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Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China by [Roach, Stephen]
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Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China Kindle Edition

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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"Lucid and accessible, immensely informative and insightful ... one of the most important books on the relationship between the United States and China to be published in at least a decade."-Huffington Post Huffington Post "[A] thorough overview of the economics behind the 21st century's defining relationship. Roach approaches it with academic rigour and a knack for explaining complex ideas in simple terms."-David Bartram, South China Morning Post -- David Bartram South China Morning Post '"I learned much from Stephen Roach's book Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China... His book is a lucid and accessible primer on each country's strengths, weaknesses, and prospects, highly recommendable to specialists and lay people alike."-Ian Johnson, The New York Review of Books -- Ian Johnson The New York Review of Books "Stephen Roach combines scholarly expertise and long practical experience in this thought-provoking critique of economic policy. His insights and arguments will influence the debate on both sides of the Pacific."-Henry A. Kissinger -- Henry Kissinger "[An] eye opening look at a condition that wanders from the boardroom to the psychiatrist's couch: financial codependency, which enables the worst qualities of two powerful economies...Full of implication, well written and of much interest."-Kirkus Reviews Kirkus Reviews "An evenhanded, thorough response to the anti China potshots from Democrats and Republicans alike... The root problem, Roach says repeatedly, is America's inability to save enough at home to finance its growth - a situation that is hardly China's fault. And a day of reckoning is coming [for the United States and China]... 'The endgame provides enormous opportunity for each, 'he writes. 'The challenge is for both to see it.' "-Fred Andrews, New York Times -- Fred Andrews New York Times "An important and fascinating book about the structural changes and evolving codependency of the world's two largest and most dynamic economies. Unbalanced is an education in growth, stability, and postwar globalization, full of deep insights and colorful personalities on both sides, and wonderfully well written. Very few people have the breadth of knowledge and experience to write such a book."-A. Michael Spence, Nobel laureate in economics -- A. Michael Spence "How the United States and China will transit from precarious codependency to stable coexistence is one of the most crucial questions for the twenty-first century. Stephen Roach, with his profound grasp of the economic and political systems in the United States and China, describes the challenges, opportunities, and necessary adjustments for both countries. This is a timely must read book for anyone concerned about the future of the world."-Justin Yifu Lin, former chief economist, the World Bank -- Justin Yifu Lin "Unbalanced is a compelling analysis of China's transition to a new model of economic growth and the challenges this transition will create for the United States."-Nicholas Lardy, Anthony M. Solomon Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics -- Nicholas Lardy "Stephen Roach provides an insightful and critical account of the economic relationship between China and America. His policy warning is clear: the future of U.S. China relations depends on significant changes in the growth strategies of both countries."-Laura D. Tyson, University of California, Berkeley -- Laura Tyson "[T]he most interesting part of the book is a barely disguised morality play. Roach sees Chinese leaders as clever, purposeful and far-thinking. He sees Americans as undisciplined and led by people who undervalue investment and economic planning... His fervour is persuasive."-Edward Hadas, Reuters Breakingviews -- Edward Hadas Reuters Breakingviews "Lucid insights into the rise of China. Roach's assessment of America's trade relationship with China is well worth the read."-Matthew Partridge, Money World (UK) -- Matthew Partridge Money World (UK) "In a world flooded with books on the China 'threat,' Roach's analysis is refreshingly factual, informative, and insightful."-Shada Islam, Europe's World -- Shada Islam Europe's World "[Roach] is emphatic that China-bashing by U.S. politicians will not help, and brings out a wealth of statistics to support his case."-John Derbyshire, The American Spectator -- John Derbyshire The American Spectator "Getting those points across to the two countries will take a major effort. So far there are no answers. Reading Roach's book would be a good place to at least lean how to pose the questions."-John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel -- John Berthelsen Asia Sentinel

About the Author

Stephen Roach is senior fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and School of Management, Yale University, and the former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia. He lives in New Canaan, CT.

