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The first year of Bismarck Brief
One year ago today, we issued the first Bismarck Brief. Since then, our analysts have written over 250,000 words on the state of the world, from China to the United States and everything in between. Divided between 54 Briefs, this is equivalent to about two-and-a-half books of navigation-grade intelligence on the most strategically important individuals, institutions, and industries of 2022. The Briefs have been delivered to your inbox at exactly 2pm GMT every Wednesday without delay. Since August, every Brief has also been available for listening.
Looking back on 2022, Bismarck Brief has far exceeded all expectations. I and the entire team at Bismarck Analysis have been overwhelmed by the attention, interest, and positive feedback from our subscribers. Substack has designated Bismarck Brief an official bestseller, with hundreds of paid subscribers. We thank you greatly for your vote of confidence in our work.
We are pleased to hear that Bismarck Brief has both surprised and informed you, and we are likewise pleased when you have surprised and informed us with your thoughtful and knowledgeable feedback. The sophistication of our readership is both an ongoing joy and what drives our commitment to the high analytical standards of Bismarck Brief. If you are not yet a paid subscriber, we warmly invite you to subscribe today:
Our first Brief investigated China’s growing space industry and its successful state-led approach, a contrast to the private-sector approach in the United States epitomized by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. That Brief is now public and can be read here. In March, we made public our Brief on the legacy of George Soros’ philanthropic empire. You can read that Brief here.
Ten days ago, we released a special additional Bismarck Brief on the collapse of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency empire, and what consequences it will have for the rising cultural and financial force in Silicon Valley: Effective Altruism. Read it here.
These three publicly-available Briefs are representative of our areas of focus. In the first year of Bismarck Brief, we have focused especially on modern China, the personal empires of influential individuals, and on the technologies that underpin global civilization. By geographical area, Asia has been the main focus of the Briefs, followed closely by Europe and the United States. We have also investigated developments in Russia, the Middle East, and Africa.
In 2023, we currently expect to focus less on Europe and the Middle East, and to focus more on key institutions and individuals in the United States and Asia. Our focus on China, influential individuals, and technology will stay the same. We believe these three topics will remain highly strategically relevant for years to come, so it is worth explaining why.
China is a rising power in the current global system of political economy. It is the world’s most populous country and the single largest manufacturing power. China’s technological sophistication has rapidly caught up to the United States’. In some areas, it may even surpass it. Both China’s strengths and its weaknesses must be understood.
That is why we have issued Briefs on China’s space industry, robotics industry, solar industry, and quantum technology programs. China only reached the cutting edge because it first learned to succeed in established industries: our Briefs have investigated China’s agricultural industry, rare earths industry, steel industry, and electronics manufacturing industry.
China’s leadership must also be understood, so we looked at Xi Jinping’s political faction and the succession problem he must solve. We examined China’s two most prominent tech entrepreneurs, Jack Ma and Pony Ma. China doesn’t exist in a vacuum: we also investigated China’s military reforms, foreign investment strategy, central bank policy, and its relationship to its neighbors in Southeast Asia.
China’s key live players and institutions remain poorly understood. If you’ve read all of our seventeen Briefs on China, you now understand China well above average—compared not just to the average person, but to the average decision-maker. In the near future, you can expect further Briefs on China’s telecommunications giant Huawei, the growing power of China’s elite universities, and much more.
#2 Influential Individuals
All developments in society and civilization are ultimately driven by individuals. Exceptional individuals can be great founders who reform entire societies at once. They can be live players, whose beliefs and actions will not follow conventional wisdom and will appear inexplicable at first glance. They can also be dead players, whose actions are relatively predictable, but still have great effects on society at large. The world cannot be understood without understanding the influential individuals who act on it—their goals, motivations, strategies, personal empires, and opponents.
That is why we have issued Briefs on some of the wealthiest people in the world, including Bill Gates, George Soros, and Mohammed bin Salman. We’ve investigated some of the United States’ most publicly active billionaires, including Marc Benioff and the Koch family. We’ve looked at two of the most important executives in global finance: Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman and BlackRock’s Larry Fink.
We also looked at important industrialists and entrepreneurs from around the world, including China’s Jack Ma and Pony Ma, but also Japan’s Masayoshi Son, Taiwan’s Terry Gou, France’s Vincent Bolloré, and Sweden’s Wallenberg family. Most recently, we investigated Sam Bankman-Fried.
The world’s most influential individuals ultimately run empires not of money, but of people. They are more likely than not to have idiosyncratic personal beliefs that do not translate well to news headlines or social media. Player analysis is crucial to understand them, their empires, and what they are trying to accomplish. As a paid subscriber, you are also able to suggest individuals for analysis. In the near future, you can expect further Briefs on the King of Morocco, Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum, and much more.
Technological changes profoundly transform civilization. While the current rate of technological change is debated, it is undeniable that technology continues to change both our daily lives and the global balance of power. New technology makes space for new institutions, be they companies or government agencies. These opportunities then often empower live players who reshape our world.
That is why we have issued Briefs on some of the most promising new fields of technology, including quantum technology, solar photovoltaics, and drones. We investigated China’s sweeping plans to replace human labor with robots. In the United States, we looked at Amazon’s success in automating logistics with mobile robots.
New technologies are produced by exceptional individuals and institutions, so our Briefs covered the software founders coming out of Israel’s Unit 8200, the family-run business behind Turkey’s groundbreaking drones, and the functionality of the most famous R&D agency in history: America’s DARPA. Nuclear technology is also an important theme, whether in the form of nuclear-powered ships in the Russian Arctic, Germany’s retreat from nuclear power, or France’s support of it.
The impacts of new technologies are not always obvious: how an inventor imagines a technology will reshape society is often wrong, as it is rather live players able to reform society who ultimately determine a technology’s social niche. In the near future, you can expect further Briefs on brain-computer interfaces, key companies in the computer chip and semiconductor industries such as Nvidia and Arm, and much more.
If you are not subscribed already, we warmly invite you to stay fully briefed on modern China, the world’s most influential individuals, and the state of global technological progress by becoming a paid subscriber of Bismarck Brief. New Briefs will be delivered to your inbox every Wednesday at 2pm GMT. You can subscribe now with the button below:
On a final note, I highly recommend that you follow Bismarck Analysis on Twitter here to stay up-to-date on our work and receive supplementary facts, figures, and commentary on each new Bismarck Brief.
I wish a happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and, in case you don’t hear from me again, I also wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
Founder and President of Bismarck Analysis