Before you begin putting your feet up to enjoy the holiday festivities, you may want to grab a few titles from my new reading list, which gathers interesting perspectives on key political, economic and investment themes. China's re-emergence and rebalancing challenges will be a significant force in 2017; so will shifting political and geopolitical narratives, and the transformative power of disruption and technological innovation. I hope you find something on this list that will entertain, enlighten and provoke your "grey matter" while you enjoy time with your families! Best wishes for 2017.
Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China's Extraordinary Rise
By Carl Walter
This book is a refresher on how important big banks are to China's economic policy—and why Beijing's recent intervention in the "shadow banking" world is part of a plan to meaningfully refocus these unregulated activities back into its economy. The larger goal for China over the next decade is to "rebalance"—moving away from exports toward consumption and services—as it becomes a global player in finance, trade and geopolitics. Will it work, and will China really surpass the US as the world's premier global economy?
The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage
By Alexandra Harney
China's "factory economy" frequently beats the competition by short-changing its workers and the environment, but China's new leaders seem intent on redressing some of the consequences of the country's amazing economic progress. Yet that means China is facing high costs at a time when trade protectionism is growing: It must focus on its environment, which has been greatly diminished by the nation's explosive growth, and it must address its ageing population's challenges while still offering opportunities to its millennials.
On Geopolitics and Finance
All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power
By Nomi Prins
Who will really rule America in the Trump era? Wall Street and the White House have a long history of interdependence that can't be dismissed merely as money driving politics—or greed driving bankers. For years, they worked together to champion the expansion of America abroad while focusing on the greater good at home. But eventually, the desire for profits trumped allegiance to public service and presidents lost control over the economy—as we saw during the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Will the changing political tide shift the establishment's alliances, or will these hidden partnerships continue shaping the nation?
Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped
By Garry Kasparov
This book is still holding a place on my list of must-reads for a range of reasons, not least because 2017 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, a major geopolitical event that still resonates a century later. At risk of drawing too close a comparison between the rise of the Bolsheviks and the state of today's political affairs, the world is clearly seeing a pronounced rise of populism and nationalism. Brexit and Trump have just set foot on the world stage, with LePen and others waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin stokes nationalism in his own country as he carefully plots his next move. In this book, Kasparov outlines how the West has acquiesced in the ascent of Putin and his cronies, giving Russia's leader the ability to grow into an ever more powerful threat to local, regional and global affairs.
Smarter Than Us: The Rise of Machine Intelligence
By Stuart Armstrong
As an investment theme, disruption is one of the most dynamic forces at play today, presenting an existential danger for some industries while opening up game-changing opportunities for others. Just consider the disruptive auto technologies that will continue to boom globally as the industry embraces artificial intelligence—and then consider what might happen if AI becomes smarter than people. This book investigates the immense potential, both positive and destructive, that this new technology holds, and the ethical challenges today's scientists and researchers are confronting. Is humanity up to the challenge, and how can we as investors build portfolios that sustainably benefit from AI technology and disruption?
Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era
By James Barrat
In just a few years, artificial intelligence could surpass human intelligence—the technological Holy Grail for many governments, corporations and scientists around the world. But what happens next? Could we be forced to compete with a cunning rival that has a fierce survival drive? This book delves into the dangers of pursuing advanced AI, asking whether we can coexist with beings that possess intelligence that dwarfs our own—and even whether "they" will allow us to. Perhaps Hollywood's dystopian movies may prove right after all.