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1041 KB
  • Print Length: 345 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (28 Jan. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HVF5A1Q
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #660,559 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By Athan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So I read this book for old times' sake.

I've traded fixed income out of a good ten addresses, but not (yet??) Morgan Stanley. A decade ago, under Stephen Roach, they had the Street's undisputed #1 economics department. So my weekend would invariably start with the musings of Stephen Roach, Joachim Fels, Andy Xie and Robert Alan Feldman, with special attention given to avoiding anything Eric Chaney had to say, in case it inspired me to trade Sterling, where I have a solid record in losing money.

I'm happy to report he has not changed much. Others have tried to write this book (example: Michael Pettis) and failed. Stephen Roach has one story and he lays it out over 250 pages. Twenty five would have probably done the trick, but hey, he's got spare time out in Asia where they parked him once his perma-bearish outlook had become too uncomfortable for management. And if I read this right, he seems to be totally gone now and working out of New Haven. Yikes!

The story is not rocket science, but somebody had to write it: China has spent the last thirty years moving its population from the countryside to the megacities of the coast, where they assemble (but increasingly also design) consumer products that we buy in the West. It was a gamble and it's paid off, with China becoming the world's second largest economy, manufacturer and exporter. Perhaps even the largest on at least a couple of these measures.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I understand that Stephen Roach is one of the most widely respected economic analysts, and he's generally managed to resist popular _optimistic_ bromides that have had wide circulation. Roach has won a lot of respect for avoiding the "this time is different" disease, or "privatization = magic"(1) dogma that still seems to dominate Western economic thought. Still, whatever one thinks of his overall worldview, this book came as a great disappointment.

A: CONVENTIONAL THINKING

Take pretty much every mainstream media interpretation of economics, when times were bad: those interpretations are here. For example, he treats economic policy for both countries as exogenous, meaning decisions are wholly outside the economic systems of both countries. Other readers may disagree with me here, but I felt that Mr. Roach was content to treat the countries' policy choices as emerging from on high, and imputed them to simple delusions by the presumed architect. Unsurprisingly, US policymakers were supposedly weak, pandering to a sheeplike public with a distaste for sacrifice (2). In contrast, the authorities in reform-era China are mostly wise and far-sighted--they are supposed to be able to avoid adverse political feedback.(3)

Additional aspects of conventional economic thinking are: fallacies of composition in the sectoral balances of the US/Chinese economies, equating the loss of the gold standard as a moral failing of the nation, trade deficits as a decline in moral character (mostly) and so on.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x93ce5cb4) out of 5 stars 19 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x919c1054) out of 5 stars A Balanced View of An Unbalanced Situation 6 Mar. 2014
By Loyd Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For decades the U.S. and China relied on a 'marriage of convenience' that guaranteed China a huge market for exports, while American consumers received a cornucopia of inexpensive products and a buyer of its debt. Roach basically contends that it's time for the two nations to switch identities - more savings and less consumption in the U.S., less savings and more consumptionin China.

The new China is here, yet we're fixated on the old China. China is now moving to a more balanced consumer-led growth model via services-led job growth (China's services sector overtook the combined shares of manufacturing and construction as the economy's largest segment in 2013), urbanization-driven income leveraging, and a stronger social-safety net. Services generate about 30% more jobs/output unit than do manufacturing and construction, allowing China to meet its labor absorption and social stability goals with economic growth of only 7-8%.

China now has the smallest services sector of any major economy, and Roach sees it possibly increasing by about $12 trillion by 2015, providing an opportunity for the U.S. Roach suggests pursuing that opportunity rather than continued Chinese currency bashing - reality is we had deficits with 102 nations in 2012 which Roach contends is the result of a U.S. savings gap. Besides, the renminbi has risen 35% since 7/2005 and its current account surplus is less than 3% of GDP. Roach would also like to see cyberattack issues raised to high-priority status.

