BOOK REVIEW/COMMENTARY: Joe Nye Dissects His Favorite Subject in 'The Future of Power'

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW/COMMENTARY: Joe Nye Dissects His Favorite Subject in 'The Future of Power'

Breaking news: GE plans to move X-ray unit to China

BEIJING (AP) July 28, 2011 — GE Healthcare, a maker of diagnostic imaging equipment, said  it is moving its X-ray global headquarters from the United States to Beijing as it seeks to tap China and other emerging markets.

The General Electric Co. unit is the first business of the industrial and financial giant to relocate to China.

Anne LeGrand, vice president and general manager of GE Healthcare Global X-Ray, told a news conference that the decision to move from Waukesha, Wisconsin, was made two years ago and will be completed by early fall.

                                                                                                 * * *Question: Why is GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, on President Obama's job creation board, taking jobs from hard-pressed Wisconsin and giving them to the Chinese? Could Immelt be the real Manchurian Candidate?

 I'm not making this up in this unorthodox review of Joseph S. Nye Jr.'s "The Future of Power" (PublicAffairs, 320 pages, $27.99). China has embraced Nye, as have other countries, as the nature of power has shifted to what he called "soft power" in a previous book.
 Jeff Immelt purports to save American jobs, but in his capacity as GE's CEO, he's eliminating them, much as did his predecessor Jack Welch --- AKA "Neutron  Jack" for his ability to eliminate jobs while leaving infrastructure untouched -- but vacant.
I heard about the X-Ray division's departure on "The Five," an excellent show on FOX News Channel, and it brought to mind an earlier piece of information from Satirist Andy Borowitz in his July 28 column: 

   "China Puts US on eBay...Government Sold Separately,’ Sales Listing Says

BEIJING (The Borowitz Report) – Showing its impatience with the debt ceiling stalemate in Washington, China today took the extraordinary step of putting the United States of America on eBay.

Officials at the online auction site said they believed it was the first time a major Western nation had been listed for sale there “if you don’t count Greece.”

In Beijing, the Chinese Finance Ministry said that it had considered waiting until August 2 to see if the US would ever pay back its multitrillion-dollar obligations, but ultimately decided to cut its losses.

“We think we’ll attract a buyer on eBay,” the Ministry said.  “Say what you will about the US, it’s still one of the top fifty countries in the world.”

The sales listing for the US contains some interesting information, such as China’s description of the former superpower as being in “fair to average condition.”

The listing also includes the stipulation “government sold separately,” which the Finance Ministry took great pains to explain.

“We thought that including the government in the sale might turn off potential buyers,” the Ministry said.  “Plus, the US government isn’t ours to sell anyway – it’s owned by the Koch brothers.”

With no bidders in the first 24 hours on eBay, China admitted that it would be challenging to unload the US, but it still held out hope that a buyer would step forward: “We’ve got our fingers crossed for Zuckerberg.”

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said that he understood China’s decision to sell the US, but warned that a buyer would have to turn up on eBay before August 2: “After that, the Internet gets shut off.” 

                                                                                    * * * No, I'm not blaming Nye for helping the Chinese, the Indians, the Vietnamese and everybody else suss out power (I  AM blaming Immelt for depriving Americans of jobs in what has become a vast post-Industrial wasteland, where almost 50 percent of the jobs created in the recent past have been in one state -- Texas.  It's not a pretty picture as a member of Obama's jobs panel GE has been an investor disaster underImmelt. 
The Wall Street Journal reports that "By any measure of shareholder value, GE has been a disaster under Jeffrey Immelt. Investors haven't made a nickel since he took the helm as chairman nine years ago. In fact, they've lost tens of billions of dollars."

The story continues: "the stock, which was $40 and change when Immelt took over, has collapsed to around $16. Even if you include dividends, investors are still down about 40%. In real post-inflation terms, stockholders have lost about half their money."

What about his salary, surely it has suffered. Yeah, sure! During the same period the 54-year-old buddy of Barack "has racked up around $90 million in salary, cash and pension benefits."  GE is quick to point out that Immelt skipped his $5.8 million cash bonus in 2009 for the second year in a row, because business did so badly. And so he did. Yet this apparent sacrifice has to viewed in context. Immelt still took home a "base salary" of $3.3 million and a total compensation of $9.9 million. His compensation in the previous two years was $14.3 million and $9.3 million. That included everything from salary to stock awards, pension benefits and other perks.
Meanwhile, in the Milwaukee metro area, another source of well-paying jobs has disappeared. 

In February 2009, Immelt, a Republican,  was appointed as a member to the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board to provide the president and his administration with advice and counsel in fixing America's economic downturn. 

On January 21, 2011,  Obama announced Immelt's appointment as chairman of his outside panel of economic advisers, succeeding former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. The New York Times reported that Obama's appointment of Immelt was "another strong signal that he intends to make the White House more business-friendly." Immelt will retain his post at G.E. while becoming "chairman of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a newly named panel that President Obama is creating by executive order." 

And people inside the Beltway wonder why ordinary Americans think the swamp that is Greater D.C.  is filled with ignorant, evil creatures.

Nye, the influential policy thinker who coined the term “soft power”,  examines the changing nature of power since the Cold War, the new ways in which it is exercised, and how those changes impact America’s role in the world.

 Nye writes that in the era of Kennedy and Khrushchev, power was expressed in terms of nuclear missiles, industrial capacity, numbers of men under arms, and tanks lined up ready to cross the plains of Eastern Europe. By 2010, none of these factors confer power in the same way: industrial capacity seems an almost Victorian virtue, and cyber threats are wielded by non-state actors. Politics changed, and the nature of power—defined as the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes you want—had changed dramatically. Power is not static; its story is of shifts and innovations, technologies and relationships.

Nye is a long-time analyst of power and a hands-on practitioner in government. Many of his ideas have been at the heart of recent debates over the role America should play in the world: his concept of "soft power" has been adopted by leaders from Britain to China; "smart power” has been adopted as the bumper-sticker for the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. This book is the summation of his work, as relevant to general readers as to foreign policy specialists.

About the Author

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is University Distinguished Service Professor and former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and a Deputy Under Secretary of State. The author of many books, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the British Academy, and the American Academy of Diplomacy.

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