At Harris Bricken, we keep close tabs on what is happening around the world, and we know that our friends and clients do, as well. We are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench, where we look at the world by talking with business leaders, innovators, service providers, manufacturers, and government leaders around the world.

In Episode #69, we are joined by Andrew Peaple, editor at The Wire China, and co-founder and presenter of the Asia Matters podcast.

We discuss:

  • Andrew’s journalism career, including a 16-year stint at The Wall Street Journal.
  • The JET Program and why it represents a soft power triumph for Japan.
  • How journalism has been impacted by the growth of the public relations industry, as well as the emergence of social media.
  • Asia Matters, and how it was partly motivated by existing gaps in non-China Asia coverage.
  • The importance of understanding how Asians are interacting with each other – not just DC thinktank perspectives.
  • The culture shock of returning to the UK after many years abroad.
  • Brexit and Britain’s importation of the American culture wars.
  • What it means if someone in the UK compares you to Marmite.
  • Listening, and watching recommendations from:

We’ll see you next week for another exciting and informative episode when we sit down with Robert Fatton Jr., one of the foremost experts on Haiti.

This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.

Fred Rocafort  0:07 

Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort.


Jonathan Bench  0:37 

And I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important, the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.


Fred Rocafort  1:02 

We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.


Today we are delighted to have with us Andrew, people, editor at the wire China and co founder and presenter of the podcast Asia matters. Andrew, welcome to Harris Bricken’s Global Law and Business.


Andrew Peaple  1:33 

Thank you so much for having me. It’s a great pleasure to be here.


Fred Rocafort  1:36 

Well, why don’t we start by having you introduce yourself, tell us who you are, what we should know about you. And definitely tell us about your podcast, please.


Andrew Peaple  1:46 

Absolutely. Well, as you said, my name is Andrew Peaple. I am really a journalist. That’s what I’ve been for most of my career. I was at the wall street journal for about 16 years that started in 2003. And with them, I had stints in London, Beijing and Hong Kong. Hong Kong was our most recent trip abroad and we live there I say we my wife and family. We lived there from 2015 to 2019. And while I was at the journal, I did various things. I was a reporter on Dow Jones newswires. I was a columnist on the heard on the street column and an editor of that as well. Whilst I was in Hong Kong, I also edited our markets and finance coverage. We came back in 2019. And I left the journal at that stage. For a little while, I worked with a trade group here in the UK called the China Britain Business Council, where I was the media and research director. And then earlier this year, the opportunity came up to join the wire China with David Barbosa who’s who runs the wire. It’s a fantastic online magazine all about China, business, politics and economics. back before I was a journalist, I qualified as an accountant of all things with what was then Coopers and Lybrand, it’s now, Price Waterhouse, Coopers PwC. I was with them for three years in London, and also for a couple of years in Tokyo, in Japan. And even before that, I did the JET Program, which is, as some of your listeners probably know, it’s a teaching program in Japan, which I did for a year in Osaka. So I guess it’s a career of going backwards and forwards between London and Asia, whether it’s Japan or China, or Hong Kong. And, and here I am. And, as you said, as well. Also, when I came back from Hong Kong, I started the Asia Matters podcast with a couple of colleagues instantly, and Rebecca Bailey, who are both in at the BBC. And we’ve been doing that for the last year and a half. And it’s been great fun.


Fred Rocafort  4:06 

I can certainly relate to the fun of podcasting. Before we go any further, I just want to circle back to the to the Jet program. I have to say I have a at least a couple of friends that have have participated in the program I think for for anyone who spends meaningful time in Asia, it’s just one of these things that comes up on a regular basis. Right. Many of the people that are doing it beats in Asia right there in the head program. I wish I had known about it, you know, when I was when I was younger. Can you tell us more about that experience?


Andrew Peaple  4:35 

Yeah, it’s an extraordinary program. I mean, I think it’s still going. I’m afraid I’ve lost touch. But you know, the Japanese government essentially flew out hundreds of people from the UK, America, Canada, English speaking countries, essentially. And you get the chance to teach English in a in a high school or a junior high school in in Japan for a year. Some people stay Stay for longer. I mean, it’s the sort of thing that back in the 90s, when I did it, you know, the Japanese government, they were able to just throw money at this stuff. And I think it from their point of view, it’s been a tremendous success. I don’t necessarily mean that’s because, you know, Japanese people can all speak brilliant English now, that’s probably still far from the case. But in terms of the soft power, the image of Japan, you know, I went to Japan as a, you know, in my early 20s, knew very little about the place and learnt so much fell in love with the place. I always love going back to Japan still now, I’ll always say good things about Japan. But not only that, you know, my family. And, you know, I think of my grandparents generation, they went through the war didn’t have a great image of Japan, frankly. And but, you know, they got to come and see it got to come and see the culture meet the Japanese people, of course. And I just think it’s been, you know, a great thing for for Japan. For me personally. It was fantastic. I, you know, I left college. Here in the UK, I’d had a fairly pretty traditional British education, which was fantastic, but I sort of just knew in my bare bones that, you know, there was a big world out there, and I wanted to see it. You know, the JET Program could frankly, have been any country and I probably would have tried to do it, but it’s, it was a very well organized program, and I signed up for it. I remember going for my interview, and they asked me what famous Japanese people I knew. And back then the only one I could think of was Yoko Ono. Right? I mean, I just knew so little about it. But it was just this fantastic introduction to Japan and Asia more generally, it broadened my horizons. It made me grow up a lot. It was my first ever sort of proper job. So just on so many levels, it was a it was a really great thing to do.


