Chrystia Freeland

The “seagull” citizens of anywhere

Chrystia Freeland
Oct 7, 2011 14:12 UTC

Immigration is always a hot issue when the economy is weak and jobs are scarce, so it should be no surprise that it has jumped to the top of the political agenda in Europe and the United States. But much of the debate today around these centuries-old themes of us vs. them and newcomer vs. old-timer is missing an essential point: in the age of the Internet, the jet airplane and the multinational company, the very concepts of immigration, citizenship and even statehood are changing.

“This is the new wave, the new trend,” Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, told me. “We had the globalization of trade, we had the globalization of capital, and now we have the globalization of talent.”

Wang recalled that three decades ago, when he first came to North America as a student, there was only one flight a day to China. Today, he said, “there are two or three dozen, if not more.”

As a result, instead of immigration being a single journey with a fixed starting point and end point, Wang said many Chinese have become what he calls “seagulls,” going back and forth between San Francisco or Vancouver, British Columbia, and Beijing or Shanghai. He is a seagull himself: I spoke to Wang on the phone from Washington; he is spending the academic year at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Massachusetts; his institute is in Beijing; and he still owns an apartment in Vancouver, where he once lived.

Airplanes and the continent-hopping professional lives they have made possible are only part of the story. The cheap, instant and often nearly constant communication made possible by the technology revolution has further fundamentally altered the experience of moving away from home.

Russia’s “sultan” Putin

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 30, 2011 15:50 UTC

The next Russian Revolution started this month. It will be another two or three or even four decades before the Russian people take to the streets to overthrow their dictator — and the timing will depend more on the price of oil than on anything else — but as of Sept. 24, revolution rather than evolution became Russia’s most likely path in the medium term.

That’s because President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s announcement last weekend that he would step aside next March to allow Vladimir V. Putin to return to the Kremlin was also an announcement that the ruling clique failed to institutionalize its grip over the country.

We have known since 1996 that Russia wasn’t a democracy. We now know that Russia isn’t a dictatorship controlled by one party, one priesthood, or one dynasty. It is a regime ruled by one man.

Watch Chrystia on ABC’s This Week

Peter Rudegeair
Sep 26, 2011 18:57 UTC

Yesterday Chrystia sat down with PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian, Washington Post columnist George Will, and former Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Austan Goolsbee on the set of ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour. Here’s the video of their discussion about the latest developments in the European debt crisis, China’s economic slowdown, and other dangers facing the global economy today:

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Also, be sure to check out El-Erian’s op-ed on Europe’s crisis that Reuters published today.

Yuri Milner on the future of the internet

Peter Rudegeair
Sep 23, 2011 19:51 UTC

This is a transcript of Yuri Milner’s presentation to the Yalta Annual Meeting in September 2011. To read Chrystia’s column about the presentation, click here.

A few months ago not three but eight leaders in the world gathered at Deauville in France at their regular G-8 meeting. But for the first time ever they invited six businessmen to meet with them and talk about the future. It’s interesting that four out of six were related to internet, and then I was among those invited. Each of us was given three minutes to say something, and I will now present to you a slightly expanded version of that presentation that I gave back then.

If we can look at the slide number 1, that you hopefully can see on the left-hand side, it basically shows the unprecedented growth of internet users globally. And I just want to bring your attention to the fact that this is probably the fastest proliferation of any technology ever, and the most fundamental fact being that right now around 2 billion people are connected to the internet and in the next 10 years you will see another 3 billion added to that number to a total of 5 billion people connected around 2020.

The advent of the global brain

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 23, 2011 18:12 UTC

Get ready for the global brain. That was the grand finale of a presentation on the next generation of the Internet I heard last week from Yuri Milner. G-8 leaders had a preview of Milner’s predictions a few months earlier, when he was among the technology savants invited to brief the world’s most powerful politicians in Deauville, France.

