Marketing Excellence in a Globalizing World

bcg.perspectives – Marketing Excellence in a Globalizing World. BCG’s take on how to market in developing economies vs. developed economies. An interesting take, but here is ours: the more we try to generalize about marketing across cultures and nations, the more obvious the limitations of those generalizations become.

Toward a More Humane PLA

The PLA and International Humanitarian Law: Achievements and Challenges
Lt. Col. Wang Wenjuan
Institute for Security and Development Policy
October 2013

English: A Chinese soldier with the People's L...

English: A Chinese soldier with the People’s Liberation Army waits to assist with American and Chinese delegation’s traffic at Shenyang training base, China, March 24, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even leaving aside the tragic events of June 1989, speaking of the humanitarian record of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) seems almost an oxymoron. We simply do not think of the PLA in those terms.

Wang Wenjuan does, though, and in her paper she makes a clear case that China’s military leaders are at least going through the motions. She documents the understanding international humanitarian law (IHL) at the highest levels of command, the degree to which it is integrated into PLA training and indoctrination programs, and the fact that the PLA is even engaged in “research” into humanitarian law.

What matters, of course, is the behavior of the force on the battlefield and in the administration of areas captured and occupied in combat, or areas administered under a peacekeeping mandate. In the two decades during which Wang suggests that the PLA has been in compliance with IHL, the force has never faced a true test of its resolve. And there lies the rub.

In language designed carefully not to place her career in jeopardy, LTC Wang makes clear that more effort is needed to ensure that the PLA behaves in the field according to its professed ideals. History has proven that this is a tall order even for the armed forces of democratic powers (Amritsar, My Lai, and Abu Ghraib, for example.) The PLA has much to prove, and Wang understands that the PLA has a long way to go before it can face such a test.

Chatham House on the Xi Administration


Xi Jinping - Caricature

Xi Jinping – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

“The New Leadership in Beijing: Political and Economic Implications”
Kerry Brown
Chatham House
July 2013

If you have grown tired of reading analyses of Xi Jinping and his leadership program, you are not alone. The tea-leaf readers have been out in force this year, and anyone coming to the party at this point is somewhat late. But if you really care about what is going on in China, you are left with little choice but to keep reading. I do. Not necessarily because I expect a revelation with each new document, but because the better ones sharpen the definition of an incredibly fuzzy picture.

Many of my fellow China Condors and I are hoping to get some clarity about the next ten years following the coming plenum of the Party congress. The leaders have been chosen, the theory goes, and now it is time to lay out the policy platform that will guide the country over the next decade. There is much wishful thinking here: none of us are betting that we are going to be any clearer about the new leadership’s priorities then than we are now.

So we keep scouring the literature, and Kerry Brown’s paper is delightful in its brevity and clarity. Of all of his conclusions, the one that is likely to spark the most controversy (see the Eurasia Review link below) is this:

This is a leadership set up therefore for a domestic agenda and that will resist attempts to pull it more deeply into international affairs, which are seen as lying beyond what the elite define as in China’s national interests (preservation of stability, building up economic strength, safeguarding sovereignty), despite the very real pressures that will be put on it to that effect.

Comforting words, if true, particularly to China’s neighbors. Japan and the Philippines in particular are understandably worried about Chinese adventurism. Yet there is a limit implicit in Brown’s statement. The moment that China’s elite define the national interest as a plunge into international affairs – perhaps as a palliative to a restive populace, or in defense of the threatened assets of national enterprises – all bets are off.

A great read, and if you have read nothing else about the new leadership, Brown’s paper is an excellent précis of a vast and growing corpus of analysis.

Meet the New Generals. Same as the Old Generals?

“China’s New Military Leadership and the Challenges It Faces
Greg Chaffin
National Bureau of Asian Research

Greg Chaffin interviews Roy Kamphausen, Senior Advisor for Political and Security Affairs at NBR, on what he thinks the new Central Military Commission will mean for the People’s Liberation Army and for China’s defense posture.

When Deeds Speak Louder


ADMIRAL RAYMOND A. SPRUANCE, USN (Photo credit: roberthuffstutter)


The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance
Thomas B. Buell
Naval Institute Press
January 1987
518 pages


“There are two kinds of people in this world,” a Chinese executive told me once. “The kind of people who speak for themselves, and the kind who let their deeds speak for them.”


This insight not only compelled me to look at my own life (which one am I?), it also forced me to re-evaluate my heroes. Who among my pantheon was a doer, and who did some good things but was really exceptional at tooting his own horn (or paying others to toot if for them?) What does it say about an individual who crafts his or her life after one type or the other? And what does it say about nations that make heroes of narcissists?

Old “Electric Brain

Admiral Ernest J. King, the Chief of Naval Operations in World War II, thought Raymond Spruance was the single most intelligent U.S. naval commander in the war. Given the competition – Nimitz, Turner, Halsey, McCain, Leahy, and King himself – this was high praise. Yet Spruance today is largely unknown outside of the relatively small circle of mariners, historians, and history buffs. Why?