Fred Rocafort  6:44 

Where in Japan were you were working?


Andrew Peaple  6:47 

So I was in Osaka in sort of greater Osaka so it wasn’t in the actual city itself, but in the sort of broader Metropolis and I taught in a town little town there called Sekai was famous for making knives actually, and it was just it was just brilliant. I was just in an ordinary High School. And I mean when I say teaching you’re sort of you’re teaching in partnership with the local Japanese English teachers so you know, it’s very much a double act. And you know, it was just great fun and going out in Osaka at the weekends was pretty fun too.


Fred Rocafort  7:23 

Glad you were close to a to a big city I’m sure because at least one of my friends not too clear on some of the others but one of my friends I think he was on what is it Shikoku that is at the island. And I mean obviously there’s there’s a certain charm to that but it could get a little a little too remote at times.


Andrew Peaple  7:41 

Yeah, you tended to find the people who went to places like that their Japanese got really pretty good pretty quickly


Fred Rocafort  7:48 

Well, yeah, it’s like those guys in China that have spent some some hard time in in the provinces right and they come back and they’re not only is there is their Mandarin flawless, but they can they can engage in banter, you know, in Sichuan ease, you know, with the with the foot massage staff, that those are the folks that were in those rural areas, right? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, great. Let’s, let’s pivot a little bit to your work as a as a journalist, I’m very interested in hearing more about this facet of your of your life. One, one thing that I enjoy about the podcast is that it allows me to, and then I’m sure my co host, Jonathan, who couldn’t make it today, if he if he was here, he would agree. One of the great things about the podcast is that we get to talk to people who do the sort of things that we read about and and we we often wonder, what what life is really like, I think for every profession that is not yours, or for every experience that you haven’t had, people tend to have a certain image of what it entails, I think, is you know, as I get older, the some of the mystique might start to peel away from what we read from from what we hear. But nonetheless, I mean, when it comes to journalism is it’s still a mystery to me. So I’d love to hear more about what the job really entails. I mean, I think people see the the product that people see the the end result, but there’s there’s a lot of work that goes behind that perhaps you could share some experiences that are emblematic of of that experience, and, and maybe just share with us a couple of tidbits of what life as a journalist is actually like?


Andrew Peaple  9:29 

Yeah, I’ll try. I mean, I always think I’m afraid journalism, in some ways is one of those professions that probably is less exciting on the inside than it is on the outside. It’s not quite like all the President’s Men all the time. Let’s put it that way. And at the same time, there’s not these days, there’s not the sort of shouting and screaming and sort of general hysteria that perhaps used to go on and they’re certainly probably not the same level of drinking that used to go on at least in the UK, and back in the 80s. And before, it was a pretty legendary industry for the amount of alcohol everyone consumed these days. Yeah, sadly, you just don’t have the time or the energy to do that so much. So, yeah, so where should I begin? Well, I sort of had different stages in my journalist career. As I said, I started out with Dow Jones newswires, which is part of the Wall Street Journal. And the Newswire for anyone who doesn’t know is a sort of, it’s kind of where the news starts, as it were. So you’re reporting in my case, I was originally reporting on companies, and then I was reporting on the British economy, actually. So I spent a lot of time following Gordon Brown around Gordon Brown was the finance ministry, the equivalent of the Treasury Secretary back in those days, and you know, you’re listening to speeches, and you’re going to press conferences, and you’re doing some door stepping sometimes, which involves sort of, you know, hanging out outside meetings and trying to get a comment from the passing, officials, the passing ministers, the parcel passing central bankers, so, you know, a lot of that was pretty good fun in terms of, there was quite a lot of travel involved, I went to lots of sort of g7 type meetings around the world. And other trips, some trips with Gordon Brown, he actually went to China whilst I was covering him, and that was fun, the most exhausting three days of my life in a way, because on a trip like that, you know, you just get up at about five o’clock in the morning, you start going to events, you spend all day reporting, and then in the evening, you, you know, you write it all up, you write all your stories. And then of course, you know, you’ve kind of got to go to the bar to hang out with the people or the sources that you’re trying to make. So it was just non stop. But but but great fun. And, and, and really working on a Newswire like that, I think was just fantastic grounding, it really taught me how, you know, breaking news works, how to get a headline out on our news wire quickly. So you know, Gordon Brown, or the Bank of England, or the European Central Bank says something important, and you’ve got to get it out as quickly as you can. And you’re, you’re sort of judged on how quickly you get those headlines out. And then how quickly you get the story out. It really encourages you to write, you know, briefly and tightly. You know, when I started out, I was definitely one of those journalists who thought out, you know, everyone’s gonna hear 1500 words of, you know, my great research and all these people I’ve spoken to, but, you know, as you go on, you realize the tighter the easier to read your stories are, the shorter they are, often the better they are. So that was great fun, then I was lucky enough, when I moved to Beijing, this was around 2007 2008, I got the opportunity, the the journal, at that time, launch, this heard on the street column, which if you don’t know, is sort of a column, it’s on the back of one of the sections of the Wall Street Journal every day. And it’s kind of a commentary column, it’s us sort of analyzing stuff that’s going on, whether it’s in the markets, or to do with some company or to do with, you know, some economic policy, and, you know, it’s four to 500 words and you you’re writing pithy Li and you’re trying to write cleverly, the great thing about that job, in part was, you’ve got to hang out with some seriously impressive people. And you’ve got to talk to them kind of on background. So you’ve got to me, chief executives, chairman of companies, policymakers, other sorts of people, and because it was more of a commentary thing than breaking news,