Milner is the technology guru most of us have never heard of. He was an early outside investor in Facebook, sinking $200 million in the company in 2009 for a 1.96 percent stake, a decision that was widely derided as crazy at the time. He was also early to spot the potential of Zynga, the gaming company, and of Groupon, the daily deals site.

His investing savvy propelled Milner this year onto the Forbes Rich List, with an estimated net worth of $1 billion. One reason his is not yet a household name is that he does his tech spotting from Moscow, not a city most of us look to for innovative economic ideas.

Watch Chrystia on the Colbert Report

Peter Rudegeair
Sep 22, 2011 14:13 UTC

Amid all the fears surrounding the future of the euro, Chrystia appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show last night to answer what is perhaps the most pressing question in the field of international political economy today: will the upcoming Oktoberfest celebrations in Germany complicate Europe’s rescue package for Greece?

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Posted by Peter Rudegeair

Modern capitalism isn’t working for the middle class

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 20, 2011 17:16 UTC

We know one thing for sure: the gap between rich and poor in the United States has widened in the past 30 years. In 2007 the top 1 percent of earners took home 18.3 percent of national income — that is more than two and a half times their level in 1973, when their share was 7.7 percent. Those at the top haven’t enjoyed such a big slice of the national pie since 1929. The middle-class dominated nation that the Greatest Generation inhabited has become as polarized as the plutocracies of Latin America or as America itself was during its fevered Gilded Age.

For a long time, the United States was in denial about its growing income gulf. The middle class clung to the old promise of mass affluence — and used home equity loans and credit card debt to make that dream real.

The elite, particularly the conservative intellectuals who have dominated the national economic debate since the Reagan era, insisted that growing income inequality was propaganda invented by the class warriors on the left, and cited robust consumer spending as evidence. In a 1998 speech at Jackson Hole at the annual gathering of American economists and economic policy makers, Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, argued that what mattered was what people could buy, not what they earned.

The superpower vacuum

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 19, 2011 16:34 UTC

Where is a superpower when you need one?

Many Americans suspect that their country’s relative decline is being met with gloating in other parts of the world — and not just in the dictatorships that have good reason to fear a strong United States. Americans imagine that even many firm friends have long nursed quiet resentments of the rule of their big brother, and that those historic slights mean a certain pleasure is being taken in America’s waning.

Those suspicions aren’t wrong. If you have trouble understanding how even the most ardent ally can also have a younger sibling’s sense of grievance, watch “In the Loop,” the BBC comedy loosely based on the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In one scene, the British prime minister’s enforcer, a character modeled on Alastair Campbell, arrives at the White House for a meeting on the impending war only to discover that his counterpart is a 22-year-old. His poetically obscene response is classic Campbell, and an illustration of why even some loyal Brits might not be totally dismayed by the humbling of the superpower.

The curse of the bull elk antlers

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 8, 2011 21:34 UTC

As the United States prepares to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this weekend, one of the most striking contrasts is between a country that was united in the face of a foreign enemy a decade ago, and that same nation today, which is so bitterly divided as it confronts domestic challenges of equal, if not greater, magnitude.

Most Americans do agree on one thing — the polarization and paralysis are the fault of failed politicians and a flawed political system. As a unifying rallying cry, this pox-on-all-their-houses approach has much to recommend it.

But what if the problem goes deeper than politics and politicos? Maybe America’s national discord is rooted in structural factors that even the most talented leader and effective political system would struggle to fix.

Will belief trump facts?

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 2, 2011 14:59 UTC

You might call it the cognitive divide — the split between an evidence-based worldview and one that is rooted in faith or ideology — and it is one of the most important fault lines in the United States today.

President Barack Obama called attention to the cognitive divide, and reminded us which side he comes down on, at the beginning of this week, when he chose the Princeton University economist Alan Krueger to lead his Council of Economic Advisers.

Krueger is a labor economist, and at first blush, that focus may seem the important part of his résumé. Unemployment, after all, is still above 9 percent, and the president has said job creation is his priority. But when you talk to the insiders about Krueger, what they emphasize is his mastery of data and his utter commitment to the truths it can be coaxed to tell.