Thomas Buell, himself a naval officer, offers an answer with his definitive portrait Spruance, the enigmatic commander who made the critical decisions at Midway and led the US Navy-Marine Corps team in their legendary drive across the Central Pacific. Throughout his life, his subordinates and superiors all came in turn came to rely on his quiet intellect, his preternatural calm under fire, and his ability to size up a situation and act with deliberation, neither vacillating like Ghormley nor impetuous like Halsey.


Working from a relatively small number of sources on Spruance, Buell gives us no great insights that will change the way we think of war, but it will change the way we think of warriors, their flacks, and their biographers. Buell paints a credibly human picture of Spruance, and rather than inflate him to larger-than-life size, offers us the spartan, taciturn, stone-faced career officer whose deeds remain greater than the man himself. It would have been easy for the author to write a panegyric, but you can almost hear the ghost of Spruance whispering over his shoulder, telling Buell not to go down that path. While ably defending Spruance against criticism of his actions at Midway (later proven to be correct), Buell uses the same historiographical care to excoriate the admiral’s actions during his tenure as Ambassador to the Philippines.

The Smartest Man in the Navy

Buell also points out more sublime examples of Spruance’s leadership that resonate today. Spruance led his fleet with a staff that was a fraction of the size of Halsey’s, demonstrating an economy that the brass-bloated navy of today has forgotten: he was early to recognize and defend geniuses like Kelly Turner and Carl Moore against the capricious politics of the Navy; he was a battleship officer who never learned to fly, yet absorbed so much about carrier aviation that he became one of the country’s ablest commanders of airpower; he oversaw the reinvention of naval logistics, a factor the Japanese navy recognized as the keystone to the US victory in the Pacific; and he grasped early that American bases in postwar Asia would be an irritant that would lead to further conflict.

And then there was that intellect: rebelling against the provincial, trade-school approach the navy had taken to professional education, he spent the last years of his career turning the Naval War College into an outstanding graduate school with unparalleled programs in strategy, national security, and world affairs. While nothing he did will surpass his feats as a commander, in terms of its importance to the nation, to sea power, and to global security his two years as President of the College are unmatched.

Buell also offers us an illustration as to why, seven decades after the end of the conflict, we are still unearthing truths that compel us to reevaluate how we understand the war, history, power, and leadership. As we do, we are finding that many of the lessons our fathers learned from their victories are wrong, and many of the right lessons have been forgotten. The time has come for a reappraisal of that conflict: as we watch the rise of a new set of world powers, now more than ever we need to understand why World War II was won (or lost), and we need to find the people who were really responsible, not just the heroes and villains our fathers’ textbooks served to us. Raymond Spruance offers us a timeless model of leadership in crisis. We would be wrong if we did not go looking for more.


Joe Wilson, Xerox, and the Future of American Business

Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox
by Charles D. Ellis
Wiley, September 2006, 404 pp.

Great books have a regrettable tendency to get lost in an age when 3,000 new English tomes are published every day. Likewise, great men and women are lost in the shuffle of an era where we are all famous for a quarter of an hour. How common it must be, then, for books about great men and women to emerge and disappear without ever having seemed to surface.

To be sure, there are a few biographies that are of such import and scholarly merit that they are impossible to ignore. David McCullough’s Truman is one example, as is Anne Somerset’s magisterial biography of Elizabeth I and anything written by Doris Kearns Goodwin or Ron Chernow.

Beneath this elite layer, however, scores of biographies of more specific interest go all but unnoticed, particularly those written by writers who are neither biographers nor historians, and whose subjects are military leaders, government executives, and, indeed, captains of industry. Ironically, it is among these biographies that are more relevant to us personally than the stories of kings and presidents. A superb example of this is Charles Ellis’ enjoyable story of Joe Wilson and his creation of the company we now know as Xerox.

Each of us takes something different from the reading of a biography, but the value of this particular sub-genre is that it offers us sobering yet hopeful glance back at a time when Americans did not depend en masse on real estate and stock markets to fund their futures. It is sobering because it reminds us how far we have strayed from a harder yet more viable path to prosperity. It is hopeful because it hints at a way forward.

It would be easy – and plausible – to dismiss the success of American industry between 1940 and 1970 as the product of fortunate happenstance. After all, America was the “arsenal of democracy” during World War II and the world’s manufacturer and wholesaler for a decade thereafter. At home, returning servicemen unleashed an explosion of consumerism while the government armed itself for the global military standoff of the Cold War. In such an environment, one might ask, how could a company fail?

Yet not every company prospered during these years. Indeed, many failed miserably and some imploded spectacularly. Others, once the postwar boom ended, folded as fast as they grew, either because there was no substance to their success or because stupid decisions and hubris created a culture unfit for all but the best off times.

Those companies that thrived long after the boom and into the new century had, I would argue, built something into their culture, doctrine, and structure that laid the foundations for success in good times and at least perseverance in bad times.

For its part, Xerox has managed to outlast the post-boom bust, the rise of global competition, bouts of miserably bad leadership, face-smackingly dumb acquisitions, and the revolution in electronic documents to remain a force in business and publishing. The “why” comes back to an ethos and a culture inculcated by a largely forgotten CEO. To read Joe Wilson’s story is to see anew the timeless principles that underpin lasting commercial greatness.

