Listen now (81 mins) | Peter Thiel doesn’t shy away from taking big bets. From Facebook (he was the company’s first outside investor) to Gawker (he successfully conspired to put the website out of business) and, of course, to Trump (he threw his support behind the nominee in 2016).
Ms. Weiss I'm a long time listener and I love your show, but the need to "break our addiction to cheap stuff" has a certain "let them eat cake" ring to it.
Many people who've done quite well in this country will undoubtedly have no problem breaking their "addictions" to cheap stuff, but many students here are eating food and using school supplies purchased by teachers on the teachers' dime from Walmart on a daily basis.
The working poor are not "addicted" to cheap stuff. Rather, they're dependent on it, and increasingly so in an inflationary environment. Lack of access to the Chinese market is going to hurt low-income people the most.
In my opinion Bari completely misses the mark on China. There's been a qualitative shift in Chinese exports to America over the past 10-15 years or so. These days China is increasingly a source of high tech products like DJI drones or CATL batteries as opposed to cheap goods found at Walmart or Costco.
Given the dominance of China in the EV ecosystem, the Biden administration almost certainly can't realize its green goals without working with Chinese companies more closely rather than less. Despite that, Ford's recent plans to license CATL's battery technology for a Michigan plant have run into considerable headwinds in Congress. Plans for another Gotion battery plant near Big Rapids have also aroused the ire of nearby residents. Likewise, I highlighted Ron DeSantis' recent decision to ban the government use of all Chinese drones across the state of Florida despite numerous police departments emphasizing the essential nature of these drones in their day to day work and despite a lack of viable alternatives. We're now literally putting the lives of real Americans at risk because of political theater and anti-China hysteria. Yet very few people seem to care, even among the heterodox community.
Bari and Peter had a fascinating discussion about the relative lack of hard progress in recent years as opposed to so-called software innovations like Netflix or Snapchat. Peter also lamented at a recent dinner that American tech was increasingly focused on the soft stuff as opposed to the hard stuff. In my opinion this is less a global phenomenon than a reflection of the nature of the American economy. The Taiwanese produce over 60% of semiconductors worldwide and manufacture almost 90% of the most advanced ones, defined as those based on process nodes of 7nm or smaller. This from a country of only 24 million people or so. TSMC technology powers almost all of the modern day chips designed by American companies like Apple, Nvidia or AMD. Likewise, Chinese companies like CATL have around 55-60% of the global EV battery market and are major partners for American companies like Tesla. In particular, Chinese companies have played a crucial role in the shift towards LFP batteries which unlike their NMC counterparts contain no cobalt, a mineral whose mining has engendered considerable human suffering. While Silicon Valley seems to be disproportionately dominated by consumer-internet companies, the Chinese tech ecosystem has always been more focused on hardware. It's no surprise that Shenzhen is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of hardware.
This is why the notion that we have to decouple from China is so wrong, both morally and historically. Decoupling from China doesn't mean breaking our addiction to cheap goods. Increasingly it means turning our backs on the future and on the very things that could uplift the masses in this country. Yet as Americans we seem too stubborn or prideful to even consider that this could be the case.
Historically European countries were far more open to other civilizations and cultures than vice versa. In response to the 1793 Macartney mission to China, the Qianlong Emperor famously wrote to King George III that he "set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and [had] no use for your country's manufactures", a rejection of the United Kingdom's desire for greater exchange between the two nations that presaged the Qing dynasty's eventual decline and collapse.
Sadly, the situation seems to have reversed. The average American today knows far less about China than does the average Chinese about America, a fact emphasized in Kishore Mahbubani's recent book Has China Won. Prior to the pandemic in 2020, there were roughly 370,000 Chinese students studying in the US compared to around 12,000 American students studying in China. On a per capita basis there were about 7.2 times as many Chinese studying in the United States as the reverse. People in China have gained far more exposure to the history and culture of America in recent decades than the other way around.
As I've observed events over the past decade or so, I've become increasingly convinced that the mindset of most Americans towards China eerily parallels the mindset of the woke in the United States towards supposed systemic racism and white supremacy. Author Martin Jacques compared the West's increasing suspicion of all things Chinese to the Qing dynasty's close mindedness to Western overtures in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The latter suffered the humiliation of two Opium Wars and a defeat against the Japanese prior to its collapse in 1912.
One of the most frustrating things is that so many Americans just can't seem to get over the fact that China is a big, bad authoritarian country ruled by the big, bad CCP and that therefore it must be the devil and on the wrong side of history. America good, China bad. Or as the more enlightened might argue, America okay, China worse. The irony is that American antagonism towards China today eerily mirrors Chinese antagonism towards the West in past centuries. As the famous saying goes, those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. I pray that as Americans that adage doesn't describe us.
