Globalization, complexity, and China

Society & Culture

Anthea Roberts and Nicolas Lamp, authors of the new book 'Six Faces of Globalization,' appeared on the Sinica Podcast to discuss China’s role in a changing world — and how to think about common narratives on this or any other complex topic.

rubiks cube for globalization
Illustration for SupChina by Derek Zheng

Below is a complete transcript of the Sinica Podcast episode with Anthea Roberts and Nicolas Lamp.

Kaiser Kuo: Welcome to the Sinica Podcast, a weekly discussion of current affairs in China produced in partnership with SupChina. Subscribe to SupChina’s daily Access newsletter to keep on top of all the latest news from China from hundreds of different news sources, or check out all the original writing on our site at supchina.com, including reported stories, editorials, and regular columns, as well as a growing library of podcasts. We cover everything from China’s fraught foreign relations to its ingenious entrepreneurs. From the ongoing repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim people in China’s Xinjiang region to the tectonic shifts underway as China rolls out what we call the Red New Deal. It’s a feast of business, political, and cultural news about a nation that is reshaping the world. We cover China with neither fear nor favor.

I’m Kaiser Kuo coming to you from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

I’ve mentioned in some previous shows that for the first few months of this year I’m planning on focusing the show on the broad topic of “thinking about thinking about China.” After all, it seems plain to me that what we think about China depends in large measure on how we think about China. And this is true, of course, for all things, but it’s especially the case when we’re talking about something as colossally complex and multifaceted as a nation of 1.4 billion people in the throes of world historic change.

Today’s show, I hope, will serve as a sort of overture to the series. And I’m super excited about the guests that I’ve lined up for this program for the rest of the series. So if you have listened to Sinica over the last several years, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I have some precepts or maxims that I like to invoke that I try, however imperfectly, to practice some habits of mind or approaches to understanding China that I find really admirable in others and that I advocate for where I can. Some of these precepts or principles I can attach a name to. And with some, I sort of understand the lineage of the ideas or who came out with them or who I should credit. Foxes and hedgehogs? Well, that’s Isaiah Berlin. Empathy was a big theme with my mentor at the University of Arizona, Allen Whiting. Cognitive empathy, though — I think I first heard Robert Wright use the phrase, and he’s been a tireless promoter of the concept. There’s the late Robert Jervis, who I mentioned in last week’s show with all that emphasis on perception and security dilemma sensibility.

Others, though, I could never quite articulate the ideas themselves. And while I assumed that there were people out there approaching complex problems in similar ways, I guess I just hadn’t really encountered them.

Then one day, the scholar Anthea Roberts reached out to me on Twitter and told me about her forthcoming book co-written with Nicolas Lamp. She really opened up a world. Suddenly I had phrases like “dragonfly eyes” and “integrative complexity” to hand. And maybe because I was suddenly aware of what to be listening for, it felt all at once like the world was teeming with people whose approaches to thinking really resonated with me. People like Daniel Kahneman and his ideas about two types of thinking, slow and fast, and about what he calls cognitive ease. Howard Gardner, who is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences. And someone I mentioned last week, too, Philip Tetlock, who has done amazing work on political psychology and decision making on forecasting. His book with Dan Gardner on superforecasting from a few years back is great. And I’ve mentioned that before on the show. Hopefully, we will touch on some or perhaps even all of these people today.

So my guests today are Anthea Roberts and Nicolas Lamp, who have written one of those rare books that really has the potential to change not just the positive content of your beliefs, but the very process of arriving at beliefs. The book is Six Faces of Globalization: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why It Matters. And in it, they answered quite concretely something I’m sure many of us have been asking. What is the right mindset, the right mental model, with which to approach complex issues? The book to me felt like an upgrade to my mental operating system and I can’t commend it highly enough. It’s not a book specifically about China, but because it explores different narratives about globalization, China figures into it to a very large extent as you will see.

It’s a book that — sure, it models some of the modes of thinking that I’ve been championing on this show for some time, but it goes well beyond that. And it articulates not only these hopefully familiar ideas in ways that I’ve never really been able to, but it also added, at least for me, substantially to my cognitive toolbox in a way that few books have ever done. There is great wisdom in this book, and that is not something that I say at all lightly.

So let me warmly welcome my two guests today, the co-authors of the book, Six Faces of Globalization. Anthea Roberts is a legal scholar who is a professor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance at Australian National University. She is the author of, Is International Law International? But despite her legal training and focus is in fact the very model of a modern interdisciplinary scholar. I feel like singing that. Anthea, welcome to Sinica.

Anthea Roberts: Thank you for having me, Kaiser.

Kaiser: So wonderful that you could be here. Also joining at Sinica today is Nicolas Lamp, associate professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University confusingly in Kingston, Ontario with a joint appointment in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies. He’s worked with the WTO for many years and his focus has been on International Trade Systems. Nicolas, welcome to Sinica.

Nicolas Lamp: Thanks so much for having me.

Kaiser: So the book that you guys have written lays out six main narratives in the Western discourse on globalization and then goes on to describe how they overlap with one another, how they’re deployed by proponents, how people switch between and among them, and much more.

This concept of a narrative, let’s start with, is really central to the work. Really for over the last few years, I’ve seen some people push back against what they would call the overuse or maybe the abuse of the word narrative with the complaint usually along lines of that the word has simply come to stand in for a position or a take or an idea. That’s not how you use it at all though. In fact, you do something that I found very useful. You actually define what a narrative is in this context and what its building blocks are. So Nicolas, can we start with you? Could you quickly walk us through what a narrative is and what its constituent parts are?

Nicolas: Thanks so much Kaiser for the introduction. And I should say at the outset that we didn’t come up with this conceptualization of narratives ourselves. So we draw on a broad array of literature. But what really stood out in that literature, what’s consistent across several accounts, is that narratives have basically four building blocks. The first one is the framing or the way to set the scene. And if we think about globalization, we could ask what picture comes to mind or which picture do we foreground? Is it the container ship that is traversing the ocean bringing us cheap goods? Is it the abandoned factory? Is it the polluted river? Is it the polar bear on the ice floe? And so these are all ways of framing the problem in a particular way. So when we think about globalization, what is the problem? And every narrative does that explicitly or implicitly.

The next element is the protagonists: who are the winners and losers of the story and who has agency, who’s driving the story forward. Next, the third element is the plot. What is actually happening here and why is it happening here? So each narrative has to have some kind of causal account about who has caused what and who is driving developments. And the fourth element, which is really important for us, is the moral of the story. It’s how should we think about what’s happening? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? And that also then leads to policy prescriptions. What should we do about it?

Kaiser: Fantastic. So I guess the next step is let’s walk through what the main six narratives are. And with the illustrations that you suggested at the outset there, the polar bear and the ice floe, the container ship making its way across. All these things evoke different narratives in your book and with the caveat that these are the most commonly found narratives in the Western discourse on globalization. Let’s describe each of them briefly in terms of those very building blocks that you’ve just laid out. And maybe let’s start, as you do in the book, with the establishment narrative. And maybe Anthea, you can sketch that for us.

Anthea: So the establishment narrative is really the narrative that I think was dominant in the Western debates, particularly in the 1990s and 2000s. And it was one that was dominant, not just, I think, in the Western debates, but in a lot of the non-Western world as well. And it’s really the idea that economic globalization is not just sort of an unstoppable force, but it’s an unstoppable good. And it’s the one that says that it’s a win-win situation, it’s a rising tide that lifts all boats, or it’s a growing of the pie so that everyone can have a bigger slice. And it tends to have a very economic framing to it. So it’s your container ship, it’s your global GDP and your country GDP with the idea that good things also come from that. So it’s not just economic, it’s that standard of living rise, et cetera.

But it’s really a push towards thinking about how do we make things more efficient so that we can grow the economic size, the pie, and have benefits. And it’s one that we call the establishment narrative. Not just because it was dominant in many states, but it was also dominant in many of the international institutions. So if you think about the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, they tended to really have this championing of things like free trade. And there was the idea with this that it made everybody better off. So it doesn’t matter if you are a developed country or a developing country. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. Everybody stands to gain from economic globalization.

Now that doesn’t mean that they always said that everybody gains equally or straight away. So there was definitely the idea that the first step you do at the international level is you grow the size of the pie, and then you leave the distribution issues to the messy politics of the domestic level so that the winners could compensate the losers. But they were a bit agnostic about actually ensuring that that did happen, but there was an idea of leaving redistribution to a domestic level.

And the other thing that we heard was that there were some people who obviously lost out in the short-term because their jobs were taken away and were told, “Look, really, this is a bit like technology. You’ve just got to adjust. And so you need to move, you need to retrain, but this is happening and globally it’s good. It’ll be good for you in the long run. It’ll be good for your children in the long run.” And so really even if not always and not straight away, this is a win-win story for all.

Kaiser: Right. So the next set of narratives are the left-wing and the right-wing populist narratives. Nicolas, you worked a lot on sort of fleshing out those in the book, as I understand it. And I will want to ask you about that experience, especially in dealing with the right-wing narrative. But first, what are these narratives and how are they similar and how are they different?

Nicolas: So the common feature that left-wing populist and right-wing populist share is a distrust or disenchantment with the elites, even hostility, you could say. So both have this vertical hostility from the people, the pure people towards the elite. But there’s also a key difference because of what they fault the elite for. The left-wing populists essentially fault the elite for enriching themselves and ripping off the working classes and the middle class. Whereas the right-wing populists primarily fault the elite for selling out the people to outsiders, to an external other, be it by offshoring jobs or be it by allowing immigrants, in the change the composition of the population. So there’s also a strong horizontal element in the right-wing populist narrative that we don’t have in the left-wing populist narrative. And we can see this difference really clearly in the central metaphors of the two narratives.

So for the left-wing populist, it’s this idea that the economy is rigged. That the rich have written rules of the economy in a way that they always get richer, be it by the way they draw their zoning regulations, by the way they design the financial system and so forth. And it’s really so domestic policy problems that are at the core of the question of who wins and loses. Whereas if you look at the central metaphors of the right-wing populist narratives, we see that’s always a reference to something external, like the stealing of jobs that Trump was always talking about. If somebody else is doing the stealing, the elites are allowing the stealing, but it’s the Mexicans and the Chinese who are stealing the jobs or the invasion of immigrants. They’re the immigrants that are coming in from the outside. In the case of Brexit, the idea we have to retake control from whom do we have to retake control, not from our own elites, but from that external organization, the European Union. So there’s this strong external element which is the key difference between the two narratives.

