China’s New World Order: Development Capital or New Imperialism?

The news agency Reuters reported yesterday on China’s creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is supposed to rival the World Bank and the IMF.   With China’s rising economic power, does the AIIB represent a viable alternative to underdeveloped countries in desperate need of capital or would it be a failure like its Western counterparts? It is being touted as China’s attempt at making obsolete the IMF and World Bank, but what would be the extent of its reach?

The AIIB is a brand new global development bank that promises to impose  less stringent metrics on its borrowing countries. Unlike the IMF and the Wold bank who insist on political reforms and privatization efforts from borrowers, China’s new world development bank is only asking for transparency.dollaryuan

The burning question that any reasonable banker would ask is what would the bank do in case of default? The IMF and the World Bank were an extension of colonial Orange dominance through finance. They collectively sentenced less developed countries to a life of perpetual debt and poverty. In my estimation, the AIIB won’t fare much better. Based on the  value systems that currently motivate China,  the bank will be an extension of RED Chinese dominance, i.e, in the case of default China will occupy the debtor country, loot its resources until the debt is paid off. China employs these tactics today in the form of exchange; resources for development. Unfortunately,  the values of Confucianism are not the motivating factors in China’s new expansionist policies. This is Red lenders and Red borrowers who understand each others’ language, and understand the brutal consequences of default.

In the past, similar, well-meaning,  world-changing efforts like this were announced to great fanfare, but  never materialize in the long term.  One might  ask the question of what happened to the BRICs bank that was supposed to save less fortunate countries when it was announced less than 2 years ago? 3 of its 4 founding countries are having significant economic challenges at home. Russia and Brazil’s economies are experiencing tremendous setbacks while India is dealing with its own issues of slow growth leaving China as the only brick left in the original BRICs bank.

It remains to be seem whether China’s slowdown will make the AIIB a reality. If it continues its reforms towards a free market economy, it will spell disaster for their short term goals (as I pointed out in this interview with Newsweek Magazine). Part of China’s movement towards a free market economy will involve Orange metrics and transparency that will  uncover Trillions in toxic and non-performing assets that have to be written off.  After China’s balance sheets reflect those new realities, I highly doubt they will still have the appetite for highly speculative lending to foreign countries without the traditional collateral. We’ll have to wait and see. The waiting, this time won’t be long.


Is This the Good Side of “When Only Money Matters”?

It didn’t take long for the media this past week to spread the controversial views of Republican Presidential candidate Donald – I’m the best thing to ever happen to America – Trump.  Almost immediately after making his racist remarks about Mexicans, his popularity shot up to number 2 in the Republican race for the White House.

donald-trumpTo a party with more candidates than Washington has lobbyists, Trump is thought of as a formidable contender who can revive its values and take back the White House. For those who know better, his is the most visible symptom of a political party that is struggling to define itself in a chaotic world that defies definition.

What is particularly damning to Mr. Trump is the immediate reaction from big corporations to disassociate themselves with him. First came the Miss Universe Pageant, then the NBC Network, and finally the big retailer Macy’s, and the  backlash is not over yet. No estimates are available yet on the impact that Mr. Trump’s views will have on his future earnings, but I would guess it would be in the tens if not the hundreds of millions. A very costly lesson on who the real power brokers are in American politics today.

Concurrent with the Trump debacle, corporations  also took a stand on the confederate flag controversy. Wal-Mart and Target immediately took the high moral road on this issue and stopped all sales of the flag.   Then Nascar, with a $3 Billion a year sponsorship on the line, announced that it, too will remove this symbol of racism from all its public places. These were all brave decisions that placed morality back at the heart of corporate decision-making, but was this the return of corporate moral responsibility or was it something else?

Confederate Flag NASCAR Auto Racing Since the 2008 financial crisis, big corporations have been the target of every disenfranchised group in the world. If you talk to a member of any of the Occupy Movements, what you hear is that all that matters to corporations is money. No caring for people, or the planet, and little room for making decisions based in morality.

So, what changed in the last few weeks? Did a moral revival of CEOs, their executive teams and Board of Directors take place while the world was falling to pieces? Did they suddenly discover that their values are those of a Utopian culture where there are zero tolerance policies for racist behavior, or did something else influence their decisions?

It could be that corporate America found its moral compass again, but before you light a candle for their bravery, consider this. We live in a world that is defined by the power of money. The richer a person is, the more admired and the funnier his or her jokes are. The relationship of power to money is at its highest since the period right before the fall of the Roman Empire.  Senators are bought and sold every day. Supreme Court judges hide behind the strict interpretation of the law to extend personhood rights to corporations. Moral men and women don’t get elected anymore because the function of the office they’re running for is no longer about morality and service.

670px-supreme_court_us_2009Meanwhile, if you’re a high school dropout, and you carry a sign that says, “I will preach your corporate gospel” you immediately get a PAC with tens of millions in its coffers which, of course, you have nothing to do with. You hire the best campaign manager money can buy. He puts you in a grown-up suit and off you go preaching to whoever listens about patriotic values and how America has lost its way . Sixteen months later, you’re elected and all is well with the world.

Now, do you still think it was the morality of those corporations that led them to disassociate themselves with The Donald and the confederate flag?  Or was it some game theory genius at corporate headquarters  who projected the hundreds of millions in losses if his bosses didn’t take immediate action? If I were a betting man, I’ll put my money on the latter. In a world where only money matters, morality in this case, just happened to be on the same side of money.



The Fourth International Integral Theory Conference

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The Fourth International Integral Theory Conference will be taking place this summer July 16-19 on the Campus of Sonoma State  University in Northern California. Billed as one of the more significant Integral Theory conferences, the focus this year is on having a dialog  among  practitioners, supporters and students of the framework. According to the organizers,  this will be an opportunity for critical self reflection on the integral approach and on whether this  “superior” model should be used all the time in all situations .

Don Beck, Elza Maalouf and I will be participating in this open and inwardly- directed conversation hoping to understand and to also be understood.  In this spirit I ask the Spiral Dynamics integral  community to join us in the conversation.  You can find more information on the entire conference and pre-conference workshops here.

Beck n Wilber

It is no secret in the integral community that there exists a philosophical divide between Ken Wilber’s followers and Don Beck’s followers. After all,  this is a model that sought “to explain everything”, and therein lies the problem. Even  jokes about the nature of the divide or the deficiencies inherent in the practices of one model or the other often develop into bitter debates that rarely get resolved.


There is, however, a new generation of thinkers who have acknowledged the contributions of their respective Gurus, but have moved on and began to chart their own ways by applying what they’ve learned in their respective professions. It is this new generation of Integralists-Functionalists who are tasked with finding the commonalities between the two schools. This is no longer a philosophical/intellectual/academic debate.  No blind Guru worship. The Beta Phase of the theory of everything is over. The bugs in the system have been identified. Now its time to update the software, indeed the entire operating system and gear it towards solving real world problems. Please join us.