you know, you could talk to these people in a more sort of trusting way, and they can be a little bit more open with you. And then you could sort of use the information that they talked about, or their perspectives in the in the columns that you wrote. So I really enjoyed that. And I particularly enjoyed it in China, because there I had sort of carte blanche for a while to just write about anything. And so one day I was writing about Chinese macroeconomic policy, the next day, I was writing about Alibaba or 10 cent, or one of these extraordinary companies that they have in China, you know, that in those days, were growing so fast. So you know, and then later on, after that, I became an editor and an editing as well is, is, is kind of a lot of fun. Because, you know, you’re more based in the office, you’re sort of, and you’re managing coverage, and you’re trying to decide what stories we should do each day. And you’re managing the different reporters. And of course, they all have different characters and different egos and different needs and so on in different strengths. Some of them are good at actually getting the news. Some of them are good at the writing. And so, you know, being an editor as well was, was good fun, too. You know, there’s nothing Having said that, it’s not quite like you know, the journalism you see in the movies, there’s nothing quite like a breaking story that’s going on in the news, you know, some disaster. One that springs to mind is, you know, when I was in Hong Kong For this last period, there was a period in around 2015, where the Chinese financial markets just collapsed. And, you know, nobody quite knew what was going on. And nobody knew if this was going to be even a threat to the the government government itself. So you’re there day to day and you’re just picking up all these tidbits, and you’re reporters are out there getting all these tidbits, and you’re trying to weave it into a coherent story that readers back in the US and elsewhere in the world are going to understand. And that’s, you know, that’s what I really enjoyed about the job back then. I don’t know that’s quite a long winded answer. But I hope, hope that helps. It sure does.


Fred Rocafort  15:39 

One thought that I have at times when I look at various professions, and again, some of them are big mysteries to me. So it is speculation. But for example, when it comes to the legal world, I do have some first hand experience, I sometimes get the feeling that with some jobs, it’s not necessarily that the job itself is on appealing, but rather, the way in which all of the things that go with it. So just to give you an example, I think sometimes of pilots right I’m I’m I’m a big fan of aviation, and and i think fundamentally, probably the vast majority, I would hope the vast majority of pilots enjoy that act of getting on the plane and flying. It’s everything that you add to that it’s all the emails that you have to check. It’s it’s the the scheduling. Right. And I imagine that that’s something that happens across the board. We do see it in the legal profession as well. Right? We see lawyers having to do all sorts of things that that perhaps, like you said, I mean, it’s not all the precedents, men all the time, right. So far for us. It’s not, you know, whatever law on order, or do you think with journalism, there’s been a change of that sort, or perhaps just because of the nature of, of our of our changing world? And, and then and then the way in which we all seem to be tied to to our email inbox? Do you think that that’s part of what’s happened in journalism, that maybe though the core functions remain similar to what they have been, but that perhaps there is all these other surrounding elements that may be impacted? And perhaps not in a in a positive way?


Andrew Peaple  17:18 

Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. I mean, you’re right, the sort of core of the job hasn’t changed in some ways, you know, and you when you work, I know, journalism, the media doesn’t always have the greatest reputation these days. But, you know, trust me, when you work for a publication, like the Wall Street Journal, you have to be very sure that what you’re writing is as damn near accurate as you can get it, and you’ve been fair to your sources. And you’ve got your facts, right, and the facts and figures that you’re using in that story are correct. And you’ve got the quotes, right. And, you know, you’ve talked to when you wrote a big story, in particular, you’ve talked to as wide a range of people as you can to get that all of their perspectives that you know, the core thing that whatever you’re doing, whether you’re writing a story, or you’re doing a podcast, or you’re doing a video, however, you’re presenting that story, those core elements haven’t changed, I think, in the practice of journalism, a couple of things have changed. And I can really mainly talk about, you know, writing about companies and finance rather than, say, politics, which I didn’t covered so much. But, you know, when you are a business journalist these days, you facing these companies, and some of them have just enormous public relations departments that I think there’s some statistic A few years ago, maybe even different now. But you know, there’s sort of six or seven PR professionals to every journalist in the US these days, and I guess those figures are similar in the UK, and they’ve probably even gone up since I saw that stat. And so, you know, you have these companies, and then you have these public relations firms as well on top of that, and they’re all trying, obviously, to get you to write the story in the way that’s most favorable to them. Now, obviously, there’s some stories that are pretty clear cut, you know, if BP dumps a load of oil into, you know, the Gulf of Mexico, there’s not a lot that their PR firm can do to, to mitigate that, but they’re going to try and, you know, there are lots of stories that aren’t quite as dramatic as that where you’re trying to get to the truth and you have all these people and, you know, they’re telling, you know, they’re telling their version of the truth. They’re not necessarily always trying to deceive you or make your life problematic, but you know, they are there and stuff in your inbox and people are calling you and so that, that I think has got harder and as you say, the sheer volume of emails, the sheer volume of pitches, you know, just takes time to work through. So I think, I think in some ways that has got harder over the years because of whatever social media because people are more and more sensitive, it’s become harder to have a sort of trusting relationship with sources or with with companies, where people are prepared to be open and honest with you in a way that you need for your stories. And so, you know, the way that PR firms and companies want you to write about them, quite often doesn’t really make for good journalism, it doesn’t make for a good story, it’s pretty bland language or whatever. So, you know, all of that, I think has got harder over the years, it’s difficult to be say that in a tangible way, in some ways, it’s an intangible, it’s just, it’s just a feeling that those things have got harder over time, for sure. But you know, as you say, the core of it, the core of what you’re trying to do, hasn’t changed, you’re trying to tell the story you’re trying to communicate, you’re trying to tell people something they need to know, in language, they’re going to understand,


