The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers, Richard McGregor

This book should be compulsory reading for anyone engaging in business or government relations with China.  The Communist Party matters, it has influence and it is not going away.  Contrary to the expectations of many, the rise of capitalism in China has not led to the demise of the  Party.  The book provides great insights into how the Party, due to its command and control structures was able to act far more decisively than Western powers during the GFC and drive the reforms necessary to ensure economic stability.

Michael Wesley, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute is currently completing a book on the rise of the Chinese multinational Huawei.  The story of Huawei is an interesting one to explore in conjunction with Macgregor’s book.  Huawei is ranked the fifth most innovative company in the world by Fast Company, now Ranks No.2 in global market share of radio access equipment, and is recognized by BusinessWeek as one of the world’ s most influential companies.  I visited Huawei when I was in Shanghai last year and was awed by the scale of its growth and the speed at which it was becoming the lead provider of wireless and telco network infrastructure in the world.  One to watch…

Global Citizens by Mark Gerzon

Mark Gerzon, the author of this book has significant practical intercultural experience: as a Mediator at the World Economic Forum; Distinguished Fellow at the East West Institute; leading the Global Partners team at the Rockefeller Foundation; and working with the UN Leadership Academy.  His book provides a simple summary of what he believes it takes to become a truly ‘Global Citizen’.    I  liked the book, particularly Gerzon’s four step process required to develop Global Citizens: 1. Witnessing: opening our eyes, 2. Learning: opening our minds, 3. Connecting: creating relationships and 4. Geo-partnering:  working together.  His justification of the need for Global skills is compelling, stating “Our so-called leaders, especially, often view global issues through the lens of their national education and make decisions today based on yesterday’s realities.  In an unstable, dynamic, globalising world, this can be disastrous”.

Gerzon does however neglect to address some of the realities of power imbalances, and their implications for the dynamics of change and relationships among minority and majority groups.  Acknowledging the nature of who has power, access to capital and the capacity to leverage influence, is an important element of the conversation surrounding globalisation.

Gerzon’s list of “20 Ways to raise our Global Intelligence” at the end of his book is a great summary of simple actions we can all commit to, both personally and within our organisations.

Talking to the Enemy: Faith, brotherhood and the (un)making of Terrorists by Scott Atran

This book, and Atran’s work is of great interest for anyone working in international negotiations, counter-terrorism, and multicultural policy.  Atran, an anthropologist by training has spent a significant amount of time in Palestine and Israel, and interviewing the families of the Bali bombers and 9/11 terrorists. His key point in this book is “People don’t kill and die for a cause.  They kill and die for each other” .  Atran explores the importance of ‘sacred values’ and attempts to define why terrorists commit their lives.  Atran challenges some of the focus of current counter-terrorism and provides a valuable historical perspective.  Interestingly, the ‘logic’ of the market place does not work in these spaces, and is counter-intuitive – the provision of financial incentives being a disincentive in contexts where sacred values are at risk.  Here’s a vodcast of Scott Atran presenting at the RSA in London on his book and ideas.