Kaiser: That’s really very clear. And then the next pair of narratives, I’ll ask Anthea to talk about, the geoeconomic and the corporate power narratives. The geoeconomic one, in particular, is really relevant to China and to our listenership. So let’s focus on that. But what are these two narratives in a nutshell?

Anthea: So Kaiser, I would say the geoeconomic one is the one that is probably the most familiar to listeners as Sinica, and also the one that there’s probably the most hostility towards from the listeners as Sinica. So the geoeconomic one basically says, instead of looking at particular classes, which is what you see in the left-wing populist narrative or particular communities that might have been left behind like the rust belt and the right-wing populist narrative. This one focuses on the central characters or units of analysis being countries, and in particular, great power competition between the U.S. and China. And essentially it wouldn’t necessarily disagree with the essence of the establishment claim that there has been an absolute gain in terms of incomes that everyone has won in an absolute sense from economic globalization. But it shifts the focus very much to relative gains.

And in particular, it says over this period of high globalization, what we’ve seen is that both the U.S. and China have won on an absolute level, but China has closed the gap with the United States, economically, militarily, technologically. And this is now that closing of the gap that relative gain is now pricking a very strong reaction from the U.S. and some of the other Western states around the world to start to want to rethink some of the ideas of economic globalization.

And so here we start to see, instead of a focus just on a win-win, we start to see ways in which that you might be vulnerable or losing as a result of economic interdependence. So economic interdependence, things like supply chains, may be very economically efficient, but they may also leave you vulnerable. Vulnerable to economic coercion, vulnerable to goods being stopped, et cetera.

We see a lot of discussion about some of the key networks of the global economy being weaponized, whether that’s the weaponization of financial instruments or digital connectivity, a real focus on things like 5G. And what we see here is a competitive superpower element that often leads us to think about not just economic competition, but technological competition. And so whereas something like the right-wing populist narrative would focus for example on lost manufacturing jobs. And jobs are the traditional bygone era in a way for some of the Western countries. The geo-economic narrative firmly looks to the technological advantage of who’s going to sort of win in these technological areas of the future, 5G, AI, quantum computing. And it has a very strong kind of security element to it. So when we start to hear national securities, economic security, you really start to see this melding of economic ways of thinking with security ways of thinking.

Now, the reference of the end there to AI and quantum and stuff makes us think about a fifth narrative actually. And that’s actually the corporate power narrative. And one of the things about the corporate power narrative is it makes us ask the question, have we got the right unit of analysis? So instead of thinking that particular classes may have been the winners from economic global organization like the top 1% or particular communities like workers in developing states versus the ones who have lost out in the developed world or particular countries like China, what it says is maybe actually the real winners of this are the multinational corporations. And that’s because the multinational corporations have been able to use our trade and investment agreements in order to create very advantageous situations for themselves.

So they can outsource production to anywhere in the world. They can attain global markets through our free trade deals. They can also get a lot of intellectual property protection. And they’re also able to, when they do foreign investment, get investor-state dispute settlement. So all sorts of protections that they’re able to get at the same stage that they’re able to evade responsibility in areas they don’t want. So they can hop, skip, and jump around the world and evade things like taxation up until recently. So we’ve managed to get international treaties on trade and investment, but not so much on taxation. But also because of their mobility, they’re able to put pressure. The argument is on governments and also particularly workers. You have the idea of a regulatory race to the bottom, or the idea that because you’re able to move around that you’re actually able to go to places where workers don’t get nearly as good a deal.

And so something like the right-wing protectionist narrative would really see, for example, Mexican workers winning at the expense of us workers. Whereas something like the corporate powered narrative would say, “No, it’s actually the ability of corporations to be able to move jobs to places like Mexico where they can actually take a good job in Canada and turn it into a bad job in Mexico.” And it may be better than the Mexicans had previously. But ultimately what this does is it strengthens the hand of capital and corporate power and it weakens the collective hand of labor. And so those are two other narratives that… The geo-economic one often has a slightly more right-wing element to it, a bit like the right-wing protections narrative, because it’s inter-country competition. And the corporate power one has a bit more of a left-leaning element to it a bit like the left-wing populist narrative because it’s often focused on inequality and that sort of exploitation. But there’re different mechanisms to what we see with the left and right-wing populists.

Kaiser: Right. That’s very well observed the way that those two tend to pair up. And in your book, you do talk about the overlaps between and among them. So it’s great. And we’ve got one left which is the, we are all screwed global threats narrative. And I’m going to give that one to you, Nicolas, to talk about. Lose-lose. What’s that all about?

Nicolas: Yeah. From the perspective of the global threats narrative, these other narratives which debate who has won and who has lost are a bit like fighting over the deck chairs on the Titanic. Right? It’s like we are trying to work within the existing economic system and in order to achieve maybe a more equal distribution of the gains, but while the entire ship is going under. And what does the ship stand for here? As a metaphor, it’s our economic systems that are driving us into catastrophe because in the book, we have this image of the hockey stick of global prosperity which you see shooting up with the Industrial Revolution and the global threats narrative points out that there’s also hockey stick of global emissions that’s also shooting up with the Industrial Revolution. And if you continue on our current path, we’re all going to suffer either through wildfires, floods… I don’t need to list all the manifestations of the climate crisis, but also through pandemics, which are similar in the respect that we can’t really tackle them if we don’t together.

And the Omicron variant is, of course, the last example that shows that if we don’t tackle COVID globally, we are never going to get out of it. So what is the basic message of this narrative? It’s first we have to really change the way in which we assess progress, in which we assess what it means to win and lose. We have to change our metric to one that takes account broader measures of human wellbeing. And also, we also have to all work together. We’re not all losing equally. And of course the poor and developing countries are probably going to lose the most and the fastest, but ultimately are going to lose if we don’t change cores.

And so two core values animate this narrative. One is sustainability. So we have to try to find a way to reorient our systems so they’re sustainable. The other one is resilience. And that is a term that has come up in a narrative that has come up really in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaiser: Fantastic. Anthea, so a couple of weeks ago when your book, Six Faces of Globalization, came up in conversation with Damien Ma on this show, I described it as a book that’s actually about thinking about complex issues and that you use the debate over globalization as a kind of a case study. I was exaggerating to make a point, and I imagine it really did begin life as a book about globalization. But maybe you guys could tell the story of how this book came to be. You were each working on separate projects at one point, but decided to team up. Can you tell that story?

Anthea: Sure. And you actually hit on something that I think is quite accurate, which is it’s always had these two different faces to it. And the project itself has changed over time. So for me, this story really began with sort of moving away from the establishment narrative that everybody wins from economic globalization, into looking at some of the work on global inequality by Branko Milanovic. And in particular, he’s very famous for the elephant graph, which many of your listeners will probably know. But in case they don’t, it’s this elephant-shaped graph about the relative gains of different percentiles in the world economy over the period of high economic globalization from 1988 to 2008. And what it basically shows in this sort of elephant shape is that the groups that have had the really strong relative gains have been the head of the elephant, which is very much the workers in the developing worlds that have gone from being really quite poor to being sort of more middle class.

And the tip of the elephant’s nose, which is pointed upwards, which is very much your 1%, your global elite that have done stunningly well in this period. But there is a huge dip at the base of the elephant’s trunk at about the 80th percentile. And that is actually the people in the developed world and in the Western world in particular, I think, that have really seen no income growth during this period of high economic globalization. And it turns out that that maps on really well to the low socioeconomic classes and working classes in developed states like the United States. And what this made me really think when I saw this is that it was a very good way of understanding Sanders and Trump in the 2016 elections, where they were both really talking to these people in the Rust Belt and these people who felt they had been left behind by economic globalization. But they had very different narratives about who was to blame.

So Trump pointed to the head elephant and said, “Who’s to blame? Well, it’s those Chinese and Mexican workers who have taken your good job.” Whereas Sanders was very much like, “No, don’t look externally, look internally at the elite in your own country, the tip of the elephant’s trunk, because they’re the ones that have exploited and sort of got the benefits in a disproportionate way.”

So I had started a blog post on this, and it was also actually the way I met Branko Milanovic. But then started work on a broader idea, which was about how do you think global? So when you’re dealing with these complex issues, how do you think in these more global ways? And I was particularly interested in how when you change scale, like Branko had done, but also when you change frame, how you really change your understanding of economic globalization. And my frame analysis was actually what I saw as the growing geo-economic competition, which really clashed an economic win-win framing with a security win-lose framing. And I sort of thought that not only when you changed frames, but when you clashed them in these ways, what happened? So I was working on that.

At the same time, Nicolas — and we didn’t actually know each other — Nicolas was working on what turned out to be a really beautiful paper with the European Journal of International Law, where he was looking at narratives about economic globalization. He was particularly trying to sympathetically understand the Trump narrative because he felt that a lot of people in our field of trade and investment were very dismissive of Trump and just thought there was nothing in it and were very hostile about it, and just thought he was economically illiterate. And his sense was that we needed to better and empathetically understand it as a narrative. And so he was working on the establishment narrative and the Trump narrative. And in the process of doing that also started working on the corporate power narrative, which we see from people like Dani Rodrik.

And so I was working on my book on geoeconomics, he was working on these three narratives. A friend suggested that we come together. And so we came together and started batting around like, how does my scheme work with your scheme? And in the process of doing that, we already had the basis for five of our narratives. And we started to realize that there was a bit of a structure to them that the economic establishment one was a win-win analysis, that we started to realize that the left-wing populist, the right-wing populist, the corporate power and the geo-economic were all win-lose narratives, but with different ideas about who won and who lost.

But what we then came to was actually that on the other side of the win-win analysis was actually this lose-lose one, because we’d been asking ourselves, well, where does climate change fit in? Where do these other threats fit in? We developed that as a final narrative. And so we were batting around these ideas, and that was what ultimately led to the book. In particular, because quite early on after we had formulated those, I ended up in London and saw that Branko was in town. We arranged to have dinner, as we always do. We said, “What are you working on?” I showed him these six narratives and he was really intrigued by it. And he said, “You should talk to my publisher.” And that’s how the book started.

Kaiser: Fantastic. Well, the two of you do such an excellent job of presenting good faith representations of these six narratives. I think it’s one of the book’s, great strengths. We present them as the proponents of each narrative would understand them. That cannot have been easy. And I’m sure there are going to be readers who are going to take issues, especially with your presentation of some of these arguments. I’m thinking in particular of the right-wing populist narrative. There will be some people who think maybe that talking about their wanting to preserve traditional community is a euphemism for xenophobia or even for flat-out racism or White supremacy.

I wanted to ask you guys about that, specifically Nicolas, because you do deal with this idea of racism, anti-foreignism that others, many… I hope most of our listeners in the mainstream will find distastefully intolerant. And for both of you, and especially Nicolas, because I think you were the one who was sort of getting your hands dirty in the YouTube channels of the right. How did this experience of researching and writing the book… How did it change your understanding of these narratives, especially these ones that you did not feel initially comfortable with?

