Archive for month: October, 2018

Asia’s Most Trade Dependent Country, Who is Most Popular and Where the Cyber Attacks Are

We spotted him towards the back of the large event space, as always looming large just outside of the spotlight. We were attending the inaugural New Orleans Food and Funk Fest which his company was organizing in Seattle featuring chefs and musicians from New Orleans. Although we had never met him, his life had impacted ours, and countless others, in a myriad of ways, from the technology he pioneered as a young man, to his real estate endeavors that transformed the city we live in, to his research in cutting edge areas of science, to his efforts to save elephants, to his promotion of the arts, including this very festival we were attending. Years before, when our father-in-law worked for him as a janitor, he flew our father-in-law on his private plane to Portland to watch a Trail Blazers game. This night he stood quietly next to another man, perhaps a friend or bodyguard. As this most private of men saw us walking towards him, we could see a look of discomfort creep onto his face. But when we merely thanked him for organizing this festival because of our love of New Orleans, he smiled and relaxed. Both he and I expressed our admiration for the Crescent City and then we left him to his private thoughts, as we headed for alligator cheesecake and beignets. Perhaps our favorite marker of his life is the incredible diversity of friends and acquaintances lamenting his passing—musician Quincy Jones, cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, comedian and fellow New Orleanphile Harry Shearer, philosopher Marshawn Lynch, rock band Pearl Jam, hack politician Newt Gingrich and many others from a panoply of life–science, sports, music and more. And, although not a friend, we too lament. RIP Paul Allen, our favorite, and this is not meant as a joke, Seattle billionaire. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, All Along Paul Allen’s Watchtower as we gaze upon and comment on our complicated world.

Like a Rolling Stone

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We are again on the road next week. INTN is back with scary world stories on Halloween

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Asia’s Most Trade Dependent Country Meets U.S.-China

As China and the U.S. continue a battle of the economic bulges, which countries may benefit? Vietnam, the most trade dependent country in Asia, as measured by exports as a percentage of GDP, is an excellent candidate. Over the last decade, Vietnam’s exports have quadrupled to well over $200 billion. According to Natixix, “Out of Vietnam’s top ten export items, eight are included in higher U.S. tariffs for China, which means that Vietnam has become a relatively more competitive location for those items via tariff arbitrage in addition to labor cost differential.” Even before the tariff war, some assembly was being moved to Vietnam because of rising labor costs in China. And, Vietnam is the fourth-largest recipient of foreign direct investment in all of Asia, behind only China, Singapore and India. Vietnam, unlike China, is seeing a decrease in the number of state-owned-enterprises (25 percent decrease since 2011), and does not have as much debt as China. Vietnam still has a rigid governance structure and perhaps someday Trump will aim his trade bazookas at this southeast nation, but for now, keep an eye on Vietnam as the U.S. and China continue to do economic battle.

Who is Winning the World Popularity Contest?

China is likely to grow in influence over the coming years, despite whatever policies are pursued by the current U.S. Administration and despite any dark roads down which President Xi may lead his country. China’s growing influence will be one of the most important factors affecting world affairs in the coming decades. Unless China moves away from authoritarianism and censorship, it won’t be an entirely benign influence. As it turns out, we are not alone in such worries. Whatever concerns people have about the United States and its current leadership (concerns we also share), there is still a clear preference over China. According to a recent Pew Global survey, “a median of 63% across the nations surveyed say having the U.S. as the world’s leading power would be better for the world. In contrast, just 19% say a world in which China was the leading power would be better.” This preference is even higher in Asia, where more than 70 percent of most countries’ residents prefer U.S. leadership to China’s. The only countries in the survey to prefer China to the U.S.? Argentina, Tunisia, and yes, of course, Russia.

Who is Getting Cyber-attacked the Most?

The last few years you may have seen a lot more news about cyberattacks—unless you’re one of the victims in which case maybe you can’t access the Internet…which I suppose means you aren’t reading this. But, which countries are victims of the most targeted attacks? The cyber security company Symantec provides some answers, including what we mean by “targeted attacks”: “an attack directed at a specific target or targets as opposed to widescale indiscriminate campaigns.” Unsurprisingly, the U.S. tops the list of countries suffering targeted attacks. But surprisingly, at least to us, India comes in second. Japan, Taiwan and Ukraine round out the top five. For malware, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand top the list. South Africa has the highest phishing rate, Saudi Arabia the highest spam rate and Ukraine, China and Indonesia suffer the highest rates of mobile malware. The whole report is worth perusing as cyberattacks are increasingly the medium of nation-state battles.