As for rebalancing - China needs to save less and consume more, and the U.S. the opposite. Phasing out the one-child policy and reforming the residential permit system (hukou) are early steps; another is earmarking 30% of China's SOE profits for funding its safety net programs. While both nations have a surplus labor problem, China has a strategy and the commitment of its new leadership, the U.S. has neither - still stuck in our commitment to the Invisible Hand, an increasingly questionable direction. Regardless, Roach also points out that China's shift will drawn down its surplus saving and further reduce its current-account surplus - thus, who will fund chronic U.S. savings shortfalls, how will Americans hold down inflation in the future?

Another conflict - the imbalance between our projections of vast military power and the erosion of our domestic economic base, vs. China's rising nationalism. A major power realignment, first economic, eventually military as well, may follow. Skills on both sides will determine whether this transition is stable and peaceful; however, a special need is for the U.S. to defuse hostility towards China - often incorrectly blaming China for its enormous trade deficit when China was just the final link in a long supply chain with much of financed by American firms, assembling parts made elsewhere. We also need to stop predicting China's collapse - economically and politically.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91acd8dc) out of 5 stars Fail to understand popularity of this book 23 Dec. 2014
By James R. Maclean - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I understand that Stephen Roach is one of the most widely respected economic analysts, and he's generally managed to resist popular _optimistic_ bromides that have had wide circulation. Roach has won a lot of respect for avoiding the "this time is different" disease, or "privatization = magic"(1) dogma that still seems to dominate Western economic thought. Still, whatever one thinks of his overall worldview, this book came as a great disappointment.

A: CONVENTIONAL THINKING

Take pretty much every mainstream media interpretation of economics, when times were bad: those interpretations are here. For example, he treats economic policy for both countries as exogenous, meaning decisions are wholly outside the economic systems of both countries. Other readers may disagree with me here, but I felt that Mr. Roach was content to treat the countries' policy choices as emerging from on high, and imputed them to simple delusions by the presumed architect. Unsurprisingly, US policymakers were supposedly weak, pandering to a sheeplike public with a distaste for sacrifice (2). In contrast, the authorities in reform-era China are mostly wise and far-sighted--they are supposed to be able to avoid adverse political feedback.(3)

Additional aspects of conventional economic thinking are: fallacies of composition in the sectoral balances of the US/Chinese economies, equating the loss of the gold standard as a moral failing of the nation, trade deficits as a decline in moral character (mostly) and so on. Economic growth is presumed to have no connection to existing per capita GDP (so that "tepid" American growth since 1972 is contrasted with robust Chinese growth since 1978); household saving rates are discussed as if households were pretty much the same (as opposed to varying vastly in income and wealth endowment).

Greece is corrupt and dragged down the EU; public deficits can be unilaterally slashed by the national government without consequences; tax incentives can induce anyone to save more.(4)

The association of US economic performance with decadence and Chinese performance with virtue appeals to common sense, but is misleading.

B: IGNORING THE REST OF THE WORLD

Europe is mentioned, in passing; but really, the book sticks to a very unhelpful treatment in which the USA and the PRC are the only two counties in the world. Setting aside the fact that Chinese and US policies (and their effects) are heavily influenced by OPEC, the EU, and other countries, we still could benefit from examining the policy approaches. For instance, the one major concrete policy recommendation Roach makes that I could find (p.228) was to replace the income tax with a consumption tax, presumably accompanied by a 75% reduction in all governmental spending at all levels. Most readers may feel this is unworkable politically, and wonder what is done in countries with large trade surpluses. The short answer is, something very different.

C: FRUSTRATING ECONOMIC ANALYSIS

Economics is supposed to provide tools for policy formation and critique. An economic analysis that insists on more virtue, or policy proposals that are impossible to implement, is a failure. In the case of aggregate spending by all levels of government in the USA, gigantic reductions on the order of 25%-75% are a staple of conservative political rhetoric but generally hopeless. Balancing the budget while concurrently shifting to a consumption tax that consumers would be capable of paying--say, a VAT of 25% combined with a virtually flat tax on income of 25%--would entail such a reduction (5). Roach then assumes that such a dramatic policy change would have no effect on the balance of the other sectors. In addition, there would be tax incentives (perhaps through rebates on VAT paid?) to save.