Nicolas: Yes. Thank you for that question. And has been one of the most interesting experiences in writing the book to really try to delve into a world that is not my own. It was very easy to write. For example, the left-wing populist ones, I have no hesitation of referring to private equity funds as locusts or something like that. Whereas it was very hard to master the kind of sympathy for some of the politicians such as Trump or the Brexit years or the…

Kaiser: The AfD. Yeah.

Nicolas: Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, AfD in Germany that was necessary in order to implement our approach. And really just to set that out at the beginning, it’s a methodological choice in our part to approach these narratives with two ways. First without contempt for those who hold them, right? And I think you only have to think of Hillary Clinton’s comment about the basket of deplorables. To understand that if you approach a group of people with contempt, you’re not going to get anywhere. You may motivate your own tribe, but you’re not going to understand them any better. And they’re not going to be able to persuade anyone. But the other strategic choice or methodological choice that we made was to take the narratives at face value and not kind of go behind the motivation.

It’s a question of the motivations, which is of course, a problematic assumption to make in many instances. And it’s also one reason why we stop at conspiracy theories. We don’t engage with conspiracy theories or climate denial or COVID denial, which wasn’t really an issue at the time when we started working on the book. But we take the narratives at face value, but that meant that we had to try to understand them. And you can’t understand them without listening. You can’t understand the narratives just based on your preconceived ideas. And so what I tried to do was to listen to interviews, especially with voters of the AfD. For example, Germany, with the Brexitiers, with listening to Trump’s speeches and try to strip away some of the rhetoric and really try to drill down on that last part, the moral of the story, the values that we’re animating them.

And again, I should also say our attempt is never, our aim is not to say that we should all agree with all these narratives. It was an attempt to peel away the rhetoric in order to identify these values in order to see, well, is this something really something that we have to reject, right? Because absolutely if there’s xenophobia or racism, there’s no question in my mind that we want to reject it and it’s unacceptable. But what we found was there were often fears, or there were people with caring about things that they thought were positive and that others might also see as positive, right? And they were trying to preserve things that we all value and that they saw threatened by certain developments. And so revealing those values that they were cared about, seem to us to provide potentially a basis for a conversation.

We may still find that ultimately there is the unacceptable attitudes and the unacceptable views, but at least it helps us to understand where they’re coming from not necessarily demonize them. And because ultimately the aim, if we want to move forward has to be, to peel away those who are open to persuasion, whose manifestation of the political beliefs is based on misconceptions and misunderstandings peel them away from the hard right, from the racist and from the xenophobes. And so we’re not, we cannot do that unless we understand where they’re coming from. Anyway, that was the basic attempt that we were trying to make.

Anthea: Can I add one thing to what Nicolas said in terms of the right one?

Kaiser: Sure, absolutely.

Anthea: So I agree with obviously the way Nicolas presents that process of trying to understand the different narratives, but I think on a meta level, it’s also interesting to note that we went through a journey with this book, which is a little bit like I would say the journey that Jon Haidt went through in his Righteous Mind book. So in his Righteous Mind book, which was to look at the difference of moral bases of liberals and conservatives, he actually started out that as quite liberal and wanting to better explain to liberals how to appeal to other values. And yet, by the end of the book, he had actually moved to be more centrist and had gained more of an appreciation for some of the conservative values than he had before.

And also more concern about some of the intolerances on the left about sort of a proponent for finding their own values. And I think we’ve had a similar thing happen where some of the narratives that we weren’t as intuitively sympathetic to at the beginning, we’ve come to really see that all of them have something strong and important that you need to understand what it is they’re valuing and how they’re valuing it and what’s behind them. And that all of them have a point to make, even if they are not all is ones that you like, or you can find as tasteful. But we’ve also become, I think much more conscious of some of the blind spots and some of the narratives that we had favored, but also the sort of the tone with which those narratives are often said in a very kind of imperious, if you don’t agree with me stupid and racist, or you just don’t understand economics.

And so it’s made us much more sensitive to our own tone and to thinking about how it is that you try to have these sorts of conversations and where we’ve seen this also come up now is in vaccine. So are people anti-vaccines or are they vaccine-hesitant? And how do you start to unpick those? And how do you talk to people who have vaccine fears? Is it helpful to sort of say you are all like anti-vaccine crazy and stupid and selfish, or are there also people there who actually have some legitimate fears where it’s helpful to actually listen and talk and try to work out what’s behind it? So I think this is a broader issue that kind of goes towards some of the polarization we’re seeing in our media environments.

Kaiser: So Anthea, once you’ve done this, though you sort of arrive at a point where you recognize that there are these different perspectives and all of them are worth making an effort to understand, but there will be critics who will sort of recoil at some of this and who will say, this is just sort of both sides or multi-side these issues that you are at risk of losing moral clarity. This could just end up leading to kind of a paralysis or indecision. Why is this a better approach?

Anthea: So this is one where the psychologist that you were talking about earlier, Tetlock’s work is actually really helpful. And what he sort of describes also with [Peter] Suedfed, who I think was his advisor, is this process of integrative complexity, which is if you really want to understand complex problems, it helps to employ this process of integrative complexity, which has two different elements to it. So the first is an ability to differentiate. So to be able to see a complex problem from many different perspectives and many different sides, but also not in black and white ways of right and wrong often in ways that understand many more shades of gray and nuance. So you can start to see it from these many different perspectives, but the second element, which is not the differentiation element, it’s the integration element, which is starting to work out ways that you can bring this back together.

So you don’t just think that there’s an establishment view and a right win protectionist view, but you start to think about like, well, how do they connect? How do they overlap? Where are their points of tension? Where might there be points of agreement?

And what he’s actually found? I think these are two really interesting findings is first of all, in the forecasting world, they find that people who have this cognitive style of integrative complexity, who are able to stitch together many different perspectives and many different pieces of information back into a more integrated whole actually have a much better understanding of complex problems and therefore are much better able to predict what is likely to happen. So I think it actually often gives you a much better understanding of reality if you don’t sort of put blinders up and judgment at the outset of this is right, and this is wrong and really try to understand how it looks from different perspectives.

But the other thing I think that’s quite interesting is that there’s also psychological work done that it’s actually the leaders that tend to have this much more complex style that are more likely to be able to find peaceful solutions going forward. That if you tend to see things very much from one perspective and in really black and white ways of good, bad us, them, it’s actually more likely to lead to conflict and to war. Whereas, if you’re able to see things from different perspectives and understand that different people have different priorities, but they’re also trying to protect different things. Not only do you understand the problem better, but you’re also better able to find ways in a creative way where you can meet both sides core, concern, or find a compromise in various ways. And so we do a lot of that work in the book as well.

So I think it’s helpful for understanding. I also think it’s helpful for moving forward. It’s not always easy and you don’t always have to accept everything that everybody says. But even for example, if you don’t accept some of the different values that other groups hold, you also need to understand that you’re working in democracies and you need to work with groups who hold these different values, and it’s going to make a difference to the way that economic globalization is accepted or the way that immigration is accepted. And so I think it’s very helpful to try to sort of understand that for a variety of political reasons, as well as sort of personal understanding,

Kaiser: Tetlock reminds us that policy is prediction after all. And so, yeah, this capacity. I’m curious if you could name-check a few leaders of recent decades who you think really exhibit these qualities, this capacity for integrative complexity.

Anthea: Yeah. That’s actually a really hard one. I think the archetypal one, they give us an example of not having as much integrative complexity was Trump. And a lot of people would say that Obama had strong integrative complexity, but Obama obviously on a sort of a deeper level did not resonate at all with some of the people who would be supportive of some of the right win populous narrative or the geo-economic narrative. So there was a sort of a tone-deafness there as well.

Kaiser: You mean “clinging to God and guns?”

Anthea: Yeah. Yeah. So Nicolas, I don’t know if you’ve got an answer as to I’m actually not sure. Kaiser.

Nicolas: Some politicians have reacted to the current moment by trying to become more complex in their thinking. And one example is the new German chancellor Olaf Scholz who has really internalized, I think the left-wing populist, but also the right-wing populist critique of globalization. And therefore he made respect the centerpiece of his campaign, which struck many in Germany as kind of weird. And it turned out that he had read some of those same books that we read for the book, Milan Ritz. I think Michael Sandel’s book. And so he had really understood how important it was to value different types of work, not just the professional elites, but also the essential workers who had come to the prominence in the pandemic and really was trying to make an effort to bring them on board and build a coalition that incorporates different values.

Kaiser: That’s something Germany has done better than the United States for a very, very long time anyway, right? Respecting people who aren’t in the university-educated professional class, but yeah. Olaf Scholz is a yeah. From what I understand of him so far, I think he’s an excellent example.

Nicolas: Even the Biden administration, though, if you read some of the early, the Foreign Affairs pieces, it almost seemed like a hodgepodge, but it was really as well in the attempt to bring in these different values. So in the trade policy, it’s very clear. It used to be just about growing the economy, but now they try to bring in climate change. They’re trying to make it a worker-centric trade policy. They’re trying to address security concerns. So really in Biden trade policy, even though he hasn’t very successfully implemented it yet, at least you see an attempt to make a chime with all these different concerns that are brought forward by the administration.

Kaiser: That was an example that I had thought of was Jake Sullivan’s idea of this foreign policy for the middle class. I thought that exemplified it in a lot of ways. Excellent. I’m curious, did you run these six narratives by people who you presumed to be actual exponents of the different narratives to see what they thought of your characterizations?

Nicolas: Yes, we did. We actually had planned a series of book workshops in the United States, which we then had to cancel at least in person version due to the pandemic, but we held four workshops online and we ran our chapters by proponents of the different narratives, especially those that we didn’t feel very comfortable with. So for example, Jeff Ferry, who is with the Coalition for a Prosperous America in the United States, he read our account of the right-wing populous narrative, and he liked it. And so that was I think a great feeling of achievement for us that we had written that chapter in a way that someone who we thought of as a proponent of the narrative would accept as genuine. But that would also be something where somebody who is not a proponent of the narrative could read it and see well, that makes sense at some level, like there’s something valuable here.

And I think that the basic idea was, well, it’s very easy to caricature the narratives. Every one of these narratives could be caricatured. But what we were trying to do is write them in a way that both proponents of the narratives could accept them as authentic in a way. And others who are not proponents of the narrative could see something valuable in that perspective.