Fred Rocafort  21:06 

I want to go back to this idea of developing relationships and the difficulties that are how it’s becoming harder. And I wanted to ask him specifically about the role of technology. in that equation, you brought up social media, but I have a background in government and there is a some overlap in what we used to do overseas, that I was with the Foreign Service, there is, you know, a part of what any government does overseas, in some cases more openly. And then there are people that will do it in more discreet ways, is to build relationships to obtain information about what’s happening in country x, or or why my part of the of the shop was the one that did things openly. So it was a little bit different. But I imagine that technology, the technological advances, make it harder the fact that it’s easier to for for a government like, say the Chinese government to track what you’re doing. You’ve got your WeChat and then they they have ways of figuring out where you are, who you’re talking to, probably has an impact on people’s willingness to talk to to a foreign deployed Is that something that is impacting journalism as well, where perhaps 20 years ago, if someone could could reach out initially to a journalist, and there would probably be no record of that. Whereas now even a an initial approach unless you happen to run into someone at a at an event, but if any kind of attempt to communicate that you do over email or over over the phone is likely to be to be registered in some way. Do you do you think that that has an impact and even in in relatively open societies like we have here in the US or the UK, where again, there’s more of a footprint? Do you see that as impacting people’s decisions when it comes to deciding whether they want to be not an identified source?


Andrew Peaple  23:02 

I’m sure it does. And I’m sure that on the journalist side, at least, these days, of course, you have to be incredibly careful about how you present yourself in emails, any kind of electronic communication, because you know, that, you know, that communication could one day could be used in a court, it could be used by, as you say, a government or hostile government to entrap you or to punish you in some way. And I think that probably has got harder over the years. I mean, when I was in China, the period funnily enough, when I was in China, 2007 to 2010 was in many ways, the period, lots of people now say it was probably the most open period, in some ways for foreign journalists. In China, it was the time at the Beijing Olympics, as you know, 2008. So you know, China was pretty keen to portray a fairly positive image of itself at that moment. And that sort of lost its so I guess, this leads to my broader sort of thought on what you’ve said, which is, yes, the social media, the technology and so on, makes all of this kind of repression of journalists and repression of the relationships between journalists and sources. Ever harder, but it’s also the key is really the attitude of the governments. Right. What we’ve seen in China, as everyone knows, over the last few years, is a more and more authoritarian stance on the part of Xi Jinping and and his administration and that has, of course, reflected on, you know, foreign journalists and the atmosphere for foreign journalists in China. So and, of course, as an extension of that, you know, the authorities are using technology and Other methods that they may not have had in the past, or they may not have had to this extent in the past to snoop on foreign journalists, and it’s part of the part of the broad environment that that’s made it harder to do journalism in China. But I guess what I’m saying is, you can have all those tools. But if you have a more open sort of attitude at the top, they’re not going to be used in a way that’s so harmful to journalists or so prejudicial to journalists. Am I making sense here? I mean, I think I think it’s, you know, you’ve got the tools, you don’t have to use them in the way that they are being used these days. And not just in China, as you say.


Fred Rocafort  25:39 

No, absolutely. That’s that’s a great point, obviously, obviously, no, no, no amount of technology is going to make the difference. If you’re in a in an open society where we’re nobody really is going to care. Right? If you if you spoke to a journalist or a foreign diplomat, fascinating. Let’s turn to your podcast, I could keep talking about journalism. Let’s switch to your podcast. One of the things that that really jumped out at me when I was looking at the different episodes is the very wide array of topics that that you’re covering lots of stories. Yeah, there’s a lot of China content, for sure. But there’s also content on other parts of Asia, India, Southeast Asia, even even the Pacific nations, right. Unless you’re in that part of the world, they’re they’re usually not the focus of much attention. So perhaps you can tell us a little bit about sort of your your overall approach to topic selection. But related to that, do you think that when it comes to Asia when it comes to to to news coverage, or just in general to any sort of endeavor involving Asia, do you think China sometimes eclipses the rest of the region just because of its, its its heft. Now, obviously, there there is content that is clearly focused on China. If you want content on China, there are podcasts that are devoted to that there are publications devoted to that, but even publications that that are supposed to have a broader focus or organizations that are supposed to be covering the entire continent again, to some degree, it makes sense. And I’m not I’m not saying that it’s that it’s illogical for China to to take up that much space. But do you think that perhaps, there is a lack of content about other parts of Asia because of our fixation with with China?


