What We’re Reading: Superpowers and Scary Stories

Weekly reviews of what's on our bookshelves.

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Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War By Bob Davis and Lingling Wei “Superpower Showdown” provides a broad overview of the history of U.S.-Chinese trade and a granular look at how long-building tensions erupted into a full-blown trade war beginning in 2017. The book, written by a pair of Wall Street Journal reporters, thus makes it easy to see how much the recent blow-ups fit the long-term pattern. A couple of themes stand out. One is just how much trade relationships are defined, or hindered, by conflicting domestic interests. This is true everywhere. But they become particularly tricky to navigate when strategic and ideological issues and human rights-related political forces are at play. The most interesting theme, though, is perpetual U.S. indecision over what to prioritize with China – the profits of U.S. firms? strategic concerns? democratization? – and perpetual U.S. uncertainty about the efficacy of any particular approach. In other words, it’s become fashionable lately to accuse U.S. officials who advocated greater integration with China in the 1990s and 2000s of naivete and wishful thinking about the likelihood that bringing China into the global trading system would gradually lead to a flowering […]

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Phillip Orchard
Phillip Orchard is an analyst at Geopolitical Futures. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Orchard spent nearly six years at Stratfor, working as an editor and writing about East Asian geopolitics. He’s spent more than six years abroad, primarily in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he’s had formative, immersive experiences with the problems arising from mass political upheaval, civil conflict and human migration. Mr. Orchard holds a master’s degree in Security, Law and Diplomacy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he focused on energy and national security, Chinese foreign policy, intelligence analysis, and institutional pathologies. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He speaks Spanish and some Thai and Lao.
Cole Altom
Cole Altom is the managing editor at Geopolitical Futures. He oversees the publishing department, which curates the website, develops Geopolitical Futures’ editorial strategy, consults with analysts, liaises with marketing and maintains the integrity of all published material. Before joining Geopolitical Futures, Mr. Altom worked at Stratfor for seven years, during which time, as managing editor, he handled special projects, served as personnel director for the publishing department, ran the internship program, managed website taxonomy, tracked website analytics, developed new content types and edited and copyedited published material. Mr. Altom earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science at Trinity University in San Antonio. He is a certified English teacher and is conversant in Spanish.