Since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO and daughter of the head of Huawei, the company has been in the news lately. Popular media has placed this story at the center of deteriorating relations between the US and China on both sides of the Pacific. In the US, the implications of Huawei acting as, essentially, an agent of the Communist Party of China have peppered the stories. In China, it’s all been another front on the trade war and effort to keep China itself down, yet again.
Which side is right?
Without a lot of context, it’s impossible to tell just what is going on. Huawei is indeed a fast rising company, and its connections to the government have definitely played a role in that. They’ve also played the free market game like any fast rising company by working incredibly long hours, poaching top talent (and their information), skirting around inconvenient laws, and slapping things together with blazing speed.
But, in the end, it’s not entirely Huawei which is the issue after all.
This piece from four years ago is a bit dated, but it also is not. We do need to find original sources, and far too many important issues in our world are clouded by the lack of them.
The internet is a wide, rolling river of information. It can be treacherous and dangerous to wade into if you’re not careful. If you’re looking for a cool drink of truth, the muddy brown of this mighty Mississippi of data often has a harsh stench of bias bubbling along with the waves. What can a reader thirsty for knowledge do?
The answer is to seek the source – the cool, clear stream that feeds into the torment at the headwaters. I call it the “Urquelle”, a German word meaning “original source” favored in the mountains and rolling hills that are the source of so many great rivers in Bavaria and Bohemia. This process of seeking out primary sources is valuable not just for writers, for whom primary sources have long been a staple of good, useful prose. As surely as reading is writing, today’s discerning reader should also seek the Urquelle.
A day after the State of the Union address has the internet lit up. Everyone has an opinion, and many of them want to state it. Topics range from the substance of the address to how it was presented and ultimately how it is received in the nation given a varying degree of relevance.
It’s entirely possible to go through this point by point and make some kind of alternative statement about the state of the union as I see it. But that seems to miss the main point. Our nation is fractured and unfocused. Why? Before we debate this topic, it seems reasonable to go back to the main purpose of debate in the first place, a fundamental skill necessary for an open, free, and democratic society.
The purpose of debate is to learn.
In a world connecting in new ways, it logically follows that some nations are working with great clarity and unity to make use of these connections for political goals. It is also reasonable that new tools for connecting the methods and message of these tools can be found to increase understanding and transparency for this process.
The book War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft by Robert D. Blackwill is important for many reasons, primarily in how it describes how economics can be used to move forward the political goals of developing nations. It is, however, very dense and at times difficult to follow. It is also, as its title suggests, centered on the Industrial National model of a previous generation.
Thank goodness the most relevant parts of this have been brought forward in a fabulous youtube production that is less of a TED talk and more of a quick graduate class.
Take a look around you. The routine of your life has probably coalesced into an arrangement of things – a computer or phone, a mug of tea, a table, a home. These are the things which make up your life. What defines any of them is not only what they are, but what they are made of. They are, themselves, a series of connections between created objects and molecules that make up your world.
What connects them all together in this moment is you.
While humans tend to see the world as a collection of things, what makes those things what they are, and indeed makes them at all, is how they are connected. What makes you is how you are connected as well – to these things, to other people, and to ideas which inform how you perceived them.
All anything is in this world, from the corporeal to the conceptual, is a series of connections.
A high technology world is a world fundamentally based on trust. The lack of this is currently the single largest issue, defining politics within and without national borders.
While sorting out the goals and needs of People’s Economics, one thing stands out: how do we wind up with some general agreement on the system(s) of our world? That’s where this piece, first run two years ago, comes in.
Driving down the interstate, your safe travel and even your life depends a lot on the competence of many other people. Sure, there is a body of law and court precedent and paid agreements with insurance companies that enforces the basic codes of decency and safety. But in the end it really comes down to the skill and attention of comrades in gasoline and steel being at their best not just casually but constantly.
Of course this fails from time to time, but considering how much time people spend behind the wheel it’s amazingly seamless and simple. The system largely works – we all get there nearly all the time. We depend on each other to not be stupid and the vast majority of the time it comes together.
This basic lesson in civics is a good place to start as the nation unravels into some kind of dark hole that frankly promises to only become darker with time. It’s a thought experiment, a self-taught lesson worth thinking through by malcontents and eggheads alike, by both those in power and those in pain.