Andrew Peaple  27:27 

Well, that was part of the motivation for setting up the podcast. So as I say, we came back from Hong Kong couple of years ago. And I’d met Vincent nee, who these days is the guardians, China affairs correspondent, he was at the BBC at that stage. And also Rebecca, who was our producer on the on the show. And we did just feel that as you say, there was a sort of there were a lot of China podcasts out there and a lot of great podcasts on China. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I listened to loads of them. And, but we just felt that there was a bit of a gap that, you know, looking at the region as a whole, was something that isn’t done in podcasts. So much, I mean, that there are others out there. But we felt that that was, you know, something that we could address. And that would be interesting, frankly, I mean, you know, part of the motivation, frankly, of setting up a podcast is because I I wanted to learn I wanted to learn more about some of the countries that we’ve covered. Some of them may have had more of a superficial knowledge of than others. And I just wanted to, to learn more. So in some ways that you know, the answer to your question about how we choose our topics is, well, it’s something I know, I sort of know a bit about. But I’d like to know more. And I think our listeners would like to know more. What we sort of thought as well was, you know, as you say, we’ve done a lot on China. It’s it’s inescapable, but we wanted to kind of look about at not just, you know, how the US reacts to China, or how Europe reacts to China, the kind of stuff that we read and hear about a lot, but, you know, what, are they thinking in Japan? What are they thinking in Korea? What are they thinking in Indonesia, India, all these other countries? How is the region sort of how are the countries in this region, this vast and fascinating region interacting with each other? And what’s happening there? You know, why is India falling out with China? Or why is Indonesia doing what it’s doing? You know, why has Myanmar, you know, turn back to military rule? And how is that sort of interacting with the other countries around it and not just seeing it through the prism of what is the US think or what is the UK think? Which we we also hear plenty of, I’m not saying we always achieve this, but that was kind of the philosophy. We have We also just thought that there were, you know, through my work out in the region, Vincent’s contacts and so on, that there were quite a lot of interesting kind of academics and public figures in those countries, you know, who speak good English, and because it is an English speaking podcast. And we wanted to sort of bring those people out a bit more, maybe an or bring them, you know, more of an audience outside of the countries that they’ve been in. I don’t mean that in a patronizing way, I just mean, in in a sort of, you know, rather than just turn to the sort of think tanks, again, in DC, or in London, or wherever else, you know, let’s hear from the people from these regions themselves, and what I’m what they think and how they’re thinking about some of these big topics. I mean, I I sort of, I don’t know, I don’t know what sort of podcasts you’ve listened to, and what models you’ve had. We have a podcast here in the UK, it’s called in our time, and basically what they do is each week, this guy is pretty famous presenter here in the UK, Melvyn Bragg, and he gets on three academics, and they talk about anything, it could be, like, you know, Henry, the eighth, or it could be about, you know, nuclear physics. And they just go from first principles, and the, it’s getting these academics sort of out of their ivory tower, to sort of talk in a publicly engaging way about the stuff they research into, whether it’s history, science, literature, or something else. And that was the sort of model I at least I had in mind was that, you know, we could get some smart people together and just explain some of these stories that people hear and read about, just go into the men in a bit more background in the in the way they do on that, in our time show very, very different sort of subject matter. But that was the sort of philosophy that I also had. So that was really our reasoning in setting it up that, you know, he was this region that, you know, not just that there were countries that we wanted to hear more about, but just more how those countries are interacting with each other and how this region is sort of growing and changing. And the relations between the peoples and the governments in that region. How that’s how that’s all developing


Fred Rocafort  32:23 

In our times is a great podcast. Yeah, very glad you brought it up.


Andrew Peaple  32:28 

I mean, if we could do anything like that, it would be fantastic, you know? Yeah. Right.


Fred Rocafort  32:34 

Exactly. No, definitely one of the one of the deans of the of the podcasting world and actually probably my mom’s favorite podcast, I introduced her to it and I don’t know if it’s because she can’t switch to other podcasts now. For technical skills allow her to to look for others. But she’s she’s an avid avid listener, when she has to drive somewhere. That’s That’s her go to? I know, this is a tough question. Because certainly, I feel as if everyone that I talked to on this podcast has many interesting things to say. Let’s say for someone who who wants to have a listen, they they want to see what your podcast is all about. Do you have a few episodes that that stand out that you would recommend to a first time listener, or that perhaps were particularly enjoyable, or particularly important to you for for any reason?


Andrew Peaple  33:28 

The temptation here is to talk about ones where listener figures were not quite as good as the other so I can just bump up the numbers a bit. Um, I mean, I think where there’s a couple that springs to mind, I really enjoyed. We did an episode on this Chinese company, it was called lucking coffee. And there was a big sort of corporate scandal that went on at this company, lucky in China, and it turned out that, you know, all sorts of shenanigans had gone on, in the way that the company was run and money disappearing, and so on, so on and so forth. And that was a, that was an episode that I thought, you know, I think we should do this. But I think that not many people will be that interested in actually, it was a really popular one. And we had a good couple of good guests, both from Hong Kong, who could really talk us through sort of the, the whole story, and then why it came apart and what the sort of implications were and I kind of actually going back to the, in our time model, I sort of like that I like to be able to get our guests to help us tell a story and then sort of, you know, tell us what it all means and what the broader implications were. So that would be one. You highlighted. The episode actually that we did on the Pacific Islands, and you You know, these countries like these tiny countries, often not, not huge populations, but you know, islands like Fiji Samoa, where, you know, they are becoming sort of very much subject to the broader geopolitical forces, you know, the growth of China, but also what the US is doing to respond. And then how countries like Australia that are kind of caught in the middle are responding to, and I really enjoyed doing that program. The one that we did most recently was about the Olympics. Actually, we just sort of thought, Well, here’s the Olympics going on in Tokyo, the last winter Olympics were in Korea and the next winter Olympics are in Beijing. So you’ve got, you’ve got three Olympics in a row taking place in Asia. So let’s look back at the other times that the Olympics have been hosted in that part of the world and what it’s meant to Japan back in the 60s and career in the 80s, in Beijing in 2008. So I yeah, you know, it is a tough question. Because I’ve enjoyed, I’ve been, you know, having genuinely enjoyed doing all of the episodes that we’ve done. And what’s really surprised me, in a way has been just the generosity of our guests the generosity of their time, and their insights, and their willingness to, to talk about, you know, their fields. And, you know, that’s actually something that I kind of always that I learned when I was a journalist, but I’m always surprised when I’m sort of reminded of it that often people like nothing more than to talk about their jobs and their interests. And if you get them talking, and you get them sort of relaxed, then, you know, you can get some really great insights and really learn a lot. So that’s been the joy of doing it. But those would be two or three of the episodes that we’ve done that I’ve really liked. And just lastly, on a sadder note, I mean, I have enjoyed the most recent one, the most recent ones we did with them into from Myanmar talking about just what’s gone on there. And what he thinks is going to happen next. I mean, this guy’s or, you know, the twine of writers on Myanmar really has that historical sweep of knowledge about the country, as well as you know, being from there and an understanding what what is happening now, and, and I just found it, and just a brilliant speaker. And when you get that combination, you can really, you can really learn a lot. And it’s just really interesting and fascinating.


