For the record, Anderson seems to be a well-informed, insightful person. Among many other accomplishments, Anderson's bio claims he's the only person to predict both the financial collapse of 2008 and the more recent drastic drop in the price of oil.
Any lack of clarity in what I write below should be blamed on my poor note taking and memory, not either of the keynote speakers.
Anderson began by taking 10 minutes to brief us on four notable topics.
- The rise of nationalism (aka alt-right, aka populism) was instigated by two factors: immigration and trade imbalance. What most people don't understand, is that the huge migration of people has very little to do with escaping war and conflict; mostly it involves people moving from a place that sucks to a place that's better for economic reasons. Here Anderson tossed out the nugget "[Immigration] is the only reason Brexit happened." The second factor, trade imbalance, directly hurts the middle class. Here Anderson dropped a second nugget, the opinion that China's trade policy is to impoverish their trade partners. And a third nugget: China's economy is crashing and has been for a couple of years with GDP actually dropping 2-4%.
- $50/gallon oil is the greatest thing in the world. By dropping what amounted to a global tax, we in the U.S. no longer need to mess around in the Middle East because soon we'll be the largest exporter of oil.
- With respect to the rise of technology and automation, Anderson called it inevitable and said it will be a great benefit to those who control the means of production because they will become more profitable. At the same time, robots will replace human jobs furthering the trend toward income inequality. "Bill Gates is going to be a pauper compared to Elon Musk," said Anderson. [Note that this says nothing about the societal cost of income inequality and how we as a society redirect the workforce. The good news is, this argument is similar to those I heard in the 1970s about robots taking peoples' factory jobs.]
- Finally, global warming is real. Anderson says just ask the military, serious people who are currently accounting for that in their planning.
Foster recently authored Stealth Japan, a look at the success of the Japanese economy, a success that the Western media is said to get completely wrong. In introducing Foster, Anderson called Japan the "pivot country" in Asia.
The election of Trump created panic and dismay throughout Eastern Asia. Specifically, the demise of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) - a deal that the U.S. pushed through mostly on its own beneficial terms - has killed American credibility in the region. Countries in the region - China included - are negotiating a new trade pact that leaves the U.S. out. Probably not a good thing for us.
On the political-military front, the Chinese are in the South China Sea with their man-made islands and such. It's a done deal. In addition to this expansion, Anderson tossed out that "Nothing happens in North Korea without help and approval from the Chinese." So complaints about their missile program fall on deaf ears, especially when the U.S. government would prefer China handle it. There's nothing China would love more than to further diminish U.S. influence in the region.
With respect to economic power, China is buying its way into the manufacturing of industrial robots. China has created in response to Industry 4.0 an effort called Made in China 2025. Unlike "made in America" which was called an empty slogan with nothing behind it, China will use everything within their economic and political power to achieve that goal. And a huge effort to develop the Eurasian Rail Network will create new economies simply due to the ease of shipping goods.
With respect to countries in the region. Japan follows the rules. China is only for consenting adults. (Do business there, but take care.) South Korea is opening up (because their economy is so bad they have to). Singapore is the London of Asia.
- The drive toward automation is unstoppable.
- There is fear that the U.S. will disengage from Asia.
- We are over-estimating China and underestimating Japan.