Roach is to be commended for attacking the China-bashing so popular in the media, especially in his chapter on "The China Gripe." This is very useful, although even he succumbs to the notion that Beijing can summon up its foreign currency reserves from the vasty deep. Otherwise, the book is pretty much Peterson Institute bromides, with a dash of Roach's signature fulminations from the wilderness--locusts, wild honey, that sort of thing.
____________________________________________

NOTES

(1) "This time is different" is pretty well-known, although I am applying it specifically to investment fads (e.g., the dot com bubble of 1993-1999). "Privatization = magic" is an idea still widely peddled, that somehow the mere existence of private equity ownership in a formerly government-administered service will automatically produce miracles of efficiency. Readers can (accurately) interpret me several different ways, as in: something can be "privatized," but avoid market discipline; or else, market failure is inherently endemic to certain sectors. And so on.

(2) I felt this exogenous fallacy was too obvious to need citations, but one example is: he persistently refers to "Washington" as a metonymy for policy choices generally. On p.143, in an otherwise-reasonably well-argued passage opposing trade sanctions against China, he warns that China could "sell off its massive position in US Treasuries." This is impossible because there is no one Chinese entity that owns those Treasuries; they have been used to recapitalize the Chinese banking system, and even a massively-coordinated dumping of those assets on global bond markets (which I seriously doubt is possible) would cost the Chinese banking system so large a share of its capitalization that it would be effectively bankrupt.

(3) The leaders of China certainly deserve some respect for this, although Roach is probably more concerned with over-correcting unduly negative views of Chinese leaders, than with a balanced judgment of his own. He cites Huang Yasheng's Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics (2008) when the latter writes about the early reform period (1978-1989), but ignores Huang's criticism of Chinese economic leadership since 1989. The entire point of Huang's book is that autocratic leadership has most of the same pitfalls as democracy in managing a capitalist economy, and China has fallen into the very pitfalls Roach objects to in the USA (see Huang Yasheng, 2008, p.16). The one difference is that the USA has a huge public sector deficit, and China's public sector deficit (while right behind the USA as a share of GDP) is more than offset by its immense household sector surplus.

(4) Roach's proposed changes to the tax code are extremely drastic (p.228); they include replacing the income tax with a tax on consumption.

(5) Daniel Altman, "What if a Sales Tax Were the Only Tax?" _The New York Times_ (17 Oct 2004); such a scheme was proposed by Rep. John Linder, with rates estimated by the author of the article. But 25% assumes only federal revenues would be raised in this way. An additional 9-10% would be required for state and local revenues.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x976938a4) out of 5 stars Excellent analysis on the current path of the biggest economies 8 Jun. 2014
By donald - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I read Roach's columns regularly at project syndicate and other sources, and bought this book to get additional light on the state of the Chinese economy. It surpassed my expectations, and every chapter was full of detailed analysis and figures, leaving no room for blank statements or ideological comments. I think the notes at the end of the book, where he draws many thoughts and facts, are equally important as well.

This book overall provides a very fair analysis on both parts, the U.S. and China, and describes how these two biggest economies can achieve a win-win relationship with each other.

And his background as a former chief economist at Morgan Stanley enables the reader to not only learn a great deal about myriad of Chinese policy issues, but also important macroeconomic variables that are relevant in this U.S-China relationship.

But one thing that I think he should have paid more special attention to is the mounting problems related with China's property market. Especially, land confiscation as a major source of urban development and local governments' budget does not seem to be sustainable in light of recent developments in the property sector. Although he does bring up this issue slightly, it concludes that it won't cause a systemic risk to the system due to its small portion in relation to the GDP, which I am not really sure at the moment.

Other than that, I think this book touches most of the relevant drivers in a very detailed way that will have lasting bearing on the U.S and China for the years to come.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91402768) out of 5 stars A trip down memory lane 30 Sept. 2014
By Athan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
So I read this book for old times' sake.