Fred Rocafort  37:32 

We could certainly dig into some of these topics, there’s so much to talk about, right when it comes to Myanmar, or the Olympics, or the Pacific Islands. But I’d like to take advantage of the fact that I’m assuming you’re in the UK now, right? That’s right. Okay, great. To be very honest with you, our UK coverage has been a little bit thin, not because it hasn’t been a choice. It’s just been the way it’s worked out. We’ve had more guests who are British, then guests who are in the UK, just because the UK, of course, is a great x bad nation. And there are Brits all over the world. So it’s it’s it’s been interesting that we’ve actually spoken to the folks from the UK about other things, but nonetheless, like to take advantage of the fact that you’re there that you can give us that perspective. And rather than continuing to to talk about Asia, I want to turn to what’s happening in the UK, you’re there. If you could perhaps just give us a an overview of what’s what’s happening. I mean, obviously, things like Brexit are and COVID are on everyone’s minds. But beyond that, I mean, I think that one of the things that happens when you’re not living in a country is that you’re getting the headlines, unless you you take the time to really read about the what’s happening and read the local newspapers, you’re you’re only going to going to you’re only going to be aware of the of the big stories. And unfortunately, that means that you miss out on some of the other things that are happening, right. So what are people watching on TV? What are what are some of the trends and the buzzwords that are that are going around all these things that that give color to life in a particular society. So feel free to share whatever you think might might be of interest, you know, what’s happening in the UK these days?


Andrew Peaple  39:16 

Wow, where do I start? Well, I mean, so yeah, we came back, I came back to live in the UK two years ago. And it’s funny actually, you know, as I said, At the start, you know, I’ve had various periods of living abroad, Japan and and so on and so forth. And, and I’ve never experienced this sort of culture shock that people talk about too much. But I must say that when I came back, this time to the UK, after four years in Hong Kong, it did feel very different. And I’ve been thinking a lot about why I think the Brexit situation does still color politics and in some ways, the general mood in the country here. And, you know, I, personally have pretty strong I don’t want to go into Brexit and the rights and wrongs again, but I have, you know, I’m one of many people who have some fairly strong opinions on the rights and wrongs of Brexit. And I think that I was thinking about this the other day, it’s because it was such a binary thing, it was yes or no, and it was so defining, you know, if you were on one side of the argument, or the other side of the argument, it really, it wasn’t like a normal election, a referendum is so different from a normal election where, you know, you can vote for one party one time, and you can think I’ll vote for these guys this time. And things go well, or things go badly. And the next time the election comes along, you think actually, I think these guys are screwed up, I’m gonna try the other lot, or, actually, I’m gonna give these guys have benefited out. But it’s, it’s it’s sort of, I don’t want to say it’s less passionate, but it’s less sort of polarizing, and it’s less sort of defining and, but you know, now that because Brexit happened, and it split the country, almost down the middle, and it continues to split the country down the middle, and we’ll be having these debates. Whatever happens in the future in this country, in Britain, it’ll be sort of, Oh, it’s gone wrong, because of Brexit, oh, it’s gone, right. Because of Brexit, it’s gonna color things for so long in a way that I don’t think in a strange way other elections have in the past that I’ve, that I’ve lived through. So. So that’s sort of the broader backdrop. And then we’re kind of here, then importing some of the culture war stuff that you guys have in America, a bit that’s coming more and more into our politics, and you get the sort of, you know, I’m aware of the sort of the Tucker Carlson figures and the Fox News type figures on the one hand in America, and then the sort of msnbc type. And we haven’t quite gone that far in the UK, we don’t have that kind of programming too much. But we do have some, you know, figures who are controversial lists in that way on either side of the thing. And so, you know, one example, this summer, you asked what people are watching on telly? Well, you know, a lot of the summer was taken up with people watching the European football championships, big, big football tournament. And England, the England football team has kind of not done very well in football for for many, many years. But, you know, in the last couple of years, the team is sort of improved, and they got to the final. But of course, one of the controversial things was that the England team, which is very mixed in terms of ethnicity, and background, and so on, and so forth, they, they always took a knee before the game started. And this became just a huge deal with people, you know, screaming at each other on Twitter, and in the papers about whether this was right or wrong. And, you know, some people went as far as Sue, I’m not going to support them, if they carry on taking the knee. And some of the fans of the ground were, you know, when they were allowed back in, were booing the team when they did this. But then, of course, plenty of other people are saying what a great thing it is. And you know, that they were recognizing the Black Lives Matter. And and it just became sort of, you know, this great, stressful debate around simply just watching football. And so that’s sort of, you know, it just all feels a bit hysterical at the moment. And, you know, even Boris Johnson, who’s the prime minister of the moment, he’s quite a divisive figure, he’s very, what we call a Marmite figure, you either love him or you hate him. And so it feels like some of that, you know, then I think you have the same atmosphere in the US as being as a chicken and egg stuff, you know, which came first, I don’t know, but some of its come over here to the UK, or maybe we had it first, with Brexit.