Anthea: We also received written comments on the narratives from a lot of people. And one of the things I really noticed is that when people were in a narrative, they didn’t agree with, they tended to have a lot of like, but this, and, but this, and like, what about that? And I disagree with this. And then when they would get to a narrative that I would think would represent them, they’d be like, see, yeah, right on, like that’s right. And you could actually really tell from their comments about, they were like well, now you’ve got this one, surely you as authors will say that the other narratives they’re problematic, but this, this is the right narrative.

So we wanted to give people the experiences, they moved through the different narratives of, so thinking this one looks like it’s the right narrative. And then you would change narrative, be like, oh no, this one, this one really has something to offer. Then you would change narrative. And you’re like, oh, this one has something to offer because, I think all the people who were proponent that they really have something that they’re offering to the debate.

Kaiser: This is called attribution error or confirmation bias, one of the two or some combination thereof, but yeah, I can totally imagine that happening. I want to bring this back a little closer to China for the moment. I am obviously in dialogue with a lot of people who work on China in various capacities and while I wouldn’t say this is true of all of them, I think for most, if they had to map themselves somewhere on the Rubik’s cube of the six faces, they would probably admit to having at least one foot in the establishment narrative camp, though, with many, many caveats. I’m generalizing here and obviously painting with a really broad brush, but I think it’s fair to say that for the typical guest that I’ve had on, even maybe for the typical listener to this show, as far as she is persuaded by the protectionist positions at all, she’s going to be way more in sympathy with the left and not so much with the right populist narrative.

The typical Sinican is probably more persuaded by misgivings — and I know this is certainly the case with me — the misgivings that form part of the corporate power narrative. In fact, while you were just sort of reiterating it, I hadn’t read the chapter in a little while, but I find myself very much nodding in agreement with the descriptions and the corporate power narrative — more on that in a second. They probably also recognize how globalization has contributed to a lot of global threats, invasive species, the spread of pandemics, and of course, global warming. What would you say though, to someone who reads the book and comes away thinking, “Yeah, okay, those other perspectives have some valid points, but all we really need to do is just take some of those legitimate concerns on board, temper our establishment narrative a bit, and we’re good to go.” Is that enough?

Anthea: Our argument isn’t about the endpoint we should reach. We are not proponents of any of the narratives. We’re also not proponents of any particular combination of the narratives. And I think time will tell how much we depart from the establishment narrative. So I don’t think Nicolas or I believe that this is the end of globalization and everything’s going to be overturned. But I think what we do believe is that there is a more fundamental readjustment going on. So I think in the 1990s and 2000s, you did have that sort of movement of like, we can patch and make exceptions and make tweaks around the edges. So you have trade and investment agreements. And if there’s concern about labor environment, we can add sort of a non-bid chapter, or we can add an exceptions’ clause. We could do something minor and keep going.

But I think what we’ve seen in recent years is a much more sort of fundamental challenge to the establishment position that’s coming from multiple sides. And so I think in this next era, we are really trying to work out kind of what’s the recalibration that’s going to lead to a new settling point. And I think Nicolas has mentioned in trade policy, we are really starting to see that. So we’re starting to see that climate is becoming a much more important consideration. Workers’ rights are becoming more important, but also particularly security is becoming more important. And that’s actually not just tweaking the establishment approach at the outside. It’s tweaking it in much more fundamental ways. And that’s because many of these things like technology are dual use. And so if you start to economic security is national security and you apply it to technology the potential ramifications of that could be quite large.

Now, we don’t know where that will end up and I don’t think we’re going to end up in a world of complete decoupling, but I think we could well end up in a world with much more substantial technological decoupling about data-heavy industries, and those things will significantly change economic globalization. So I think one of the things we need to understand is that there are multiple significant challenges to the establishment narrative that are happening at once where we’re trying to resettle, but also many of them embody values that are different to the establishment narrative. And so require a more considerable change than just a tinkering at the edges. If you’re going to start to sort of value workers’ rights and value traditional communities or value environmental protection, we probably need a more substantial change to the establishment approach than just a minor adjustment good to go, move forward.

Kaiser: I’m curious: since you’ve both worked on international trade, especially Nicolas, if you look at the text of the TPP, as it existed in 2016, and the CPTPP, would you find that all they’ve done is tinkered around the edges, or do you think that this embodies the kind of substantive taking on board of the critiques of globalization that you would be describing and you would be hoping for? Do you think that’s changed substantially?

Nicolas: Well, the TPP was in a way the last hurrah of the neoliberal approach to trade agreements, at least in the United States. There were some modifications made that would departure from the model that had been pursued before. And I just want to mention a few examples. So for example, the TPP had still investor-state dispute settlement. So investors could still sue governments, but at a strategy insistence at tobacco control measure had been exempted from that mechanism because Australia’s Tobacco plain packaging law had been challenged in ISDS and so that was one of the measures that was specifically identified that as a measure, that you couldn’t challenge. Another notable aspect here was that the U.S. was not successful in the TPP in imposing the level of IP protection, especially for biologic drugs, that it had maintained in the United States itself on its trading partners.

And finally, there was also another element of the corporate power narrative reflected in the TPP was, which was a very ambitious plan of action on labor issues with Vietnam. So Vietnam would only have benefit on the tariff reductions to the United States, if it implemented really fundamental reforms to its labor unions, it would essentially have to allow independent unions.

Kaiser: Wow.

Nicolas: And so the United States had a very ambitious plan, which is now a mood because the United States is not a part of the agreement. What’s really interesting though about the demise of the TPP in something we tend to forget because it’s overshadowed by Trump, is that the reason the TPP didn’t get through Congress in 2015 and 2016 was because Republicans were resisting these elements of the agreement, which were a departure from the model. So essentially Republicans were saying that it doesn’t do enough for corporations.

So Mitch McConnell was upset about the tobacco carve out. The IP lobby was upset about the fact that they didn’t get the same level of protection for biologic drugs. The financial industries was upset about some data localization rules that allowed data localization requirements for the financial industry, which the U.S. Treasury had insisted on. So it’s not the TPP didn’t get ratified by U.S. Congress because of the populous backlash. It was the establishment backlash against kind of the concessions that were being made to the left in the agreement that meant that under Obama, it wasn’t ratified. And then of course, Trump came along and withdrew the United States, but it’s like that it was the last rough of the establishment era. It was really establishment resistance that brought the TPP down in the first place, which then made it so easy for Trump to withdraw.

Kaiser: It’s interesting to me that when you look at — I was thinking this, as I read the chapter on corporate power — there were so many Americans on both sides of the aisle who were persuaded to channel their hostility into the sense of aggrievement over Chinese violations of intellectual property rights. And they get really angry and not either are angry on behalf ultimately of big corporations. And this seems to fly in the face of what the main thrust of popular understanding of opposition to this trade agreement was, which was from the left and right populist narrative. So it was strange that you would think that the corporate power narrative would get a sympathetic hearing among people who subscribe to both of the protectionist narratives. And I thought that was really odd. And it was very, very strange and kind of an insidious thing is just, we’re kind of unaware of the extent to which the corporate power corporations still have a hold on us.

This is true of data flows. We think of data flows as something that we should in inherently, we should always protect them cause it’s sold as something. But the beneficiaries of free data flows are, of course the real beneficiaries are FAANG. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, right? This is also true of so intellectual property protection data flows and ISDS, right. These investor-state dispute settlements. It’s very strange how they seem to have a very subtle way of using that right-wing and left-wing populist anger to subvert support for this trade deal. It’s very, very interesting.

Anthea: I think also one of the things that’s happening where corporations are really interesting is that the role they play as sometimes like the bad guys domestically with lots of power when you’ve got a domestic frame of analysis, but then when you go internationally, they’re kind of like, on the U.S. team and flying the US flag and leading, and you see this kind of shift happening very much between the corporate power and the geo-economic narrative. So one of the examples we give in the book where this was just most egregious, but I think you see this more generally.

Kaiser: You’re gonna say Mark Zuckerberg.

Anthea: Between Zuckerberg? Yeah. So Zuckerberg, his notes when he was taken a Congress and a reporter photographed his notes and on it they said, if they ask about breaking up Facebook, say you can’t do that because then China will win. That was just a really obvious case of he was being taken before Congress on a corporate power narrative, which is Facebook is the big bad corporation and the government needs to step in to regulate to protect the little guy consumer, which is that kind of left-wing narrative that you were talking about, or the corporate power narrative of exploitation and concern.

What he said is like, let’s change the frame, let’s change the level of analysis. It’s actually an international competition for technological co supremacy. And we’re actually against team China and team China has civil-military fusion between their academy and their corporations and their government. And they’re battling for the technological future. And we’re all on team America. So don’t hamstring me, because American regulators and American consumers in America, we’re all on the same side and look sure you may have some reservations about privacy and what we are sort of sucking up, but gosh, would you prefer to have Chinese companies sucking that up? Would you prefer they have Chinese companies going into third markets, like that’s so much worse. And so we see this real thing when you see surveillance capitalism, when that’s written about, there’s such a concern about the big, bad FAANG companies, right? But often almost no concern about Chinese surveillance. And then you go to the geo-economic narrative and there’s much less concern about FAANG surveillance and much more concern about Chinese surveillance and technological supremacy. So it’s in a sort of another example of not just how you can strategically switch between them, but when you change your level of analysis, you change your understanding of us versus them. Who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy and which team you are on in the first place. And corporations sit at that nexus where sometimes they’re the bad guy and sometimes they’re the good guy. Sometimes they’re against your team, sometimes they’re on your team.

Kaiser: So obviously China figures in quite a bit into the book as sort of in some of the narratives, certainly not all of them kind of in archetypal other. And there are other ways that you talk about China, that you bring China into the book and we’ll get to that. Maybe Nicolas first, you can start off in these six main narratives. How does China figure in?

Nicolas: I think for the establishment narrative, China’s very much a poster child. An argument that you’ll often hear and debates about globalization is this argument, but we lifted 700 million people out of poverty, right? And of course China’s mainly responsible for that. And that’s kind of employed as a knockdown argument. So whatever is wrong with the establishment approach, this is kind of defeats all the other arguments because it’s such a monumental achievement. And also of course China’s responsible for much of the benefits from globalization for the west on the establishment narrative view, all those cheaper products. They’re like a huge pay rise that we all in the west got in our real incomes have gone up because we have access to these cheaper products. And if the Chinese government subsidizes those products even better. And I mean it’s the Chinese government essentially giving us a present.

