What I am watching today = April 26, 2019
Curation and commentary from Marc A. Ross
Reporting from Alexandria, Virginia
News + Analysis at the Intersection of Globalization + Disruption + Politics
✔️ Xi vows new direction for ‘Belt and Road’ after criticism
✔️ Does Starbucks make you smarter?
✔️ Maria Butina is not a Russian spy, but a 'spotter'
✔️ “I haven’t seen anything else quite like Don Quijote”
✔️ The new vacation perk: Celebrity encounters
21 ways to not have the right network:
1. Same backgrounds - think homophily.
2. Lack of mission statement.
3. Thinking small.
4. Too much self-reliance.
5. Same skills. Same talents. Same ideas.
6. Too provincial.
7. Limited perspective.
8. Choosing personality over purpose.
10. Not stubborn enough.
11. Easily swayed.
12. Over-reliance on cash and class as the connection.
13. Spending not investing.
14. No reboot.
15. Too many jerks.
16. More campaign, not cause.
17. Comfortable and content.
18. Thinking the hype is real.
19. Lack of moxie.
20. Don’t do the work.
21. Many ideas, no execution.
Marc A. Ross specializes in thought leader strategy for executives and entrepreneurs working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.
China’s Xi vows new direction for ‘Belt and Road’ after criticism: WSJ reports, China’s President Xi Jinping signaled a recalibration of his global infrastructure-building program as he sought to assuage foreign critics who blame Beijing for pushing excessive lending onto developing economies.
Xi pledges open Belt and Road but west is split on programme: FT reports, Beijing chips away at wariness over flagship infrastructure building project.
Nikkei: Xi pledges Belt and Road reboot amid rising 'debt trap' concerns
China's Belt and Road is 'green and clean,' says Xi: DW reports, Chinese President Xi Jinping says the Belt and Road program must be "open, green and clean." Beijing wants to dispel fears that its infrastructure plans will leave countries saddled with debt and environmental damage.
UK in China: Philip Hammond, the chancellor, attends the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, along with President Putin.
China lobbies ASEAN on yuan use, cracking dollar dominance: Nikkei reports, Beijing proposes Asian currencies, including yen, be added to emergency pool.
AFP: Xi says will abolish anti-competitive subsidies to Chinese firms
China’s Xi signals approval for Trump’s trade war demands: Bloomberg reports, Xi spent a large portion of his speech Friday addressing Chinese domestic reforms, pledging to address state subsidies, protect intellectual property rights, allow foreign investment in more sectors and avoid competitive devaluation of the yuan. All four are issues the US is addressing in trade talks with Beijing.
China's rocket start-ups develop 'shoebox' satellites: Reuters reports, China's private rocket manufacturers are racing to develop small rockets capable of sending satellites into space at affordable prices, as part of a broader Chinese dream of building commercial satellites that can offer services from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking coal shipments.
Geoffrey Owen: How to meet the challenge of China: Western governments should think twice before trying to keep Chinese companies out.
"Fifty-two years ago, the French journalist and politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber wrote a hugely successful book called Le Défi Américain (The American Challenge). In it, he warned that European industry was about to be overwhelmed by giant American companies such as General Motors and Ford. Unless urgent action was taken to create bigger European companies, Servan-Schreiber argued, Europe would became a technological vassal of the US."
Dan Wang: Why China will rival the US in high tech: Critics who say bureaucracy and rote education stifle innovation are missing the biggest factor in the mainland’s favor: its huge market.
Anjani Trivedi: Why China can’t pull up the world: Beijing’s stimulus has been targeted and domestically focused. That means it won’t do much to boost growth elsewhere.
LAT: Trump's withdrawal from TPP trade deal is hurting U.S. exports to Japan
The White House is scrambling to undo the damage of Trump’s swift withdrawal from what would have been the world’s largest regional trade agreement.
The remaining 11 members proceeded anyway, slashing tariffs and leaving US businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Today: Donald Trump hosts Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, at the White House.
Japan’s Abe visits White House in latest bid to soothe Trump’s ego — and avoid his ire: WP reports,the Japanese leader has played a diligent inside game to mixed results but now faces a new test amid President Trump’s threats on trade.
Trump and Abe to meet as Japan and US seek trade deal: NYT reports, Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will meet today to discuss a bilateral deal that was almost unthinkable two years ago. But the United States may have to agree to some concessions.
The US is pushing to reduce its trade deficit with Japan and gain better access to the Asian nation’s agricultural market. Japan is looking for a concrete promise that it won’t be hit by possible US tariffs on auto imports.
Reuters: Japan tells US can't link monetary policy to trade: finance minister Aso
FT: Japanese government and Nissan reject Renault merger talks
Relations sink to new low after double snub to French carmaker.
Europe’s nationalists band together in bid for influence: WSJ reports, European Parliament elections next month will test the strength of an energized far-right’s views, offering a signpost to Europe’s politics in coming years. Nationalists are reaching across borders to try to build an alliance they hope can reshape the legislature.
France’s Macron vows to cut taxes, stay on pro-business course: WSJ reports, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to cut taxes in a long-awaited address that sidestepped demands for immediate measures to quell months of violent yellow-vest protests.
FT: French employees face challenge to short-hours culture
Macron wants citizens to work longer in bid to increase tax revenues.