Interesting conversation but Peter like Trump endorsed and funded Senate candidates who went on to humiliating losses. Thus, validating his comment that Republicans are in fact stupid. But there was very little light between Barri and Peter relative to China. Barri is a neocon and (firm supported of Iraq war) and would most likely endorse sacrificing American lives in Taipei.
Thank you for this interesting issue but I wish you had asked him how he reconciles his support of Desantis with his commitment to libertarianism. Desantis’s approach to gay rights and women’s healthcare is very anti-libertarian.
Interesting interview. But Bari, why do you use rhetoric like "we must fight China"? Let's focus on our own problems instead of creating a boogeyman out of 1+ billion people.
This was one of the most brilliant interviews I've ever listened to. I re-subscribed based on this interview and what I would like to say is this Interview confirmed what I have been thinking for a long time. We are being called by the world to answer these questions: What are our true values, how do we want to structure the world, are we able to consistently and with integrity adhere to some basic principles that allow the most amount of people to live the best life they can possible live. And.. the gargantuan question of, when the collective group of people owns to a set of high-minded principles, for example: We all have a purpose to follow, we all stumbled into our realities with desires that can be met, we all can become who we want to be and we can be a human reality of ideas that create our existence - will it create the possibility for evil people to take advantage, or can we as human beings be so strong in what we believe that it thwarts the efforts of the evil desires and wards them off. Why am I saying this... because... AI and cht gpt and even apps like tik tok are reflections of who we are and who we have become and whom we are about to be come. This is why we do not have to be afraid of AI or chat gpt. . . if we can get to a more morally inclusive state. My question for Peter Thiel would be, what value systems should we put in place to make the most amount of people become who they are supposed to be, fulfill their purpose, mentally emotionally and physically? (small thoughts for a saturday morning- I'm joking)
The major issue of stagnation discussed in this episode was addressed clearly by Nobel Laureate in Economics Edmund Phelps in his book "Mass Flourishing." According to his research Total Factor Productiviy (labor and capital productivity) or TFP began declining in the early 1970's and has continued to decline since. His view is that TFP is a proxy for the innovation that takes place within companies and as such, as TFP declines so does innovation. In "Mass Flourishing" he offers two causes for innovation decline: 1. Corporatism and 2. Decline in the values that built the West, especially the United States. While he has a considerable focus on corporatism in the book he places a very heavy emphasis on the decline in values. In his follow-up book, "Dynamism" he provides the results of the empirical research done by his team that proves out the theory re decline in values espoused in "Mass Flourishing."
I suggest that the another of the outcomes of the decline in values can be seen in the acceleration toward fragility from one generation to the next with acceleration beginning with Millennials and taking a bigger leap with Gen Z. Fragile, low resilience individuals lead to stagnation.
How did you not ask about SVB?! Does he use Signal?! He used it to almost single-handedly take down a $200Bn bank less than two months before your conversation!
With the release of the Durham report what’s needed is a “Who’s Who” book of the Russian collusion hoax. Names, accusations, evidence.
Politicians; intelligenceCIA, FBI, DOJ; media, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, FOX, print press, social media; others. Who was wrong. Who was correct.
We can’t get convictions in Washington DC or New York. We can publicly out these characters for what they did, the villains, the hero’s and the victims ... including us. I’ll buy a pre-publishing copy for the correct authors ... wink wink...
As usual, loved your interview. You always ask the questions I want answered.
1. It is great to hear Peter in a podcast. I thought the same thing for Sam Altman. These guys who are so frequently demonised, when heard responding, come across as not just bright, but thoughtful and way less cocksure than we are led to believe.
2. There is a lot to unpack from Peter, but one thing I hardly ever hear in the US, that is top of mind with every Chinese person I have ever known is “the century of humiliation” that started with the Opium Wars in the nineteenth century until Mao. This is where China was mercilessly carved up by “Western imperialists”. I always told my students at UVA, that for 48 of the last 5O centuries China, and to a much lesser extent India, dominated the world economy. The Chinese, quite understandably, see themselves on the path to returning to their “rightful place” atop the global economy. As extraordinary as Western Civilization has been, especially the last two centuries, the world didn’t begin with the Greeks, Romans and the Founding Fathers.
Thank you SO MUCH for this very illuminating, educational, and even inspirational discussion with Peter Thiel.
I have heard his name many times, but knew very little about him as a personality, his personal perspectives or his contributions. This interview has sparked my interest in researching more of his writings, his history and present day perspectives.
Could anyone here suggest an effective way to send a communication to him which he would likely receive?
Once again, thanks for the important work you do, Bari, in your dedication to nuance and truth in Journalism❣️🙏🏻
I loved hearing Thiel highlight the need for a broader definition of technology advancement and a real need to expand our attentions and resources.
Wow! This one is so good! Great job!