Wilson was not a great inventor. He was the scion of a family that had built the Haloid Company, a dependable but uninspiring business in photographic paper, and had managed to do right down the street from the leviathan of the photography business, Eastman Kodak. Wilson understood early in his career at Haloid that the company existed at the mercy of Kodak, and that competition would slowly squeeze the profits out of the business.

Wilson embarked on a quest to find the innovation that would secure the company’s future, finding it finally in a half-baked plain-paper dry photocopying technology developed by patent attorney Chester Carlson and the Battelle Institute. After spending more than a decade and every penny he could earn, save, or borrow developing and commercializing the fledgling technology, Wilson’s company launched their revolutionary product, the Xerox 914.

It was a path fraught with setbacks and haunted by the possibility that Kodak, IBM, or other competitors would beat Haloid to the prize. Along the way what kept the company on the path was Wilson’s determination, his integrity, and his careful management of the company’s day-to-day business and its team of volatile geniuses. Once success came, the Republican Wilson made Xerox the standard-bearer of progressive business, underwriting a television series on the United Nations, hiring African-Americans when few other companies would, and helping the company’s hometown of Rochester, New York lay the foundation for the city’s long-term prosperity.

Today, as we struggle to shake off the misguided belief that financial chicanery can be a viable substitute for vision and innovation, Joe Wilson’s story points the way to a future where America draws its livelihood and competitiveness from its industry rather than its greed, and where finance is again the handmaiden of commerce and commerce serves the people.

The value to us of Wilson’s story is thus not in the singular specifics of xerography and the way it changed the world, but in giving us a window to a different way of thinking about risk, opportunity, the work ethic, and the financial and spiritual rewards of creating something of lasting material value. In an era where most of the graduates of the nation’s leading B-schools head for Wall Street rather than main street, we all need to hear Joe Wilson’s story, and hear the stories of men and women like him.

For they, not the big swinging dicks on the trading floors, are the true heroes of commerce, the true commercial titans. And they light for us a path to a better future, provided we can muster their courage and conviction to seek and follow it.

Demographics and Global Security

Strengthening bonds between Indian, U.S. Soldiers

Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr

When I was in high school, I had a European History teacher who explained to us how countries with an large cohort of breeding-age young men relative to the rest of the population were more likely to make war on their neighbors. The argument was simple: too much young testosterone lying around was a sufficient domestic political liability that it needed to be spent in the advancement of national interests abroad. Hence, war.

I have always found this a tad deterministic, so I was pleased to see Martin Libicki and his co-authors publish Global Demographic Change and its Implications for Military Power. While the authors stop short of a full debunking of the population pressure theory of war, they analyze it in a modern context, incorporating historic data and using data to call into question the prospect of a future (2011-2050) conflict driven by “too many boys.”

The examination is thorough and convincing, but I have to wonder whether or not India’s growing working-age population vis-a-vis China will not, at some point, offer India a manpower advantage over China in any trans-Himalayan conflict. China’s effort to control its population and put its young people to work in more productive pursuits has been admirable, but India has not kept up to the same extent by either measure. Left with lots of young people, would not India choose to reclaim disputed territories on the Chinese border versus allowing their frustrations to fester into sectarian violence?

An excellent and worthy read, especially for those of us focused on Asian security.

Rethinking Operations for a Two-speed World

In a new special report, Wharton and the Boston Consulting Group explore how companies need to figure out how to operate in a world where their core markets are developing at radically different paces.

This is an interesting thesis, and will be of varied value depending on the industry, but for any company in the internet and technology businesses trying to bridge the BRIC countries on the one hand and the developed economies on the West on the other, this is an essential read.

My only quibble with the thesis would be the question “is this a two speed world or ten speed world.” Certainly China and the UK are now growing at two different speeds. On the other hand it could also be argued that the pace of market development varies widely among the BRIC countries, to say nothing of the differences among the BRICs, the West, and Africa.

In short, Wharton is taking the first steps in an important direction with this report, helping companies rethink and restructure to address this emerging challenge of globalization. Expect to see more debate along these lines in the future.

Air Leadership

An A-10A during a NATO Operation Allied Force ...

Image via Wikipedia

It was never a given that air forces would be a part of the U.S. armed forces, and while the uses and efficacy of air power have been the subject of much hyperbole from advocates in the past, the U.S. and its allies were fortunate that a few outspoken leaders made the case for military aviation in the wake of opposition from ground and sea forces.

How those advocates evolved as the Air Force and Naval Aviation migrated from being outsiders to establishment is a fascinating study, because it explains why the public is frequently oversold – or mis-sold – on the capabilities of those who fly through the air.

This is particularly germane because in the wake of the “Long War” and more intensive budget pressures on the U.S. armed forces, there is once again a growing voice for the disestablishment of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service, and the considerable downsizing of naval aviation. With its focus on some of the more colorful personalities in the history of American military aviation, this book is a fascinating as well as topical read.