My year in blogging, 2016

The second year of this blog has been a good one: total pageviews are up about 33%, and I also wrote more (91 posts against 73 in 2015). My top five posts this year in terms of traffic were: The best books I read in 2016 Cormac McCarthy’s contribution to the theory of increasing returns Zhao Lingmin on […]

The best books I read in 2016

These are my favorites of the books that I read during 2016, which are not necessarily books published in 2016 (the same rules as in previous installments). History and Russia were the main themes this year; I did read a fair number of China and economics books, but most of those ended up being fine and useful rather than books I […]

Some surprising continuities in Chinese economic history

Three economic historians–Loren Brandt, Debin Ma, and Thomas Rawski–have produced a very nice overview of China’s development over the past century, titled simply “Industrialization in China.” While the story of China’s post-1978 boom has been told so often it risks becoming over-familiar, the pre-1978 and pre-1949 economy is usually skipped over quite rapidly. The great virtue […]

When “It’s the economy, stupid” falls short

I read the news today, oh boy. For some clear thinking if not reassurance, I recommend an essay by Yascha Mounk at Project Syndicate, in which he surveys various people’s takes on the recent global political instability, and comes down fairly hard against the economists’ argument that all this stuff is the result of stagnating incomes. Here is a […]

Three books on Russia

I’ve been on a bit of a Russia kick in my nonfiction reading of late. In part that was because I felt like knowing more about the history of Communism would help me understand China better, and in part because I just wanted to know more than what I learned from my initial immersion in its 19th-century […]

Deng Xiaoping was an outstanding Chinese nationalist

That is an interesting and important statement from Peking University’s Niu Jun, from a roundtable commenting on the recent Pantsov and Levine biography of Deng (for what it’s worth, I agree with the consensus of the reviewers that the bio is vividly written and has interesting insights, but is marred by mean-spirited editorializing). Deng has […]

Who is Lev Gumilev?

I did not know the answer to that question, but now I am very glad that I do. In an excellent weekend piece in the Financial Times, Charles Clover explains why this Russian “academic scribbler of a few years back” is now being name-checked by Putin: Working as a historian from the late 1950s to […]

The geopolitical effects of China’s slowdown

I don’t pretend to know what those are going to be, but it’s useful to compare some of the different arguments that are out there. Slower growth = more aggressive foreign policy. This is probably the most widespread view I see in the Western press. Richard Haas at the Council of Foreign Relations considers it a […]