Macron responds to yellow vest protests by promising tax cuts, more reforms: DW reports, President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to ease taxes on France's middle class, reform its civil service while also reinstating public order. His long Elysee Palace news conference follows months of yellow vest protests.
Virgin plastics: As the EU waves through the single-use plastics ban, broadly shuns fracking and pushes for decarbonization by 2050, plans for a wholesale contradiction involving INEOS and US ethane are underway in the city of Antwerp.
Roger Dooley: Does Starbucks make you smarter? One thing the coffee giant has been very smart about is preserving the powerful aroma of roasted coffee beans. Research shows that the mere smell of coffee can improve some cognitive functions. University of Toronto researchers recently published results which verified the concept that coffee cues prime the brain with an expectation of increased sharpness. Subjects from cultures where coffee drinking is common experienced higher levels of alertness and attention when primed with coffee cues than those from tea-oriented cultures.
One sign that neuromarketing has transcended its era of hype and hucksterism: Nielsen now has 16 neuro labs globally, including five in the US. One opened late last year in Cincinnati, Ohio, the heart of client country and home to Procter & Gamble, which is among the marketers that now have neuroscientists in-house.
"I think the industry is still a little bit of wild, wild west. It's still got plenty of snake oil in it," says Duane Varan, CEO of MediaScience.
Trump sought out loyalist to curtail special counsel — and drew Mueller’s glare: WP reports, Trump’s efforts to enlist Corey Lewandowski as a back channel were read by some legal observers as one of the clearest cases for potential obstruction of justice laid out in Robert S. Mueller III's report.
Admitted Russian agent Butina to be sentenced in US, faces deportation: Reuters reports, admitted Russian agent Maria Butina will be sentenced on Friday by a federal judge after pleading guilty in December to conspiring with a Russian official to infiltrate a gun rights group and influence U.S. conservative activists and Republicans.
USA Today: Maria Butina is not a Russian spy, but a 'spotter': DOJ revives intrigue over gun rights activist
Rolling Stone: 17 takeaways from Maria Butina’s sentencing memo http://bit.ly/2VvVpKE
The NRA-friendly Russian national reveals a plot to get Vladimir Putin on American cable TV.
FT: Sanders launches attack on Biden over lobbyist fundraiser event
Attendance at private function underlines ex-vice president’s urgent need for cash.
Reuters: Like Trump, Democrat Buttigieg bills himself as a turnaround expert
Bloomberg: Biden banks on Trump to help win White House in 2020
"Biden’s strategy – which his campaign said will include an emphasis on rebuilding the middle class and unifying the country – comes after more than two years of party post-mortems concluded that Hillary Clinton’s almost single-minded emphasis on Trump’s shortcomings contributed to her loss in 2016."
Offshore drilling + 2020: The Trump administration has shelved plans for a vast expansion in offshore oil and gas drilling following a court decision blocking fossil fuel activity in large swaths of the Arctic. Offshore drilling is not seen as such a swell idea in Trump must-win state Florida.
Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox: America’s future depends on the bedroom, not the border: With a historically low unemployment rate, America is running low on workers in everything from high-tech to construction, manufacturing and services as Donald Trump’s stronger immigration policies help raise wages for existing US workers, from the lowest paid to well-paid construction workers, for the first time in decades.
Uber ratcheted down its target valuation to a range of about $80 billion to $90 billion.
FT: Uber to pitch IPO between $44 and $50 a share
Ride-hailing app could raise $8bn-$10bn and will sell about $500m of stock to PayPal.
Nikkei: Japan's Don Quijote exports retail 'jungles' in age of Amazon
Discounter bets on bricks-and-mortar chaos to win Asian customers.
Bloomberg: The cult Japanese retailer making billions breaking all the rules https://bloom.bg/2Vrn13v
Don Quijote is a little like a mashup of TJ Maxx, Dollar Tree, Costco, and the no-frills grocer Aldi, with a dollop of Japanese eccentricity thrown in.
“I haven’t seen anything else quite like Don Quijote,” says Michael Causton, a retail analyst in Tokyo for Japan Consuming. “It’s chaotic, messy stores, which belie what’s behind it—a highly disciplined, extremely rigorous management philosophy.”
Retail experts have described Donki, as it’s popularly known, as a jungle, a hoarder’s paradise, even a fire hazard, with shelves so heavily packed they look as if they might fall over. But the heart of its strategy is simple: Floor staff should have near-total autonomy to decide what to sell.
The first target is Asia for Don Quijote, which sells everything from humidifiers to sex toys.
Walmart has unveiled a new “store of the future” and test grounds for emerging technologies, including AI-enabled cameras and interactive displays. The store, a working concept called the Intelligent Retail Lab — or “IRL” for short — operates out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Levittown, NY.
Amazon to roll out one-day shipping worldwide: FT reports, online retailer beats estimates as profits more than double in first quarter.
Starbucks plans to expand delivery service to 50 Chinese cities.
The new vacation perk: Celebrity encounters: WSJ reports, To let tourists come home with bragging rights, the travel industry and fundraisers are selling access to celebs, rockers, athletes and a whole host of boldfaced names.
Tim Harford: Always seek out novelty — even at home: The search for new experiences should not just be for our holidays.
Enjoy the ride + plan accordingly.