So, it’s really a poster child of globalization in the establishment narratives view. Of course, on the right, if you go to the right-populist and the geo-economic narrative, it’s a bogey man. It’s the other that you mentioned, it’s the security threat that has eaten our lunch economically, or threatened our technological and military supremacy. And that’s very familiar. So I don’t think I have to elaborate on that. The left-wing reaction to the right-wing portrayal of China is often to say that China’s being used as a scape code by the right. Particularly in the corporate power narrative we find that very strongly we have in the book we cite, people are saying, well, you’re pointing to China as the cause of our ills, but really it’s the fault of our domestic corporations who are deciding to outsource, who are deciding not to pay proper wages. It’s the fault of our politicians who don’t invest in our roads in infrastructure. So it’s really a distraction from the left with some depreciates. It’s China is a distraction from the left recipients. It’s China is a distraction that is used in order to not focus on our domestic problems. When we get to the global threat narrative I would, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what to call it, but it’s really, China has become the indispensable nation in the sense that it’s, yes, it’s a contributor to the global threats, especially climate change that we cannot ignore, but it’s also indispensable to any solution. And so that fosters the sense of we have to work together. The west has to work together with China because there’s no way we are going to solve any of this without China.

Kaiser: And that recognition juxtaposed with the recognition that there is an inevitable strategic competition with China creates an interesting conundrum. And one that you guys suggested in your book would be one that’s amenable to exploration through this mental model. But we’ll get to that in a second. It’s really interesting that you presented your book — I suppose it was virtually — to Chinese audiences and you received some really interesting feedback when you talked about which of these narratives you’d also find present in China and one narrative, not one of your main six, but another one that you introduced in your chapter on biases and, and blind spots was conspicuously absent in the discourse on globalization. Can you talk about what that narrative is and what you found interesting about the fact that it was absent in the Chinese discourse?

Anthea: Yeah. So to do that, let me just say a little bit about kind of what was present in the Chinese discourse and then what was noticeably absent? So, as Nicolas said, China figures sometimes in a really positive ways in, in the various other narratives. And one of the things that came up quite clearly from these discussions was that all six of the narratives you could see in Chinese debates, and actually we have four non-Western narratives and they thought three of the non-Western narratives you could see, but one was missing. But let me just give you a quick sketch in those six. So what you saw very strongly in China was a strong commitment to the establishment narrative for the reasons that Nicolas has suggested. And that’s where you see Xi going to Davos and on all of that.

Kaiser: I was there, heard the speech!

Anthea: So that’s really the embodiment, right? And one thing that I think we need to be very conscious of in the Western debates is there’s been a big popular backlash now against economic globalization in the West, but there’s much more support and enthusiasm for it in other parts of the world, particularly Asia, where they’ve seen extraordinary growth in their incomes in really tangible ways in their lifetimes. And so it’s not just a figure, it’s something that they have lived experience on.

At the same stage. We’re starting to see, for example, the left-wing populist and the corporate power narrative. That’s really starting to come out Kaiser with a lot of what you are talking about, the Red New Deal. So we’re seeing the common prosperity ideas. We’re seeing the crackdown on big tech. So they’re actually is to seeing China responding, and then sometimes people thinking they’re a model of how to respond.

Kaiser: Right.

Anthea: On the geoeconomics and on the protection aside, you very much see the same thing, but the story is told from the other perspective. So instead of it being the big, bad China security rise, you’ve really got the U.S. is losing its supremacy and it’s trying to hold China’s rise back, and we need to have indigenous technologies so that we can go forward, but we also need to have dual circulation so that we have more self-reliance and that could be a self-reliance thing, it could be a protections’ thing. And then with the lose-lose now down at the bottom, you really see China saying, look, we’re a provider of global goods. Whether it’s global infrastructure or global vaccines, we are this indispensable nation. So there was a strong feeling that China was, you could see all of those narratives in different ways in the Chinese debates, and that they’re moving up and down at various points of time, too.

When we get to the non-Western narratives, there was a sense that China was very much in favor of the Asia rising narratives and particularly the rise of the sleeping giants of China, this huge civilization and India. And then you’ve got the Against Western Hegemony narrative, which is where they’ve banded together a bit more with Russia to sort of say, look — and that’s on things like in internet and those sorts of areas — which is don’t take your liberal democratic market approach and think it’s one size fits all. This is just Western hegemony, and we need to be able to push back. And also you’re not just hegemonic you’re hypocritical. There was a sense that China definitely was fitting in there.

And then the fourth narrative, there was the kind of “left behind” narrative, which is often about people in countries, in Africa, the bottom billion that really haven’t had the advances. And here, then you see China figuring in these two different ways. One is China sort of saying, look, we through our investment and through our infrastructure, we can bring you along the same path of development that we’ve been on and others saying, no, no, this is just going to be colonialism again, but this time colonialism by China, rather than by the Western powers. The narrative that was really conspicuously absent is actually the one that’s most commonly associated with developing states in the trading regime, which is the neo-colonial narrative. And this is one that you see by India and various others. Which is really the idea that, don’t feel sorry for the developed states as though they’ve lost out from economic globalization. First of all, through colonialism and then after the colonial empire fell away through near colonialism through their transnational corporations through the world bank and everything. What we’ve really been doing is protecting the transnational class, which includes corporations and elites. And they have been extracting extraordinary benefits from Africa, the scramble and Africa, through Asia, through other sorts of places to their benefit. And it’s really meant that we’ve sort of solidified a world economy where the developed states have been able to industrialize and move ahead and, and developing states have been stuck, just doing more materials, et cetera. And what was so interesting of course, is that China often likes to present itself as the face and leader of developing states and say, it’s a developing state, but it had none of that articulation, right?

Because its experience with economic globalization in the past 30 years has been an extremely positive one. So it’s much more the Asia rising some states can lift out through hard work and through clever policies and that’s this really positive story. And also a positive story it tries to tell other developing states. It obviously has a longer history with some of the things like the century of humiliation also feeling subjugated by Western power. But that has not been the dominant story through economic globalization. And so Nicolas had done a lot of work previously on the WTO where you really see this neo-colonial narrative being champion, but it’s not being championed by China.

Kaiser: You’re absolutely right. That is absolutely accurate. In all conversations I’ve had that just never comes up. One thing that you, they talk about an awful lot about in China and this taps into some of the other non-Western narratives that we’ve talked about, the West’s ideological hegemony, you point out is a dimension of economic globalization that receives little attention in Western narratives, which is absolutely true. It’s correct. But I think it’s interesting because it’s my sense that one of the things that really gets under the skin of so many Americans and other Westerners is how the Chinese case just undermines all these axiomatic beliefs that Americans have. These are the load-bearing walls of American exceptionalism. It just doesn’t compute with Americans even after all this time, really that you could have a functioning market economy in the absence of political democracy. Right? I mean, it, it vexes them. It seems obvious to me that these cracks in American ideology that are a huge but unacknowledged part of American collective anxiety over globalization. They touch I think proponents of almost all of these narratives, these all kind of go back to China. It strikes me that the crisis of globalization itself that really broke out and its most conspicuous form in 2016. It was timed so perfectly with the kind of subversion of other narratives that the Americans and other Westerners had so long held. And the perpetrator, the subverter of those narratives was always China. That the innovation narrative around technology that you weren’t supposed to be able to innovate unless you had conditions of free flow of information, you weren’t supposed to be able to harness technology to make authoritarianism flourish. It was supposed to bring down authoritarianism, right? It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the assault on the establishment narrative took place at the same time as China’s subversion’ of other deeply held beliefs. What do you think of that? What do you make of that?

Nicolas: Well one thing that I’ve observed from my vantage point of being a scholar of the trade regime is that it’s maybe not necessarily an… It’s a version of the axioms or that’s really true, but it’s more this sense of loss of control or loss of agency on the part of the west. And you see that very clearly reflected in the debate about time is accession to the double WTO, which is interestingly another example where you have one set of facts in very many very different narratives.

Kaiser: Right.

Nicolas: From China’s perspective, of course, the accession is one a painful memory because China took on many more obligations than other developing countries at the time. So it felt that it had given, it had paid a lot to join the WTO. When you… I just recently read the book by Paul Blustein, Schism, which recounts the accession process and it shows very clear that at the time the United States negotiated, were driving a really hard bargain and really realistically got everything out of China that they got.

But now there’s this perception, oh, it wasn’t enough. Like we can’t contain China through the WTO. There’s nothing we can do. And maybe it was a mistake. So there’s almost this illusion of control that we could have prevented this if we hadn’t let China join the WTO. And the reason it seems to me like a loss of control is because, really going back to the end of the Second World War, the U.S. and the Western powers had been driving the trade regime. They had been really almost getting their way every time. The clearest example is the Uruguay conclusion, 1994, when they managed to impose the TRIPS agreement.

The agreement on trade led to intellectual property rights on countries that really didn’t want them. Brazil, India had no inclination to join this agreement and through some institution maneuvering the west managed to, to impose that and China’s accession. And then the subsequent perception that we are not able to change China’s economic system in any significant way is really, has been a huge wake-up call that control’s slipping away and control that we used to have that the west used to have in trade regime. So it’s not only, it’s a version of these axioms that are underpinning Western and Germany. It’s also just a loss of the power to shape and wins that in a way that the west hasn’t experienced for a very long time.

Kaiser: Yeah. It’s a more direct explanation and a very elegant one. That’s great. I love that.

Anthea: So I think what Nicolas is describing is a shift in power. And obviously what happens when there’s a shift in power is you have to put the shoe on the other foot. You have to experience a particular phenomenon, not just where you, you are in the front foot, but when you are sort of behind. And I think we’re starting to see that a lot. So globalization, in many ways, isn’t globalization sometimes called glocalization where you are really globalizing somebody’s localism and what we’ve had in globalization today because of the kind of political and economic power of the west is we’ve often been globalizing American or European standards. And that’s why you think about things like the California effect or the Brussels effect, that there has been an ability to take your own regulations, your own way of doing things, your own market standards and kind of globalize them around the world.

And so they see that as a really positive way to spread their values and it can be economically can also be Hollywood and how that spreads around the world, right in a cultural way. But what we’re starting to see now is there’s so much power economically starting to come out of China and Beijing, that we’re starting to see kind of a Beijing effect in many ways. And you see this most clearly at the moment with the censorship debates, where a lot of the Hollywood players, if they want to get to a Chinese audience and they want to reach that part of the market, they need to sort of, of fit within certain express or implied censorship requirements. And that’s causing them to behave in certain ways. And it’s causing a huge reaction in the U.S. because there’s suddenly a feeling of like, we’re sort of having to have our cultural values infringed by your cultural values with this sort of extraterritorial effect.

Of course, those in Africa would say that they’ve been suffering that from the U.S. for years with cultural hegemony in the film industry. So I think there’s not just a kind of a loss of power, but a kind of, how does certain phenomena feel when you are the source of power versus when you are the subject of power and as economic globalization kind of evens things up the west has to feel a little bit more about what it feels like to be the subject of that power. And it doesn’t always like it. But the other thing I would say about the challenge of China is that sometimes they’re playing a bit of a different game and those games create kind of some incompatibility that are difficult.

