Anja Manuel on Books and Writing

Anja Manuel (@AnjaManuel1) is co-founder and partner at RiceHadleyGates LLC, a strategic consulting firm. In this interview, Ms. Manuel shares her thoughts on books, writing and global politics. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Your book, This Brave New World, was published earlier this summer. Would you tell us a little bit about it?

The book is about China and India and the dramatic impact both of these countries will have on the U.S. in the next decade.

Within the next decade or so, they will be the fastest growing markets for American companies and they are already the engines of world growth. They will have three billion people between them with the world’s biggest middle classes. So, our companies will continue to sell to China and India and thus create good jobs here in the U.S.

They will be competing with us for energy and resources. I live in California and the smog from Asia already drifts all the way over here. We used to think we could solve the world’s biggest problems if just the U.S. and Europe managed to agree, but there’s no way to solve climate change, for example, without China and India, since they will soon be the first and third largest emitters of carbon on earth.

And finally, if we want peace here in the U.S., we also need to keep Asia peaceful. Currently, China and India — along with other Asian countries — are some of the world’s largest arms importers. Asia should be a hopeful region, yet it is increasingly scary. Asian countries made up almost half of overall global arms shipments over the past few years.

The U.S. needs to move carefully and create positive relations with both China and India to ensure our own prosperity.

What can the international community do to ensure that China’s rise is peaceful?

This isn’t as simple as being pro-China or against China. America is going to have national interests that differ substantially from those of the Chinese in particular. China’s behavior is pushing people away. The danger is that, as a result, we will partner too closely with India and other Asian countries and thus make China feel even more surrounded.

Instead, the international community should be very clear about what the red lines are and enforce them consistently. On the South China Sea, for example, early in the Obama administration, the U.S was doing Freedom of Navigation Operations. Then the U.S. stopped for a few years and now the U.S. is doing them again. If I were a member of the Chinese military, I would be a little bit confused about whether America is serious. The U.S. needs to be serious, it needs to be clear and it needs to enforce these lines quietly — out of the press — in order to allow the Chinese to save face.

At the same time, we need to, practice cooperating wherever we can. The Chinese, especially under President Xi, are making it difficult, for example through cyber-stealing of industrial secrets and by making it hard for American companies to do business in China.

The deal that President Obama struck with the Chinese on climate change in 2014 is a great example of cooperation.

‘This Brave New World’ by Anja Manuel. 368 pp. Simon & Schuster

Another opportunity is in the tech world. I live in Silicon Valley and there’s so much innovation happening in Beijing, Shanghai and here, and opportunities for these companies to work together. We need to work on cooperation across governments, businesses and individuals to establish more trust and thus make the difficult issues more manageable.

What sort of feedback have you gotten on the book?

I’ve gotten very positive feedback and have been happily surprised because the mood, especially in the Washington policy community, is so negative towards China right now. I think people saw this book as a breath of fresh air.

I have spent two decades negotiating with Delhi and Beijing at the State Department, traveling the back-roads of each country, and now advising American businesses on how to navigate their often opaque systems. I wrote this book to help explain what makes these two Asian giants “tick.” In our public discourse, we often appear terrified of China and often seem to ignore India. The U.S. must to get our relations with both exactly right or risk a world of low economic growth for all of us, military skirmishes that we can ill-afford, and run-away pollution that will harm our health.

The goal in the book is to map out how we can work together for a future where we can all prosper, instead of working against each other and — in the worst case — slipping into a new cold war with China. I think that message has been really well-received.

The book has been positively reviewed in outlets ranging from The San Francisco Chronicle on the left to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times on the right. I’ve been very lucky.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

If you really want to write a book, get a book deal first, especially for a nonfiction book. Write a proposal and then send it to publishers and see if they like it. I don’t think I would have done this book without an actual deal in hand from a publisher — and most importantly — a real deadline!

How long did it take to write? Do you have a writing routine?

Yes, I did have a writing routine. I really enjoyed the writing. I signed a book deal in February of 2015 and I turned in the manuscript on Halloween of that year. Now, I’d done research and outlining and knew what I wanted to say before starting to write the book. I had two research assistants who were incredibly helpful.

In order to write the book, I disciplined myself. For two hours a day, I wouldn’t take calls or have any meetings. I just wrote 500 words every day — sometimes they were great, and sometimes they needed a lot of revision. If I didn’t write 500 words on a particular day, I’d have to write 1,000 the next day.

I am much better at writing when I have a deadline. I loved the writing process. I found it very relaxing; it allowed me to think in detail about two countries that I love and am interested in.

What do you read for fun?

I read very widely — both in fiction and nonfiction. In terms of fiction, I read everything from Dostoyevsky to contemporary fiction. I just finished The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. In nonfiction, I just read Karl Jaspers’ The Great Philosophers, and my friend Steve Hilton’s excellent book More Human.