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Bill Overholt

Bill Overholt

Senior Fellow at Harvard Asia Center
AsiaStrat
  • 21 years' experience running Asia research teams for Nomura, Bank Boston, and Bankers Trust
  • Former Asia Policy Distinguished Research Chair and Director of the Asia Policy Center at RAND

Dr. William H. Overholt holds a research position at Harvard's Kennedy School and is Principal of AsiaStat LLC, a consulting firm. Previously he held the Asia Policy Distinguished Research Chair at RAND's California headquarters and was Director of RAND's Center for Asia Pacific Policy.

During 21 previous years in investment banking, he served as Head of Strategy and Economics at Nomura's regional headquarters in Hong Kong from 1998 to 2001, and as Managing Director and Head of Research at Bank Boston's regional headquarters in Singapore. At Bankers Trust, he ran a country risk team in New York from 1980 to 1984, then was regional strategist and Asia research head based in Hong Kong from 1985 to 1998.

At Hudson Institute 1971 to 1979, Dr. Overholt directed planning studies for the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of State, National Security Council, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Council on International Economic Policy.

Dr. Overholt is the author of seven books, including (co-author) Renminbi Rising (Wiley, 2016) Asia, America and the Transformation of Geopolitics (Cambridge University Press and RAND, 2007). With Zbigniew Brzezinski, he founded the semi-annual Global Assessment in 1976 and edited it until 1988.

Dr. Overholt serves on the Board of the Korea Society and the International Center for Conciliation. He was a Governor of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Executive Committee member of the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong, both for six years.

Dr. Overholt received his B.A. (magna, 1968) from Harvard and his Master of Philosophy (1970) and Ph.D. (1972) from Yale.

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Bill Overholt

China's Crisis of Success

Bill Overholt and I recently had a discussion about the points he makes in his new book, China's Crisis of Success. Here are five key points, each corresponding to a section below.

The Rise of China: How Economic Reform Is Creating a New Superpower by Bill Overholt, published in 1993, was called 'nonsense' and 'too optimistic.' How did that work out for the reviewers? 

Now, almost three decades after The Rise of China, Bill believes that China's future has become 'much more uncertain.' And, he addresses his concerns in a new book, China's Crisis of Success.

Bill outlined some the key points from his book recently in an interview with me. And, I have conveyed these below. As you will see, I have let Bill speak for himself. 

Bill was right in 1993. 

1. 'A sense of terrible crisis was a prerequisite for an Asian economic take off'

China's Crisis of Success—1

'Why is this sense of terrible crisis a prerequisite for an Asian economic take off? Because it creates a certain political environment.'...'The counterpart, on the economic side, is an economic simplicity.' says Bill Overholt.

2. China 2030: 'It's hard to find a more impressive economic plan anywhere else in economic history.'

China's Crisis of Success—2

'Simple economies and politics have been replaced with immensely complex ones. And you gradually get to a point of complexity, where there is an economic and political crisis of some kind.'

3. The slower the reforms, the bigger the debt

China's Crisis of Success—3

'What the Chinese have effectively chosen is much slower reform in order to keep the economic growth rate up around 6.7%.'

4. Enter Xi Jinping. The reformer?

China's Crisis of Success—4

'Second, they realized that these reforms are painful, and so there's going to be a lot of pushback from all the important power groups of Chinese society. So, they used the Anti-Corruption Campaign as a hammer to push aside these groups who were resisting reform.

5. Has Xi gone too far?

China's Crisis of Success—5

Bill Overholt believes 'Xi Jinping may have gone well beyond what the consensus originally intended, and the politicization of the reform may not be exactly what some of the designers of the reform intended.

Why A Trump–Kim Jeong Eun Summit Could Work

'What President Trump has done is to signal we are willing to move away from this formula that the North Koreans have to give up everything in their nuclear program before negotiations - only then we'll talk with them. I admire our U.S. negotiators, but that formula is simply absurd.'

Is The U.S. Ceding Global Leadership To China?

Hard on President Trump's 'American First' inaugural address, Xi Jinping gave a rousing paean to globalism at the World Economic Forum. And, immediately the hot question became: 'Is the U.S. ceding global leadership to China?'

Yes and no, says Bill Overholt of the Harvard Asia Center. Yes, the U.S. is ceding global leadership. No, China won’t replace the U.S.

What will replace the U.S. is ‘G-Zero’, a world with no single global leader. Not China, not the U.S.

So, can his critics lay this outcome at President Trump’s feet?