So there’s that, you know, I mean, obviously, day to day, my life is pretty pleasant. It’s not like all of these things color stuff all the time. But that’s, you know, that has felt different coming back this time. And, you know, I think back to 2012, when we have the Olympics here, and it was great, great time, and very colorful, and, you know, quite sort of harmonious. And then just a few years on, everyone seems to be quite fractious, and obviously COVID hasn’t helped with that, with everyone having to be at home and all the economic insecurity that’s come with that, you know, a lot of the things that are common to a lot of developed countries, a big problems here, growing inequality, what to do about it, how to look after our aging population, all of these big questions, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re big questions here, here in the UK as well. And culturally, it you know, in some ways, it’s hard to say because so much of culture has been shut down over the last few years. But even there, again, there’s a sort of conflict a bit between the sort of, you know, are we going to remain open to the rest of the world in this country or are we going to become more self reliant? Those sorts of debates, I feel a coloring a lot of life and a lot of the discourse here in the UK at the moment.


Fred Rocafort  45:12 

Fantastic. That’s exactly what I was what I was hoping for will have to provide other guests with a short clip and then tell them this is the this is what we’re looking for when we want that that snapshot of what’s what’s happening in your, in your country, I’ll be honest with you, I read English newspapers, you know, that’s sort of my my go to, I pay for a subscription to an English newspaper at any given time, so that I can have full access to it because I find it a lot more bearable than our own local media. So so I do have something of a perspective, right. But it’s fascinating that things are not more different, right? Like the fact that you go to The Guardian, or the time series website, and then the fact that the stories are not more different, right, that  is interesting in and of itself.


Andrew Peaple  45:57 

Yeah, I mean, it’s fascinating that you say that, because to me, in some ways, it’s, it’s the opposite. And I don’t want to, you know, totally disagree with that. So for example, you know, my, I was just staying with my parents, this this week, my son, and I went to my parents, and my dad went, said, he went down to the news agents, and there was this story this week about something to do with COVID. And something to do with the government. And what’s happening between the UK and France, and you know, whether people are going to be able to go on holiday in France, and so on. And there’s been a controversy about it. And my dad was like, you know, the the lead story about this on The Daily Telegraph, which is generally a right wing newspaper versus the lead story on the Guardian was completely different. And they were writing about the same, the same thing. And I actually sort of slowly feel that. And maybe I’m looking at this with rose tinted glasses, but I feel like when I grew up, and I was first reading newspapers, you could have a paper like the telegraph. And yes, it’s right wing, but it would have some left wing column is or it would have some, you know, people from that sort of perspective writing for it sometimes and ditto on the Guardian side, and there was a bit more, a bit more open mind in this. And now I just feel that the papers have become quite polarized, even more polarized. So I hate to disagree with you. But I slight, you know, I actually think that, you know, rather like some of the media in the US that it has become more polarized, and it’s quite difficult and that you know, that well, I suppose the BBC has always been slagged off. But the slagging off that goes off of the BBC, from both sides of the political spectrum is just off the charts these days. So anyway, that’s just my thought. But I’m sort of, you know, again, a bit tired of it. And although I’m a journalist, I’ve never actually worked for a UK paper, I should say. So I don’t really know. I think it is more, you know, police size when you’re when you’re in that environment.


Fred Rocafort  48:06 

Well, I’m old enough to remember when it was hannity and Colmes when sean hannity would sit with a, you know, with a guy representing the left, right, on Fox News, right. So yeah, so I’ve seen that the dramatic shift, right, like I read, there was a time when yeah, what Fox News at least attempted to have some sort of balance, right. And I totally get that. And it’s and again, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting to hear.


Andrew Peaple  48:31 

And goes back to the what I was kind of trying to say about Brexit, which is it’s sort of there’s no compromise, there’s no real room for compromise. You can’t well, I mean, I suppose some people are, you know, I voted no, but I’m, you know, what, I wasn’t sure about it, it just feel it feels so polarizing, rather than like I say, when a normal election where you can vote for one party one time, and you can kind of change your mind and vote for another the next time. You know, Brexit, you’re either one side or the other. And it feels like that polarization has spread to, you know, lots of other debates and aspects of life.


Fred Rocafort  49:08 

I have to say, this is obviously an outsider’s thought. But I was very shocked at how definitive that that decision was I just to just to offer a counterpoint in Florida where I am spending the pandemic  winter. A few years ago, I forget exactly when it was there was a referendum, every election cycle. There’s quite a few ballot and initiative initiatives in Florida, it’s relatively easy to get them on the ballot. And there was a vote on whether Florida should have high speed rail, right, which is a bit of an odd question to pose to the voters. But nonetheless, it was it was on the ballot and it was actually approved. The majority of Florida voters said yeah, we should we should have a high speed rail. And the then governor thought well, you know, this is this is not something that I’m on board with and essentially said, look, this is this is really not something that state can afford at the moment. Next election cycle, there was another ballot initiative to basically revoke the the original one. And and you’re talking about something far less momentous then than leaving the European Union. And it was basically revoked. Right. So for a decision as important as, as Brexit, right to have been that that one off vote, it was pretty interesting.


