Joe Studwell

Best-Selling Author and Expert On China & The Asian Marketplace
Joe Studwell
  • Best-selling author of ten books including How Asia Works, listed as one of Bill Gates’ top five favorites
  • International journalist working in China and across the East Asia region
  • Delivers dynamic and insightful presentation on China, the Asian Market, and International Business

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Joe Studwell has worked as a writer, journalist, and broadcaster around the world. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist, titles of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), The Financial Times, the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Observer Magazine, Asia Inc., and the Evening Standard as well as on television and radio outlets. Joe was the founding editor of the China Economic Quarterly and a founder of the Asian macro-economic research firm, Dragonomics, now Gavekal Dragonomics.

Joe was based in China throughout the 1990s, where he wrote or co-wrote 10 books under the EIU imprint. These include the best-sellers, Multinationals in China: Winners and Losers and Operating in China: A Survivor's Manual. In 2002, he published the book, The China Dream: The Quest for the Greatest Untapped Market on Earth, which The Financial Times concluded "will redefine the debate on the nature of the China market."

Throughout the 2000s, Joe continued to work in China and across the major economies of the East Asia region. He is well known in South-East Asia for his 2007 book, Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and South-East Asia, after which The Financial Times declared: "Joe Studwell should be named chief myth-buster for Asian business... his myth-busting is as merciless as it is enlightening." The Wall Street Journal named Asian Godfathers one of the year's 10 best books on Asia, and Business Week named Asian Godfathers one of the world's 10 best business books.

In 2013, Joe published his pan-Asian best-seller, How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region, which was named a Book of the Year by both The Economist and The Financial Times. Bill Gates named How Asia Works as one of his five favourite books, and it became mandatory reading for policy makers at the Gates Foundation.

In 2017, Joe completed the manuscript for his next book, which looks at accelerated technology acquisition in Chinese manufacturing firms. The product of six years of fieldwork, the book identifies optimum strategies for the best firms in Fast-Developing Countries (FDCs), and for their governments. Joe also considers how the world's best multinationals respond to and benefit from the rise of new FDC competitors. The case studies in the book are drawn from China's outstanding thermal, wind turbine and photovoltaics electricity-generating equipment companies, and reflect unrivalled research access to Chinese business leaders active from 1978 to 2017. 

In 2018, Joe begins his next research project, looking at 'break-out' FDCs in Africa that are consciously replicating the East Asian policies that brought sustained 10% per annum growth to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. His focus is Ethiopia—a market of almost 100 million people—and six other transforming states. Joe was invited to Ethiopia and Rwanda in 2017 by political leaders who had read his work on East Asia.

Since 1997, Joe has also been the editor-in-chief of the China Economic Quarterly (CEQ), the leading journal of the Chinese economy and foreign investment in China. The CEQ, and its much-praised and practical online database of Chinese statistical methodologies, historical data series, and presentation materials, is much valued by its subscribers and regularly cited in the international business press.


Joe's interests include FDCs in East Asia and Africa, agriculture, manufacturing, financial system development, fast strategic decision-making, leadership, entrepreneurship, the nature of technological learning, business strategy, and global portfolio investing. He also has a weakness for music and comedy. 

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How The US Can Win A Trade War With China. In the mid-1980s, the Reagan administration launched a successful campaign against unfair trade practices by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The Trump administration, and Robert Lighthizer who was involved in the 80s campaign, are trying to do the same thing with China. However, the task is much more complicated because China is not a responsive US ally while American businesses and consumers are more deeply enmeshed in the Chinese economy and more easily hurt by a trade war. Joe talks about what is more and less likely to be successful in encouraging to China to play fair and sets the scene for the new normal of ongoing trade tensions.

Understanding What Is New About The Way In Which Chinese Firms Innovate. Many of the techniques that raise the technological capabilities of Chinese firms are familiar to historians of Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese development. The same is true of government policies. However globalisation and technological change mean that some innovation trends among Chinese firms are genuinely new. Based on years of case study fieldwork with leading Chinese companies, Joe sets out what we have seen before and what is really new in the innovation capabilities of Chinese companies.

New Fast-Growth Frontiers In Africa. Joe has been engaged by several governments in Africa that are actively replicating East Asian fast-development policies. The most populous such country is Ethiopia, a market of 100 million people set to becoming a new frontier for multinational businesses. Ethiopia's GDP has risen 10% a year for a dozen years already, as it follows a policy template pioneered by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. In the past year, multinationals and private equity firms including Uniqlo, KKR, Axereal, Unilever, Nestle, Ikea, and Peugeot made major investments. Clients have the opportunity to hear from Joe, who is engaged in the country at cabinet level, what are the best entry strategies for the Ethiopian market, and the broader East Africa hub.

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