he is a lot more authoritarian than Trump, or any US President could be.

Trump’s speech did focus a lot on the new investment that was coming into the USA. Here is a chart from PWC’s CEO Survey:

He also gushed about other economic metrics improving. I think one significant change for this administration was cutting 13 regulatory rules for every 1 new one introduced so far. I believe that deregulation helps SMEs more than the large corporations with have large legal teams and actual contribute to make a lot of regulation in the first place. And I think we are all getting tired of so much nonsensical red tape which doesn’t seem to make our lives better in many cases.

Wilbur Ross

A lot of people find the way Trump articulates anything quite unpalatable. But if you listen to Wilbur Ross’s stance and reasoning around trade with China it is quite enlightening, and sounds pretty fair.

It could be well worth your time watching the full panel at Davos. Again in Ross’s final statement he says “we don’t intend to abrogate leadership. but leadership is different from being a sucker, a patsy…” The world’s corporate media continue to criticise America for looking out for their own interests, and I think its a little unfair.

I do see a lot of the failings of the USA. But I don’t know what it is – perhaps because I studied the US Constition as a law student or that my first job was with an American company – but I still have a faith in the idea of America. However much I love Chinese culture and my Chinese friends, I don’t see China as the role model we should follow. I welcome Chinese input but I don’t want us to follow the Chinese political mode. Small government makes more sense to me. Empower individuals and encourage decentralised self-organising systems. I believe this is the way forwards.

State of the Union

I think you might see quite a significant State of the Union address by Trump. And the signs are that he will continue to be quite hawkish on China.

Also expect more developments on the House Intelligence report, which could have significant ramifications. One might see a resignations in the FBI, DOJ and a lot lot more. [Update: House Intel Committee has voted to make FISA memo public:].

America First

I think many people in the West (and ironically many Americans) have a problem with the idea of America First , although its OK to have China First or Japan First. Extreme nationalism is not good for any of us. But there is another way of looking at this. All the trade treaties of the past 3 or 4 decades have empowered multinational companies to the detriment of many demographies in their home countries. I mentioned this last year, highlighting Goldsmith’s book, “The Trap” which prophesied Trump, Brexit etc in a way back in the 1990s. You can read it here:

And the bigger move that could be a foot is towards localisation and decentralisation of power. This is not mutually exclusive with international co-operation or friendship.  This would be a move toward People First. I think there is a lot of evidence now to suggest that this would be the better way to govern ourselves.



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