Joshua Cooper Ramo – One-on-One Conversation

As one of the biggest concerns for our economy and international politics is China, I wanted to recruit a global leader on the subject, Joshua Cooper Ramo, to speak to clients.

Joshua is a former editor of Time Magazine, former CEO of Kissinger Associates, and current board member for FedEx and Starbucks. He has been called “one of China’s leading foreign-born scholars” and has written books about the interconnectedness of our global society and what the future holds.

Here are a few key things we learned during our one-on-one conversation:

  1. We now live in an age where more and more parts of our lives are connected, and that connection changes the way the world works. A globally connected currency (or company, doctor, voter, military, etc.) interacts and reacts in different ways than an isolated one. Plus, modern networks are fast and getting faster. That instantaneity reduces the amount of time for humans to react before events have already transpired. One rule of thumb for thinking about networks? A trilemma between fast, open, or secure. Pick 2 of 3. You can have an open and secure network (like the TSA), but it isn’t fast. You can have banking networks that are fast and secure but not open. The US building trustworthy, reliable, modern systems will be key to maintaining its world leadership.
  2. There’s a difference between complicated and complex. A jet engine is complicated; it has many parts, and they fit together in a neat and predictable way. Other systems, like the Amazon rainforest, stock market, or economy, are complex; they have millions of dynamic, interacting pieces that react to each other, making them unpredictable. Small things can have a huge impact, the pandemic and oil pipeline cyberattacks being the latest examples.
  3. The world is in a deglobalization phase when it comes to international trade and commerce. However, the exchange of cultural ideas (such as international Netflix shows) is increasing. For global businesses, success will depend on taking a more local approach in foreign countries, rather than simply exporting American ideas.
  4. The United States is a country of immigrants who cooperate economically, and culturally that means we need to trust each other quickly. Ramo says that this is different in China, where relationships take a long time to develop. While in the US, transparency is paramount, relationships are key in China for business and government affairs. What the US and China have in common is that they both want to be constructive on the global stage to build a better future. This is unlike some countries who do not want to cooperate or build, rather only compete or tear other countries down for their own sake.
  5. Hundreds of years ago, China missed the Enlightenment and modernization of the western world. They have been playing catch-up ever since, and in recent decades have lifted 400 million people out of poverty. China may have a late-comer technological advantage as we approach the new era. The US advantage comes from already being the most trusted country in the world when it comes to our technology and leadership.

While keenly aware of the challenges we face in this era of technological progress, Joshua is optimistic about the future of technology, networks, and US-China relations. We hope you enjoyed this enlightening conversation.