So one way I like to think of this is that you think about the U.S. and China as though they’re all coming to like the of a football field to play on, but they’re playing two different styles of football.

So the U.S. is playing kind of World Cup soccer. So they’re fast and they’re innovative and they can move the plays down. And they’ve got a lot of individual talent and a lot of sorts of freedom of action. Whereas I think counterintuitively actually, the Chinese team is a little bit more like an American gridiron team, which is that they’re more centrally coordinated. They’re, they’re more patterned. They may not be as fast and nimble, but when they choose to move down the field in a particular way, they can really take out opposition. So this is a more stark comparison, but it’s, they’re both games of football, but they’re different gains of football. And so what happens if you suddenly have a World Cup soccer team and a world-class gridiron team come together on the same pitch, they’re both decent games and they’re both decent ways to organize your economy, but when you start to play against each other, it’s going to be really difficult.

And I think in many ways, we’ve already seen China take on some of the lessons of the soccer team and sort of at an earlier stage to cut loose some of its innovation more and, and empower the private sector more, get more faster and loose in some ways that we had seen of the American soccer players. But I think what we’re also seeing with the American team now is a bit like, well if we’re playing soccer against gridiron, we want to put on a helmet and we want to put on shoe pads and we want more protection. And so one of the things you’re going to end up finding is that they are going to kind of converge their style of play in ways to kind of cope with the fact that they’re trying to deal with these sort slightly different styles of play. And then there are going to be some areas where they’re not going to do that.

And they’re going to say, look, actually we want to play separate games. So everybody who wants to play 5G internet over here without Huawei, you come on the field and we’ll play our soccer and everybody who doesn’t, you go over there and you can play gridiron. And so part of what we’re going to see in the world economy is, when are we going to have separate games? And when are we going to have like this joint game where we can’t really agree on what the rules are at the moment, and we can’t really even trust it to an external referee, like the WTO, but we are going to be modifying our state of play because we are dealing with a competitor that has a different style of play. So this particular one, this comes out of the geoeconomic narrative. It’s not, we aren’t the source of this. I think we originally got it from Tim Stratford, but I think it’s quite an interesting way of analyzing what’s going on as through a sporting metaphor that should be familiar to people.

Kaiser: Yeah. I, I remember I was on a panel, modern writing a panel with Tim Stratford on it, and he had used that, that same metaphor. It’s a really, it’s great. It’s a quite perfect one.

Anthea: Yeah.

Kaiser: Speaking of metaphors there’s so many wonderful ones that you use and like you say a whole menagerie of animals that come through, you’ve got your, the five blind men in the elephant. You’ve got the elephant graph Branko Milanovic and… hedgehogs and foxes. The hedgehog knows the one thing and the Fox knows many things. I have tended to use this metaphor of lenses with their different optical properties, with the China hedgehogs, as it were, tending to lean on the lens of national security or a lens on, of human rights or of technology, competition, foxes, having lots of lenses that they take up.

I’ve also used this metaphor that I really like from the TV show, The Wire. I don’t know if you guys have watched The Wire. It’s great. There’s a scene in season four when Bunk Moreland and Kima Greggs are approaching a crime scene and he’s snapping on the rubber glove. And he says, you know what you need at a crime scene. And she kind of starkly says, what rubber gloves? “Soft eyes,” he says. He says, “soft eyes, you can see the whole thing. You got hard eyes, you staring at the same tree missing the forest.” You guys use also a lot of vision-related metaphors as well. These dragonfly eyes, which I absolutely love, but also kaleidoscopic vision. Anthea, can you talk about some of these metaphors that you favor and whether they point to distinct approaches or are they all different ways of talking about the same kind of mental map, the same kind of approach.

Anthea: So I think that they’re related, but somehow they sort of build on each other. And so one reason I’d originally reached out to you is I actually think that you are somebody who exhibits dragonfly eyes, and you didn’t quite have language to explain what it was that you were doing. So what do we mean by dragonfly eyes? So we got the idea of dragonfly eyes from the super forecasting work and the expert political judgment work by Philip Tetlock. And that’s because if you think about like human eyes, we have two eyes that we integrate the vision of those two different lenses in order to get our bifocal vision. Whereas dragonflies actually have these two really large composite eyes that have thousands of different lenses, and they integrate these thousands of different lenses to create a much more comprehensive view of reality. That’s actually almost 360 degree.

And so we use this as a metaphor for taking this sort of multifocal approach, but also integrating in it. It fits very much with that idea of differentiation, so lots of different lenses and also integration, like how do you bring them back together. So I would say of your two metaphors, your lenses metaphor is a really nice way of thinking about that differentiation function. So all of the different lenses and how you see things through different ones, but it doesn’t include that kind of integrative function of how do you bring them back together? And so your dragonfly eyes give you that. Your soft eyes one gives you a little bit more of that sort of holism how do we think about it in a holistic way, but doesn’t do as much about like all the different individual lenses and how you put those together.

But the soft eyes one also makes you think about something, which is something that comes up through complex systems analysis, which is the difference between kind of looking at the tree and standing back to look at the forest. And I would also say zooming in end to the tree and back to the forest and in and back, and looking at these of different levels. And that complex systems idea is something that is actually partially underpinning what we think of as the kaleidoscopic metaphor. So the kaleidoscopic metaphor, one reason that we shift from we originally start with the Rubik’s Cube of the different narratives, which we unscramble onto the six different sides, but we didn’t want to keep the Rubik’s Cube going throughout. And the reason for that is the Rubik’s Cube is a mechanical thing that we have created that has one answer. And we think with complex problems, whether they’re economic, globalization, or U.S.-China relations, or climate change, there isn’t one answer.

And so the closest to way we could really think of that, where things kind of shift and your perspective consciously shifts and things kind of fracture and get new patterns was the kaleidoscope. So instead of thinking about solving the Rubik’s Cube, that being it. We think we’re moving into this period where we are starting to see the different narratives break apart and re-coalesce in this sort of kaleidoscopic way.

And one of the things I’ve noticed about the kaleidoscopic metaphor is people are often starting to invoke it on these really complex problems where we are struggling to kind of articulate what it is and how it sort of changes in all these ways. So you see that kaleidoscopic metaphor coming out in the uninhabitable earth, for example, is that David Wallace-Wells — you see him use it. You see a kaleidoscopic metaphor coming out quite a number of times about the pandemic and climate change. And I think what it’s trying to get people to do is start to sort of think about this kind of ever moving, ever-shifting thing that doesn’t have a solution or an endpoint. And so the metaphors, I think in many ways, build on your metaphors, but sort of often add an extra dimension to them.

Kaiser: It’s great that we’re kind coming down to talking about psychology. This is something that I flicked at in my conversation with David McCort from last week — the UC Davis professor, who’s the sociologist who’s working on China watchers. And I thought there was a lot of resonances with this conversation today. Really interesting. This probably merits another podcast entirely, but I was wondering as I read your book, whether you guys have noticed any correlation between an individual’s temperament their psychological make up on the one hand and on the other, maybe their propensity in the specific case of globalization to accept or to subscribe to a particular narrative or a set of particular narratives, or more generally that maybe character traits that predispose people to a capacity for integrative complexity. Did you see anything like that Nicolas?

Anthea: I think it’s clearly the book is not a sociological study and it also… We don’t analyze why people hold particular beliefs, right? That’s part of the taking it at face value. But what we definitely noticed in terms of the contribution that we wanted to make to the debate, maybe the corrective that we wanted to offer was most to the perspective put forward by economists, which is… So here, it’s not so much about character trades, it’s about disciplinary training.

I distinctly remember some of the critiques that we received from economists. Like one was why isn’t this all just a set of falsifiable hypotheses that you put forward? Why do you present these stories as though they are equally valid when clearly that can’t be true and only one is right. And part of our decision to focus on narratives rather than the underlying empirics was to draw out those softer elements of the narratives, particularly the moral of the different morals of the story, the different values.

Which was something that economists were often blind to. They have certain models, certain assumptions that make them see the word in a particular way and come to unambiguous conclusions. When clearly the debate was something that we felt wasn’t benefiting from these unambiguous conclusions. It doesn’t really help in this debate to say to, to someone else, I know I’m wrong. I’m right and you are wrong.

Kaiser: I don’t know how you resisted the temptation to answer those critiques with this is exactly why we wrote the book. This is exactly why we’re not thinking the approaches because your… This speaks to a problem with the disciplines and area studies. This is something that I’m always going off about, the lack of holism and it really, really bothers me.

Anthea: Yeah. So while It’s not a psychological study, there’s pretty good evidence from people like Tetlock that sort of active, open mind-ness and openness to experience does mean that you are sort of more likely to kind of be open to new information and to sort of updating and to thinking from different perspectives. And you had last week mentioned the episode of Tetlock on the Ezra Klein Show, which was by, is it Julia Galef? And she talks about the “scout mindset” versus the soldier mindset. So, she has a lot more of that psychology about whether you tend to be someone who seeks to defend your view versus someone who seeks to update your view in light of new information.

Anthea: And I think there’s a strong psychological component to this. And I certainly know when I’ve done these sorts of projects before people are like, oh, okay, all right, but which is the right narrative. And to me, this answer… The question makes no sense, because I’m just so strongly not of that inclination. And also I’m a bit like how could you read the book and ask that question, but it’s a very common question. Which is… I think our educational systems, but also people’s psychological predisposition often want to find the answer and part of what I want to say about complex and evolving and contester fields is there isn’t a right answer.

Kaiser: That’s exactly right. So Nicolas mentioned training and what training tends to promote this kind of my mindset, a couple things popped into my head as he was saying that. Back before PPE meant personal protective equipment, there was this old-school liberal arts program. You had it at Oxford, you had versions of it at a couple of the Ivy league schools. It’s usually philosophy, politics, and economics — variations on that.

We had something like that at UC Berkeley. Harvard has this English and literature, which is a really cool training. Although it lacks the… Maybe the rigorous elements. Law though strikes me as particularly good training for this kind of mindset. And so many of the people who I’ve met, who can do this or do this habitually do come from a legal background. It involves being able to articulate, find the merits in multiple perspectives, anticipate criticisms and anyone who was steeped also in debate probably does this really well instinctively. And as it happens, Anthea, you were a big debater at school and, and college, right?

