Alexandra Harney

Expert on Asian business
Moderator
Author of The China Price

Expert on Asia's future; special depth on China and the realities of its economic expansion.

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Biography

To understand America's or Europe's future, you have to understand Asia — specifically, China. An expert on Asia’s future, Alexandra Harney has been writing and speaking about China and Japan for more than a decade. Her on-the-ground approach takes clients and audiences beyond the region’s frequently unreliable statistics to what is really happening in business, society and the economy.

What are the consequences of China’s rise for the rest of the world? How will it impact jobs, companies and future economies? Using on-the-ground information and top-down economic analysis, Alexandra will weave these questions into a discussion about where the world will be tomorrow. The result is an extremely up-to-the-minute, accurate and prescient view of this crucially important region that businesspeople and government officials have come to depend on.

Alexandra's acclaimed book about Chinese manufacturing is The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage. She argues that China has become a victim of its own success as the world's leading manufacturer of labor-intensive consumer goods. The rush of investment in factories has driven down profit margins and driven up prices of everything from raw materials to labor to power.

Already, China is struggling with rising wages and material costs, greater demand for unionization, a higher risk of litigation, a dwindling supply of cheap workers, calls for better product quality and safety, and substantial downward pressure on margins. And most serious of all...the true cost of Chinese competitive advantage is the teenage boy who loses an arm to a machine after 18 hours on the assembly line. It's the 400,000 Chinese deaths linked to air pollution every year...that's the real China Price.

Alexandra’s unique role as a consultant and an academic, as well as her fluency in Mandarin Chinese and Japanese, gives her access to rich, diverse sources of information that other regional analysts lack. She was named Young Achiever of the Year 2010 by the American Chamber of Commerce Women of Influence.

The head of research at Asian management consultancy Visibility, a visiting scholar at the University of Hong Kong’s Centre of Asian Studies, and a contributing editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, Alexandra advises hedge funds, advertising agencies, governments and international organizations on how to position themselves in Asia.

Alexandra is a cum laude graduate of Princeton University and spent seven years as a correspondent and editor at the Financial Times in China, Japan and the UK. She has also written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, Forbes, Slate, The Times of London, Foreign Policy, and The China Economic Quarterly. She sits on the advisory board of the University of Central Florida’s Center for Global Perspectives and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

An experienced moderator, Alexandra has moderated events for the Financial Times and the National Committee on US-China Relations, among others.

Books

The China Price

The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage

Alexandra Harney

A landmark eyewitness exposé of how China's factory economy competes for Western business by selling out its workers, its environment, and its future

In The China Price, acclaimed Financial Times correspondent Alex Harney uncovers the truth about how China is able to offer such amazingly low prices to the rest of the world. What she has discovered is a brutal, Hobbesian world in which intense pricing pressure from Western companies combines with ubiquitous corruption and a lack of transparency to exact an unseen and unconscionable toll in human misery and environmental damage.

In a way, Harney shows, what goes on in China is inevitable. In a country with almost no transparency, where graft is institutionalized and workers have little recourse to the rule of law, incentives to lie about business practices vastly outweigh incentives to tell the truth. Harney reveals that despite a decade of monitoring factories, outsiders all too often have no idea of the conditions under which goods from China are made. She exposes the widespread practice of using a dummy or model factory as a company's false window out to the world, concealing a vast number of illegal factories operating completely off the books. Some Western companies are better than others about sniffing out such deception, but too many are perfectly happy to embrace plausible deniability as long as the prices remain so low. And in the gold-rush atmosphere that's infected the country, in which everyone is clamoring to get rich at once and corruption is rampant, it's almost impossible for the Chinese government's own underfunded regulatory mechanisms to do much good at all.

But perhaps the most important revelation in The China Price is how fast change is coming, one way or another. A generation of Chinese flocked from the rural interior of the country to its coastline, where its factory work largely is, in the largest mass migration in human history. But that migration has slowed dramatically, in no small part because of widespread disenchantment with the way of life the factories offer. As pollution in China's industrial cities worsens and their infrastructure buckles, and grassroots activism for more legal recourse grows, pressures are mounting on the system that will not dissipate without profound change. Managing the violence of that change is the greatest challenge China faces in the near future, and managing its impact on the world economy is the challenge that faces us all.

Penguin; Reprint edition (January 27, 2009)
Penguin Press HC, The (March 27, 2008)

Topics

Alexandra tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest her range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

The future of Chinese manufacturing

The changing Chinese workforce

The evolution of the global supply chain

Corporate social responsibility

Videos

Chinese Competitive Advantage

Articles

— Reuters
— EuroNews
— Reuters
— Foreign Affairs
— Reuters
— International Herald Tribune
— International Herald Tribune
— International Herald Tribune
— The New York Times
— Council on Foreign Relations
— Bloomberg View