I've traded fixed income out of a good ten addresses, but not (yet??) Morgan Stanley. A decade ago, under Stephen Roach, they had the Street's undisputed #1 economics department. So my weekend would invariably start with the musings of Stephen Roach, Joachim Fels, Andy Xie and Robert Alan Feldman, with special attention given to avoiding anything Eric Chaney had to say, in case it inspired me to trade Sterling, where I have a solid record in losing money.

I'm happy to report he has not changed much. Others have tried to write this book (example: Michael Pettis) and failed. Stephen Roach has one story and he lays it out over 250 pages. Twenty five would have probably done the trick, but hey, he's got spare time out in Asia where they parked him once his perma-bearish outlook had become too uncomfortable for management. And if I read this right, he seems to be totally gone now and working out of New Haven. Yikes!

The story is not rocket science, but somebody had to write it: China has spent the last thirty years moving its population from the countryside to the megacities of the coast, where they assemble (but increasingly also design) consumer products that we buy in the West. It was a gamble and it's paid off, with China becoming the world's second largest economy, manufacturer and exporter. Perhaps even the largest on at least a couple of these measures. The model of the Chinese economy has become export-and-investment led, the two representing 72% of the economy (don't worry, imports bring the number back down somewhat), at the expense of the Chinese consumer, who's stuck at 36% of GDP and of the Chinese worker, who is having to look for work in the part of the economy (manufacturing) that is most open to advances in productivity.

Conversely, the US has completely given up on investment, has totally unlearnt how to save (at the government, corporate and personal level), has run a budget deficit since the Reagan years (a couple years of surplus at the height of the Clinton / Greenspan tech bubble notwithstanding), a savings deficit since 2008 and a negative current account balance since (you guessed it) the Reagan years and has made consumption (at almost 70% of GDP) the cornerstone of its growth story (perhaps even the whole planet's, at 17% of its GDP), most recently fuelled by a good 2 trillion of Treasury purchases by the Chinese central bank.

So the two states have become, in Stephen Roach's words, "codependent"

The book is a story of
* how we got here (It was an explicit and well executed strategy on the part of the Chinese, and a combination of 1. The politics of "growth addiction" and 2. Alan Greenspan's blind faith in markets on the part of the US)

* why we need to stop blaming the Chinese for allegedly stealing American jobs when (i) America shares at least half the responsibility and (ii) the US has a current account deficit with 102 economies, of whom China merely happens to be the largest but by no means the naughtiest on WTO measures

* how we can cause a 1930's style disaster if we unilaterally start a trade war

* what comes next (rebalancing, whether we want it or not, since we've reached the end of the road for both the US model and the Chinese model with the crisis of 2008)

* what specific measures both sides must take (the Chinese should promote labor-intensive services such as transport, retail, financial services etc., while the US must prepare to export such services to China, must cut its budget deficit, must give up on consumption that's never coming back because the middle class has either totally lost the assets that once drove its spending or is busy servicing the associated debt, must stop the Fed from further inflating assets because they belong to the class that does not spend anyway and must find ways to invest more, both in areas where it used to lead in, like education, healthcare and infrastructure, but also in growth areas of the future)

No doubt there are some contradictions here. Either the US government must cut the deficit or it must invest. Either the citizens should spend or they should chase even further into the sky via their saving money the very assets the Fed has inflated with its sundry bubblicious activities. But Stephen Roach loves a moan, so it's up to you the reader to draw the line somewhere; he won't.

And that, of course, is what we fanatics love about Steve Roach!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x913d29cc) out of 5 stars You can judge this book by its cover 29 May 2014
By Marlon Varsace - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In full disclosure, my wife and I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Roach last week. We had the great fortunate to be at an intimate book signing at a local library in Ct. That being said... This is offered to all readers as a great reminder of how the US/China codependency came to be and a warning of how it may end. I offer you a hint: read chapters 11 and 12, then pages 196 through 200, and repeat. I further by adding: memorize the SEI's on page 238.
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