Anthea: Yeah. So this came up in an early conversation we had where you said I think somebody like who does debate. And I was like, oh, this is me. So I started debating when I was 11 years old and ended up sort of debating internationally through my teens. And so I had learned at quite a young age to be able to argue one side of the case and then argue another side of the case. And I think that’s also something you see in legal training where you have the cab-rank rule, which you take the client that approaches you and you don’t sort of say, do I agree or disagree? You, you seek to do the best representation of that client within ethical parameters, but still the best representation. And so one thing that I’ve thought more about since we published this book is what is the role of that legal training?

Because when we went through the peer-review process at Harvard, the economist that sort of presented it to the board finally said this is a book that couldn’t have been written by economists. We’re just not used to seeing things from these different ways. It’s just not the way we’re trained. He said it had to have been written by lawyers. And I thought that was such an interesting comment at the time because all of the people from my legal background would be like, gee, I’m here. You’re not really doing anything about law in this book, that’s crazy. And what I sort of realized is that actually law might be operating here as an interpretive method. But I would say it’s actually operating as an interpretive method in two different ways. Which is if you think about legal training and you think about integrative complexity, the first step of integrative complexity is that differentiation the multiple perspectives of putting the case.

That’s very much the debating, the advocacy function, the arguing different sides that you’ve identified Kaiser. But the second step, the integrative, how do you bring it back together? How do you make a reason judgment? How do you take both sides into consideration and come to some way of moving forward? I would actually say that’s like the adjudicative function in law.

Kaiser: The judge — not the lawyer, but the judge.

Anthea: The judge.

Kaiser: Yeah.

Anthea: Exactly. And so it’s a very, very different posture when you are training to be an advocate to when you’re training to be a judge. And I think I noticed this shift most clearly, actually that when I finished school, I was of catching the Australian debating team. So I went around the world doing the-

I was captaining the Australian debating team, so I went around the world doing the advocate role. And then the next year when I was in university, I came back as the Australian judge so I went around the world and did the adjudicative role. And it made me really conscious, of the very different mindset between advocacy and adjudication, which I think both happen in legal training though not as expressly as that. And I think are actually the two different elements of integrative complexity.

Kaiser: Wow. This has just been such an incredibly delightful conversation. I can’t tell you how happy I — I mean, that I wanted to sort of launch this series with this and it was such a good idea. Before we wrap up, I think a lot of these ideas that we’ve been talking about are coming into more popular consciousness now. I think everybody knows things like what confirmation bias is now. What attribution error is, things like that. And it’s great. Let’s do some shout-outs to people who, we’ve mentioned some of them, but let’s round them up at the end here before we go to actual recommendations. I think it’d be a good idea just to, to sort of list off some of the people who have been influential in your thinking in this book. Who are some of the thinkers who you would credit with popularizing the modes of thinking that you draw on and that you draw into your own analysis and Nicolas and Anthea whoever wants to shout some names out, let’s do that. And I mean, I can throw some in myself.

Anthea: Yeah. So I think Kaiser you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of reading some of these. One of the most obvious ones obviously is Tetlock, who we’ve already talked about.

Kaiser: Yeah.

Anthea: Somebody that you mentioned in the intro that we haven’t talked about, but I found really, really helpful in a whole variety of ways has been Howard Gardner.

And Howard Gardner was the one that came up with “not that there is type of intelligence, but there are multiple types of intelligence.” And I think that was a really revolutionary breakthrough in education theory, but is also an example of this kind of the complexity of intelligence and looking at it through these different lenses and seeing different things through different lenses. And one of the most delightful things about this book is we’ve now not only been in touch with, Tetlock and what he’s going to be doing on some of the next generation of forecasting work, which actually links to some of what we are doing in this book, but also we’re now very much in touch with Howard Gardner.

And one of the reasons we’re in touch with Howard Gardner is, he’s 78 now and he’s retired but still incredibly actively working on things, is he did an intellectual autobiography recently called The Synthesizing Mind because what he started to realize was he had this particular approach, which is not the sort of narrower disciplinary focus, but is this very broad, how do you bring very broad, different ideas together and create frameworks that sort make sense of this broad disparate stuff to yourself, but also makes sense to others. And he realized he had this kind of mind. He realized that he couldn’t really explain it. People weren’t really teaching it, but it was actually really central to some of the work that he had done on the multiple intelligences. Also on a lot of the innovations we’ve seen like how Darwin came up with the origin of life, et cetera, and something that he feels is being squeezed out of the current academy with these sort of focuses on narrow rigor and quantitative approaches.

And so I think — we’re now in touch to try and work out if there are other ways to explore this idea of this sort of wholism and these synthesizing approaches. I think somebody else who’s got this kind of instinct actually comes from business and management schools, who’s Roger Martin. And he talks about the opposable mind and the dear mind that often-

Kaiser: As in opposable thumb.

Anthea: As in opposable thumb, right, take an idea and look at it from two sides. Dual mind, to be able to hold not one idea versus another idea, but simultaneously hold both ideas, in tension with each other. And that he found that the people that were really leaders in their fields and business were capable of having this kind of dear mind approach. And so I think we see a variety of people that are like this. We’re also, I think seeing it come more into popular consciousness. So after we published this book, a book came out called Framers, which is by the guys, including one of the editors from The Economist who did the big data work and they found with all the big data work, everyone was like, oh, this is so great, so computers will do it all.

And they were like, well, no, actually computers aren’t so good at doing that initial ability at framing and changing frames. That’s a really human creative approach. And so they’ve written this book about framers out how important it is to be conscious of the frames we use for interpreting information and to change frames and to have a plural approach to frames, which is very much kind of what we are doing as a worked case study in this book is sort of reminiscent of that. And so I think there are a variety of thinkers out there who are getting at this, and you are also seeing it in, in more popular writers like, is it David Epstein who wrote Range, which is instead of doing that sort of Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000 hours, narrow early specialization. What happens if we take more multidisciplinary approaches? When we sort of shop around more, when we widen our lens in various ways. And I think that this is kind of a counter-movement to some of the specialization we’ve seen become so dominant in the 20th century, in the early part of the 21st century.

Kaiser: And amen. Every couple of years I reread C.P. Snow’s The Two Cultures that was sort of one of my early touchstones on that. I definitely credit that for a lot of… There’s a book I think we should name check, Edward O. Wilson who just passed away. He wrote a marvelous book, I think it was in 1998 called Consilience, which was one of the ones that really was one of those early reboots of my own mental models.

Anthea: And can I say just in the last week, so Howard and I have been back and forth on both of the two people that you’ve just mentioned. So he’s thinking exactly this thing. And he starts off talking about the Snow and he starts off talking about Wilson and actually another Wilson, but I’ll leave him to publish on that.

Kaiser: Oh, fantastic.

Anthea: So when that comes out. But just to show you that your instincts, I think are absolutely spot on with where this kind of thinking is going.

Kaiser: I’m glad to hear it. And I mean, I think there are a lot of people out there. I mentioned Robert Wright who I adore and who’s super accessible. I think you should, people who listen to his show, he’s just put out, he started a series of, of stuff on YouTube, these little mini-lectures that are animated and really well narrated. A lot of the stuff, check it out. This is going to be a long list of links that we’re going to have. Nicolas, do you want to chime in, do you have anyone that you want to name check?

Nicolas: Well, Jonathan Haidt, not so much his later work, but his, Anthea already mentioned during our conversation that The Righteous Mind was really illuminating to us and, and provided a lot of confirmation for what we were intuitively trying to do in order to understand and bridge these divides, which sometimes seem unbridgeable between different values.

Anthea: And I think actually not just his Righteous Mind, which I think is just such a beautiful example of this. But we understand at the moment he’s working on three different approaches to capitalism, which is a similar kind of different narrative understanding of capitalism. So hopefully there’ll be more to come from Jon on this issue.

Kaiser: I shouldn’t leave out George Lakoff who was really influential also on my thinking early on. He is really the person who wrote the book on metaphorical thinking and on frames and narratives, which I think was super, super useful.

Anthea: Kaiser, if you’re going to have Lakoff, I think one, I often twin Lakoff with, so he does Metaphors We Live By, but one that I think is also just a beautiful example of the multiplicity is Images Of Organization. Do you know this one?

Kaiser: No, I don’t.

Anthea: It’s a business book, actually, a lot of stuff comes out of the business world on this stuff. But Images of Organization basically says we have these images or these of frames that we use to understand organizations. And we have at least eight of them that subconsciously affect us. So one is the organization as a machine. One is as an organism. One is as a company? And, and he goes through in a really systematic way about what these different lenses kind of what they reveal and what they obscure about the organization. And in many ways, that’s a similar thing to what we are doing with economic globalization. It’s this idea of the sort of multiplicity that there is no one right metaphor. There is no one right analogy. There is no one on right frame. And so part of what you want to be training yourself to do is to work through this kind of multiplicity and see what each one reveals and obscures.

Kaiser: Well, I’ve got a nice, long reading list to power me through 2022. This will be a fantastically good year of intellectual growth for me. One last question for you Anthea. In our email correspondence, you’ve given me some tantalizing bits about your next book project. What can you tell our listeners about it? It seems it will maybe be even more relevant to our China-focused community than even Six Faces was.

Anthea: Yeah. So you say, say book project as though it’s singular. In my life there’s usually a proliferation. So I’m sort of working on, on two big, broad areas of work, which I think all have kind of connections to the China world in various ways though I’m not a China scholar. So the first is kind of ideas of governing and complexity. And part of the work that we’re doing in governing complexity is looking at how the international system is a complex system and is moving much more towards, and we see this in environment and in trade and investment instead of like single kind of things like the WTO sort of monolithic. We’re instead seeing more polycentric, more experimental, more evolutionary approaches developing. And that ties really nicely with ideas about how you move forward in complex systems. But interestingly, I think it ties really beautifully to a lot of the scholars we’re seeing, coming out now talking about China’s economic approach.

And I think often they have a complexity model in their mindset sometimes expressly and sometimes not expressly, but I think it’s just comes up through that Chinese have experimental evolutionary adaptive gorilla style approach. So one scholar who’s doing this very expressly as Yuen Yuen Ang, who I think is just fantastic. Another scholar who I think is just wonderful, who you’ve had on recently is Isabella Weber. And again, you see this sort of approach. She doesn’t consciously have it as a complexity framing, but all of her stuff about the experimental and evolutionary immersion approach is very consistent with these ideas of complexity theory. So I think on the one hand, there’s a lot for us to learn in global governance from complexity theory, but there’s also a lot we could take from complexity theory to the China case study. And there’s a lot we could take from the China governance case study to global governance.