Nobel Prizes in Intl trade, Robots in Asia, and Old-Age in Japan

We attended the Jeff Tweedy solo acoustic show earlier this week. For those that don’t know Tweedy, he is the founder and leader of Wilco, and before that was in one of the seminal alt-country* bands, Uncle Tupelo. One of my favorite photos of all time comes from The Anthology disc of Uncle Tupelo, a reissue of then mostly out of print albums. It shows the three members of Uncle Tupelo, including Tweedy, sitting on a roof top, bottles of cheap beer in their hands or at their feet, in the full cradle of youth. It is a photo of dreams, hopes and aspirations–perhaps even the creative tension that eventually tore the band apart–catching a moment in time, a moment that only comes at that tender age in humans, projects and countries. It is a photo of youthful innocence. At the Moore Theater, Tweedy–an occasionally irascible and tortured character historically–is much older, grizzled even, heavier and yet it was the most content and happy we’ve ever seen him. He was, as always, a great performer, which made us happy, and we wonder if the guy in the photo with the beer would have aspired to the man he is today? As we aspire for all people, projects and countries to settle into such good and productive places, we cast an eye on the international make-up of the Nobels, Asia’s robotic future and Japan’s rapidly aging society. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, a lover of Red, Red Wine, not a fighter of it.

*Has the term”alt-right” ruined the term “alt-country?

–We’ll be on business in New Orleans next week (no, really, we’re attending a conference…but we do plan on having a po’ boy and catching some music as well). International Need to Know will return on October 18th.

Okay, that’s enough ado…

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Nobel Prizes in International Trade?

Earlier this week the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to two researchers, one from Japan and one from America, who independently did work on how to use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Given a friend of ours was recently saved by such technology, we are especially heartened by this award. The Nobel also spurred us to ponder about innovation around the world and China-U.S. competition. Historically, the U.S. dominates the list of Nobel Prize winners with 371 going to those working in the United States. But nearly 40 percent of those American Nobel prize winners were immigrants, originally hailing from other countries. The more countries that create ecosystems where good ideas can flourish, the better for the whole world. After all, everyone will benefit from better anti-cancer treatments (with time those treatments will be economically viable all over the globe). Meanwhile, China wants to be less reliant on U.S. technology and the U.S. wants to be less reliant on China for manufacturing and assembly. We assert the world is more successful when its great economic and innovation bakery is franchised throughout the world, not when we all retreat to our own kitchens aiming to serve only our own dining tables. This, we realize, is an unpopular thought as much of the world turns against globalization. Perhaps soon the world will turn in a more productive spin.

Asia’s Future is Robotic

Asia’s rise has been one of the world’s most important events of the last 40 years and is reshaping our world. One illustration of Asia’s leading role is the number of robots it deploys. Nearly 65 percent of the world’s industrial robots are deployed in Asia. That’s a function of Asia’s prowess in manufacturing and assembly but also its openness to new technology. Within Asia, China is home to half the industrial robots. By robot density (number of robots per 10,000 workers), Korea, Singapore and Japan are three of the top four in the world. But as the IMF points out, Asia “is also the region with the highest robot production—Japan and Korea are the world’s top two producers, with market shares of 52 and 12 percent, respectively.” When we wrote a few weeks ago about which countries fear automation the most, Asian countries were among the least scared (with the exception of Japan which fears loss of jobs—but see story below). Maybe they are short sighted or maybe there is an ingrained optimism among nations on the rise.

The Incredibly, Remarkably Old Japan

Even given our obsession with demographics and the well-known fact that Japan has the grayest of demographics, we were still taken aback to learn that now 20 percent of Japanese are 70-years-old or older. That’s an extraordinary number of really old people.  According to the Nikkei Asian Review, “The 70-and-over segment of the population grew to an estimated 26.18 million, or 20.7%. That marks an increase of 1 million from last year, driven by baby boomers born from 1947 to 1949.” And when we consider Japanese 65 and older, it goes up to 28 percent of the population. Remarkably, those 65 and older make up over 12 percent of the Japanese workforce. Maybe those old Japanese are worried about losing their jobs to robots. In fact, engadget reports that a Japanese company has developed a robot that installs drywall (please send them to our house immediately—we have a drywall project to complete). Japan is in the vanguard on how to cope with an aging population. Other countries may match Japan’s graying demographics someday. How they manage those demographics will be a big test.

【HRP-5P】Humanoid Robot【産総研公式】

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