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A new book asks, "Are we becoming China's bitch?"

The year 2012 will see a stream of new books in the patented Thomas Friedman "Oh My God the Chinese Are Eating Our Lunch with Environmentally Friendly Chopsticks" mold. Some will be more worthwhile than others. One book in particular, however, is sure to stand out, if only for the title: "Becoming China's Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now." 

The author, Peter D. Kiernan, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, explains in the introduction that "it's not a book about China exactly. It's about how America got diverted and lost momentum, and a dragon leapt into the breach. It's also about getting our mojo back."

I spoke with him over the phone:

FP: When did you first realize we were in danger of becoming China's bitch?

PK: When it first occurred to me was in 2008, as a card-carrying member of a discredited class, everyone in Wall Street had to re-think everything. We had gone through a 30 plus year bull market. We now had to wrestle with the idea of who was going to fund the 42 percent of our government that has to be borrowed. Whenever you depend on one major source of finance, if it's too heavy in one area, it deserves a re-thinking.   

We haven't really thought clearly about this as a nation. It was a part of this re-thinking everything. We have a much greater co-dependency on China than we'd like to acknowledge. The book is not solely about China, but Becoming China's Bitch is about the cost to our dithering.  

FP: How is the 1 percent different from the 99 percent in their fear of becoming China's bitch?

PK: I don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about the one percent in the book or in my life. What I do spend the vast majority of my time focusing on is the 99 percent. We have developed a dependency, and that dependency allows us to be poor savers, roughly 5 percent saving rate in America, compared to 30 percent in China.  

I literally believe that we have been opiated as a nation. I believe we've been diverted about issues. The debt ceiling has been raised 100 times since you started working here-it's no big deal. These are not problem solving conversations. These are skin rashes that have nothing to do with the problems. Occupy Wall Street is not the problem, but the symptom. Among them, we have worked ourselves into a co-dependency.

FP: What can we do to prevent becoming China's bitch? How do we make China our bitch?

PK: The title is deliberately provocative, I understand. It's meant to push people outside their comfort zone. We're inert. How do we snap people out of it? We helped create an export monster. We helped them because we developed an appetite for their goods. So we've kind of gotten in this dynamic of exports for finance-we will buy your cheap goods so we can stock our Wal-Mart shelves. They're moving up the value chain. And in exchange for that, we'll look for you to be our number one lender, and that, in pop psychology, you call a co-dependency-exports for finance. They're stuck with us, we're stuck with them. Stalemates, or co-dependencies like this, don't last forever.

Passport

A new path forward for Foreign Policy

We have some big news today: FP is becoming The FP Group, a new independent operating unit within the Washington Post Company with our friend and longtime contributor David Rothkopf as CEO. Here's the press release from the Post: 

WASHINGTON-January 20, 2012-The Washington Post Company today announced that Foreign Policy Magazine will become the centerpiece of an operating unit called The FP Group.  The FP Group will incorporate the award-winning magazine, its highly successful web venture, ForeignPolicy.com, and planned new businesses in the areas of live events, education, books and research services.  

The unit will be headed by David Rothkopf, a long-time contributor to Foreign Policy, author, business executive and former senior government official, who has been named chief executive officer and editor-at-large of the enterprise.  Susan Glasser will remain editor-in-chief.

"Foreign Policy has established itself over four decades as one of the world's leading voices on international affairs.  In the last year, ForeignPolicy.com has attracted over 165 million page views and 20 million unique visitors to its site," said Washington Post Company chief executive officer Donald E. Graham.  "Now, with this move, we are positioning it to go to the next level in its development, creating new content, forums, products and opportunities for its readers and its advertisers worldwide.  In doing so, we are building on the successes achieved by our talented FP editor-in-chief Susan Glasser and the first-rate team she has built."

Added Rothkopf: "The recent growth and development of Foreign Policy have been spectacular, driven both by exceptional editorial product and by the ever-growing demand from business, government and opinion leaders, academics, students and intellectually aware audiences internationally to better understand the forces shaping the world today.  Still, much more can be done to bring those people together, to address core interests, the great stories of our time and drivers of global affairs, such as defense, energy, information technologies, finance and healthcare.  The mission of the FP Group will be to develop new ventures in all those areas that build on the commitment to quality and insight that has set Foreign Policy apart."

Forty years ago, Foreign Policy was established amid the tensions of Vietnam as a quarterly journal, its mission to challenge conventional wisdom about global affairs in a way that would be, as founder Samuel Huntington put it, "serious but not scholarly, lively but not glib."  Three years ago, the magazine was acquired from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by The Washington Post Company, which embarked on an ambitious re-launch of FP as both a seven-time-a-year glossy print publication as well as a daily online magazine, recently recognized by the American Society of Magazine Editors as a finalist for Magazine of the Year.  In that time, FP has turned into a major destination for readers interested in global economics, politics and ideas.  Under Glasser, the publication now hosts more than a dozen regular blogs, including two that have been recognized with National Magazine Awards, as well aggressive, news-breaking coverage of the making of foreign policy and opinion-leading commentary.

"These developments are a natural and welcome next step for us," said Glasser.  "David Rothkopf is already a valued colleague and friend, a thoughtful commentator and a successful entrepreneur, and I very much look forward to working with him to build our business, our brand and our audiences in new and creative ways."

As editor-at-large, Rothkopf will contribute a weekly column to the website and a regular column to the magazine.

Rothkopf also serves as chief executive of Garten Rothkopf, the international advisory firm he founded with former U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce and Dean of the Yale School of Management Jeffrey E. Garten.  He will continue in that capacity and, Graham also announced, The FP Group and Garten Rothkopf have agreed to enter into a strategic alliance to develop live events and high value-added educational and research-services products to serve business, investor and government leaders around the world. 

Rothkopf, 56, is author of Running the World, called by The New York Times "the definitive history of the National Security Council," and Superclass, cited by The Economist as "a pioneering study" of the world's power elite.  His next book, Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government-and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead, is due out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux next month.  He is a well-known commentator and writer, having contributed to scores of leading publications and broadcast outlets worldwide.  He is also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Previously, Rothkopf served as CEO of Intellibridge Corporation and prior to that as managing director of Kissinger Associates, the consultancy founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.   Immediately prior to joining Kissinger Associates, he served as Acting U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, having joined the Clinton Administration as Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade Policy.  Before entering government, he was the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of International Media Partners, Inc., publishers of Emerging Markets newspapers and CEO Magazine.  He started his work in media as an award-winning television producer and later was a senior executive at Financial World Magazine and subsequently at Institutional Investor Magazine.

In the short term, readers of our print magazine, website, and blogs shouldn't expect many changes in terms of content. In the long run, we hope this change will expand our ability to cover breaking news and provide an even greater range of opinion and analysis on world affairs. 

Thanks again to all of you for reading and commenting. We'll hope you'll continue to share your thoughts and feedback with us as we make this exciting transition.