So that’s, kind of one area of work that I’m working on. And the other area of work is actually to go back to the broader question, you sort of asked at the beginning, which is to the extent that globalization is really a case study of how do we think about complex fields. I want to return to the book about thinking global and sort of how do we use this as a method to go forward more generally. But in that I’m particularly interested, not just in the of questions we’ve explored here about scale and frame and tone, but I’m also really particularly interested in asymmetries of flows of information. So here, for example, with global media, much easier for people around the world to know what English language people think and the English language media and the U.S. and U.K. than vice versa, because there are these sort of asymmetries of flow.

Yet part of what’s happening with economic globalization is we’re starting to rebalance those flows and, and kind of what does that mean? And I’m also particularly interested in the role played by what I think of as third culture intellectuals, which are people who are sort of fluent and grew up in, in some ways, at least two cultures and like Kaiser, I think this is one reason I’ve always been drawn to your show that I think you are this sort of third culture, intellectual who’s so fluent in both sides and interested in communication between them and also interested in redressing some of the asymmetries of communication. And so one of the things I’d say about these third culture intellectuals is they’re often the ones who are the best able to bridge worlds. They’re often the ones who are the most creative, because they’re able to kind of get ideas and put them together from different worlds.

Kaiser: I hear a “but” coming.

Anthea: But when worlds collide which is what we’re seeing with the geoeconomics stuff, they’re often the ones that feel the most squeezed. And I think you’re really seeing that at the moment with the Chinese American scientists and people in the education system who are really feeling that thing. And, and I think we see this, not just with individuals, but also with places that are these meeting points. So Hong Kong for example, was at one point, the gateway, the connection between east and west, and it was such a source of entry and possibility and communication and exchange. And now what we’re seeing is its kind of the first one that kind of gets squeezed. So I’m interested in all of those dynamics for how do we think, how do we think globally? And who’s better able to do it, but who’s also in a more precarious position when things aren’t going well.

Kaiser: Can’t wait to have you back on the show to talk about all this. This is fantastic. You guys, Nicolas, Anthea, this has just been the most fun conversation I’ve had in a very, very long time. I say that, absolutely honestly. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about this fascinating and important work that you’ve done. The book once again is called Six Faces Of Globalization. And you will be very, very glad that you read it, so pick up a copy. Let’s move on to recommendations. A super quick reminder that if you want to support the work that we’re doing with Sinica and the other shows in the network, like China Stories in the China in Africa Podcast, and You Can Learn Chinese, then the best thing you can do is subscribe to SupChina Access our daily newsletter help us out in this new year. On to recommendations. Anthea, I can’t wait to see what you guys have.

Anthea: Okay. So in line with a lot of the conversation we’ve had this recommendation particularly is for you Kaiser. Which is, I think you’ve got a very strong interest in a corrective to kind of narrow linear sort of empirical approaches with a desire for sort of more holistic, more sort of artistic, more sort of big picture approaches. And so I, one of the things I think that you should read on this is called The Master and His Emissary, by Ian McGilchrist.

And it actually ties a lot of this to left brain and right brain thinking, not in a classical sort of pop science, left brain is analytical and right brain is creative. But really he’s a psychiatrist with more than 20 years experience published with Yale University Press. I think an incredibly illuminating way of saying that the left brain and the brain process our world differently and kind of communicate in various ways, but often with an asymmetrical way where the right brain, which is the more holistic one really understands and values the left brain, but the left brain often doesn’t really understand the value of the right brain. So there’s some really interesting asymmetries there.

Kaiser: I feel how the right brain feels and I know how the right brain thinks.

Anthea: The other reason I think of the interesting view is he ties it to culture and to movements and culture. And he in particular talks about how the west for various reasons has very strongly gone down this left-brain route, and increasingly going down this left-brain route. Whereas some of the other cultures in particularly in east Asia have much more of these sort of holistic approaches, but he actually says of the west with some of the developments that are happening at the moment. It’s almost a little bit like we’re having a right hemisphere stroke. And so I just think there are lots of really interesting ideas that will provide another way for you to think about some of the issues that I think motivate your approach and the explanations you are trying to give and the views that you’re trying to put forward in your podcast.

Kaiser: I got to say, I love that you gave me a tailor-made recommendation for the host and not necessarily for the listenership. I’m sure our listeners are going to appreciate it as well. The Master and His Emissary, I’ve got to read it. That’s topping my list now. Thank you, Anthea. Nicolas, what do you have for us?

Nicolas: Yeah, at first, I want to recommend book that really helped our thinking as we were writing the book. It’s by Oren Cass called The Once and Future Worker. And the reason why it’s so helpful, particularly to people working on trade is that it really foregrounds, the trade-offs that are involved in all the policies that we make. And I think that’s the greatest disservice that the economics profession and maybe the establishment narrative has done to conversations about trade is that they have tended to obscure those trade-offs. They have said like, look, this is going to maximize aggregated welfare, and we are going to be better off ultimately. What wasn’t made clear was that the metric that we are using is a purely economic one. It’s a purely economic one. Our real incomes are going to be greatest maybe if you pursue this particular solution, but it hasn’t foregrounded what is lost in the process.

And so what Orin Cass does in this book he takes head on this, what he calls the image or the metaphor of the economic pie and the priority of growing the economic pie and says, here’s are all the trade-offs that it obscures. And the central trade-offs that he foregrounds is the one between production and consumption. Because of course, for the assumption narrative, the fact that we can all afford more through our higher wages is in a way the ultimate value and the ultimate vindication of our economic model. But what is lost in the process, like these workers who lose their jobs, that is clear. If you put that in monetary terms, it may not be worth that much. But what Oren Cass is actually saying is production is in so many ways much more fulfilling and much more important for what we do. And he has a very broad conception of production. It’s not just at work, it’s essentially positive contributions that we make to society like rearing kids, volunteering, creating things as opposed to consuming and, receiving things.

Kaiser: All the things through which we derive, meaning really, truly that’s. I couldn’t agree more. This is something that I feel like is having its moment at long last. I think part of it is, is the pandemic, the great resignation event that’s happening. Yeah. Well, great. I will read that. Oren Cass, The Once and Future Worker.

Nicolas: Can I do another one?

Kaiser: Yeah, no, go please. Yeah, absolutely.

Nicolas: What’s the, so this is something completely different. It’s actually, it’s a website. It’s called China Trade Monitor and what it does, it’s a free website. It’s a new website by Simon Lester and Huan Zhu. And it just gives you, it shows you how the ground is shifting, because it essentially shows you what is happening in the bureaucracies. It’s essentially links to any trade related news relating to China that is happening. And you see like all the little ways in which the west, but also China is adjusting to this new reality. And just receiving that news data you can see there’s like the commission grappling with the role of Chinese state owned banks in that anti-dumping investigation. Right. And, and it’s a really granular look at how the relationship is evolving beyond the speeches and actually at the technical level.

And just a final comment I wanted to make a on that point is that Simon Lester is actually a very interesting figure because I think he embodies the values of the establishment approach when it comes to China. He’s someone who’s been very skeptical of the security framing of the concern about national security and who has been pointing to the value of the institutions that we have. And something that we often forget is that when we are thinking about institutions, such as the world trade organizations and the mechanisms that it provides dispute settlement and forth, China is much closer aligned with Europe, Canada, and other Western countries than the United States. Like the United States is the country that is boycotting, sabotaging this dispute settlement system, China is a country that has agreed to join a replacement mechanism that was devised by the Europeans and the Canadians.

And so it’s still engaged in rules based and enforceable dispute settlement with other countries. And so it’s essentially this, I think what’s very attractive about this establishment perspective fear is to say, well, let’s be humble. Let’s use the tools that we have to engage. Let’s use, let’s work with China at the edges. Yes. We’re not going to solve this big issue or not it’s not going to be a solution to everything, but let’s work within the institutions that we have let, to work within the framework that we have and see whether we can make some changes, reach some agreements around the margins. And so I recommend the website both because it really gives you that granular look, but also because there’s, I think a real value in being attentive to the institutions and the links that we still have, and that are still working and where sometimes the U.S. is the problem and not so much China.

Kaiser: Great. So I wanted to recommend something it’s much shorter than the book. It’s a good meaty article. We had him on the show, not too long ago. I’m sure that more than of our listeners have already read it, but it’s the latest New Yorker piece by Peter Hessler. And I think it was just one of the best that he’s done, and it might be his absolute best New Yorker piece. It’s called “China’s Reform Generation Adapts to Life in the Middle Class.” It’s in the December 27th issue. It’s everything that you come to expect from a Peter Hessler piece: It’s that exquisitely clean writing, the deep wells of empathy, the uncanny sense of how to create an outline with a few well-chosen lines and that it somehow gets the users or the reader’s brain to fill in the rest and create a really realistic color image.

Jeremy and I had talked to him about how in keeping such close touch with so many of the students that he had when he was an English teacher in the peace corps in the mid, late 1990s, he had the makings of really a longitudinal cohort study, because he, he just kept on corresponding with these students over the last quarter-century. So here you have a piece that basically checks in with, with that group, what, 20, 23 years later. And it says as much about the experience of change in China as anything else that I’ve ever read. I mean, more really, I mean, it’s just masterful. I was just pretty stunned by it. I read twice and I’ll probably read it again, it’s just so good. Great, great, great piece. Peter is just, he really does embody so much without having to think about it without having read any of these books. It just seems instinctive to him to be that person with a dragonfly eyes and with deep human empathy and compassion. I adore him.

Anyway. Thank you so much. Once again, it was so fun. My God. I mean I got to tell you, I was I’m going to be on a high for hours after this and I’m not going to be able to sleep thinking about all these things that we’ve been talking about. So Anthea Roberts, Nicolas Lamp, I hope you will both keep in, in close touch. And I just want to tell you, I mean, I am so grateful for really helping me to become a better thinker. Thank you, to both of you.

Anthea: Well, Kaiser as long time listeners to a show, it’s such a delight to get to talk to you and thank you for both embodying this approach in so many ways, but also doing what you are doing, which is to change some of the communication flows to make people better, understand Chinese approaches and to bridge the gap. I think it’s an extraordinary service that you’re doing,

Kaiser: But as you say, I’m feeling the squeeze. Ah, yeah. Well, this is mood elevating. So thanks once again.

Nicolas: Thank you so much. It’s been wonderful.

Anthea: Thank you.

Kaiser: The Sinica podcast is powered by SupChina and is a proud part of the Sinica network. Our show is produced and edited by me, Kaiser Kuo. I’d be delighted if you would drop me an email at sinica@supchina.com or just as good give the show a rating and a review on Apple Podcast as this really does help people discover our program. Meanwhile, follow us on Twitter or on Facebook at, @supchinanews and make sure to check out all the shows in the cinema network. Thanks for listening. And we’ll see you next week. Take care.