Andrew Peaple  50:30 

Yeah. I mean, I say it in a way I didn’t want to rehash I mean, I should come clean, you know, I wasn’t in favor of leaving the European Union, I’m still not in favor of it. And, you know, if I, if I was the dictator of England and Britain, we’d we’d rejoin tomorrow. But, you know, there were many. So from my perspective, there were many errors in the whole process, and probably one of them was to have it on a single majority vote where, you know, I think what one of the things that’s well documented is that the vote came during the sort of refugee crisis that was going on, obviously, you know, that a negative story like that was obviously going to color color some voters but, you know, that’s, that’s my, that’s my own view on it. So, you know, what could they have done differently, maybe they could have gone for a sort of two thirds or a 60-40, type, majority type voting requirement, or, and I think this is something they’re talking about, with a future Scottish referendum now, which is, you know, you can have one vote to leave, but you, you know, maybe another vote after two years, whether you’ve had the negotiations, and you’ve seen how it all plays out. And, you know, okay, guys, do you still think this is a good idea. And I think that’s one idea, I think they’ve got for Scotland now, which is to have an initial vote. And then there’s sort of a transition period, if it you know, if the Scottish do vote to, for independence, and then to sort of have a complimentary vote later on. I mean, in defense of the sort of Brexit ears and the government at the time, you know, a majority vote is simple. It’s pretty difficult to get to 6040, or 6633, or whatever it might be. It’s such a complex thing, leaving the European Union that frankly, once you’ve started it, you probably going back on it, is probably a mistake, at least for a generation. So, you know, so that’s all arguable. So but, you know, if it was down to me, we wouldn’t have had the vote in the first place. And we would have done it differently once we decided to do it. But, you know, that’s, that’s just one of the many things about Brexit that I probably disagree with.


Fred Rocafort  52:48 

Andrew, it’s, it’s been a great conversation. I mean, we could we could probably go on for for a few more hours. But before we bring things to an end, I’d like to ask you for recommendations. I’m going to go ahead and recommend your podcast, Asia Matters, I’m going to go ahead and recommend in our times, but I’m going to do that, make sure we don’t we don’t leave them out. But what could you recommend to our to our listeners.


Andrew Peaple  53:14 

So having said that, with Asia matters, we wanted to broaden away from China, I’m going to recommend a couple of books to do with China and the Chinese economy and hope that doesn’t sort of turn too many listeners off. But a really interesting book that has come out recently as a short book. It’s called invisible China and it’s by an American academic actually called Scott Rozelle is based, I think, in Stanford in California. And the book is about the sort of problems in China’s education system and wealth inequality in China. And issues such as that. And it’s, you know, Scott Rozelle is this guy who spent years decades on the ground researching in rural communities in China and, and really got to understand the problems there. And I think this book is causing quite a lot of interest in the sort of China watching community as it were, because it talks about the fact that, you know, we all sort of think that China has this sort of miraculous education system, and they’re all you know, every Chinese person is sort of brilliant at maths and science and, you know, blah, blah. But actually, the statistics that Scott draws on show that for a country of China’s level of development, actually, the level of broader education is quite low. The number of people staying on to higher education is low. And that storing up all sorts of problems for the economy in the future, alongside the sort of wealth inequality problems that, you know, familiar in lots of other countries. And so it’s just a really fascinating book. And it’s partly interesting, I think, because a lot of people we all look at Now when we look at, say its debt problems and some of the more immediate problems that the country has and sort of say, well, these are the big risks of China. But actually, this book is saying, there’s a big long term risk here for China that they’re not addressing, or at least they’re not addressing sufficiently and sufficiently quickly to avoid a related book, actually, is the myth of Chinese capitalism, which is by a longtime Bloomberg journalist called Dexter Roberts and, and both of those books I would recommend to anyone who is interested in sort of just some of the broader issues about China and the Chinese economy and where it’s where it’s all headed.


Fred Rocafort  55:44 

Excellent. Looking forward to reading those. This was my original recommendation to the ones that I mentioned earlier. And there’s a countryman of yours called Noel Phillips he’s got this aviation and travel YouTube channel and I’ve recommended his his channel before but he had a his I believe this is his most recent video. I really enjoyed it. He took an overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg and I onboard a well he describes it as Russia’s most luxurious train which is called the cost my Estrella I’m hope I hope I’m getting that right. But I have to say I was number one very impressed, but it was very nice. I thought, wow, this is this is something that looks pretty pretty cool. And just generally watching the video and I mean, I’ve never been to Russia, so it’s good to see what it really is. And, and he was also staying at a at an old hotel from the Soviet era, and he I believe he stayed in his sweet was actually an apartment used by Stalin at some point. Well, I have mixed feelings about staying in Stalin’s apartment. But it was a very enjoyable video reminded me of how much I miss a traveling so I’m going to go out and recommend yet another plug tinfoil Phillips it’s Russia’s most luxurious train the cross knio Strela that his latest episode.


Andrew Peaple  57:14 

That sounds fascinating. That does sound fascinating. Sorry, I just wanted to jump in. I mean, I’m lucky to have been to Moscow in pismo but you look at Russia and there’s just this past country and I often look and I think God what’s what’s there what’s the there must be some fantastic things to see and do so that sounds like a brilliant thing.


Fred Rocafort  57:32 

Well check it out. I just thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought you know, I would love to be doing that right now. I’d love to be on that train. You know drinking the vodka and yeah, and enjoying the the wine and looking at the views. So well. Andrew, thank you for the recommendations. And thank you for for coming on the podcast really enjoyed this conversation.


Andrew Peaple  57:50 

Thank you so much. And thanks for giving me the chance to come on and talk about all these all these different things. It’s been great, thank you.


Jonathan Bench  57:59 

Global Law and Business is a production of Harris Bricken. The team includes Madeline Williams and Michaela Moore. The music is composed by Steven Schmidt. If you like the show, subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review there. We’d like to hear what you think of the show and it helps new listeners find us. Tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.


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