About

I study technology at Gavekal Dragonomics, a global macro research firm based in Hong Kong and Beijing. For the most part, that means figuring out China’s technology capabilities and how quickly they’re improving. Broadly speaking, I’m trying to understand the East Asian industrialization story: the history and the path forward. I’m also a contributor to Bloomberg Opinion. I post essays on this site.

I’m currently living and working in Beijing. I’ve lived before in Kunming, Toronto, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Rochester, Freiburg im Breisgau, San Francisco, New York, and Hong Kong.  I’ve previously worked at Flexport, Shopify, Alcatel-Lucent, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I graduated from the University of Rochester with a double-major in philosophy and economics. For a happy while, I was a Royal Canadian Army Cadet.

Do reach out and say hi: danwyd@gmail.com and @danwwang. I’m a fan of the invitation posted on Patrick McKenzie’s site, and want to echo it: “I strongly prefer email as a communication method. I like getting email.”

The “secure transport of light” is one of my favorite phrases. It refers to both to optic cables (which make modern communications possible) and semiconductors (which make modern electronics possible). We can thank Alexander Graham Bell for allowing us to speak from one side of the Atlantic ocean to the other, through coils of sunbeams under the seas. Isn’t that a wonderful image?

Writing

Current favorites on this site:

(If you’re curious about my professional work on China’s industrial progress, you can listen to my Bloomberg podcast here. And here’s the link to my archive of reports on that topic.)

Letters

Every year I write a reflection letter:

Books I Like

The books I liked since around the time I started college. I try to excerpt the ones I like best.

What should I read next? Email me! danwyd@gmail.com

  • Stendhal, The Red and the Black
  • Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Excerpts)
  • Melville, Moby-Dick
  • Cowen, In Praise of Commercial Culture
    • The book that convinced me to study economics. (Notes)
  • Wharton, The House of Mirth
    • I enjoyed this much more than Age of Innocence.
    • The title is from Ecclesiastes 7:4: “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
  • Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty
  • Ross, The Rest is Noise
    • Runs through the personalities of the 20th century. My favorite book on music.
  • Epstein, Simple Rules for a Complex World
  • Proust, Swann’s Way, trans. Lydia Davis (Excerpts)
  • Thiel & Masters, CS 183 notes & Zero to One (related essay)
    • If you must pick one, read the lecture notes. The radicalism of the ideas were mainstreamed for the book.
  • Schelling, Micromotives and Macrobehavior, The Strategy of Conflict
  • Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom
  • Laozi, Dao De Jing (Excerpts)
    • A book about humility.
  • Mann, 1491
  • Cowen, Discover Your Inner Economist
    • The best of the pop-econ books. (Harford comes next, then Frank, Wheelan, and Landsburg. All of these are better than Freakonomics, which won’t teach you very much about economics at all.)
  • Mallaby, More Money Than God (related essay)
  • Gertner, The Idea Factory
    • History of the place that labs that developed radar, transistors, satellites, cell phone telephony, and more.
  • Adelman, Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman (Notes)
  • Stendhal, The Charterhouse of Parma
  • Ridley, The Rational Optimist
    • A wonderful book about the scientific achievements that’s given us better nutrition, longer lifespans, and easier access to energy, etc.
  • Plato, Dialogues
    • In particular Crito and Phaedo.
  • Cowen, The Great Stagnation & Average is Over (Excerpts)
  • Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities (Excerpts)
  • Fontane, Effi Briest (trans. Ritchie Robertson)
    • There’s so much nuance; the most exciting plot detail isn’t even described, only discussed afterwards.
  • Balzac, Cousin Bette
  • The Gladwell books
    • The best is definitely David and Goliath (Excerpts).
    • Go ahead and disagree with his inferences, but where else would you find packed together so many great stories you haven’t heard of, and wouldn’t hear of if not for him?
    • If you still object to his ideas, read him because he’s a great writer.
  • Ford, Lights in the Tunnel
  • Zweig, Beware of Pity
  • Doherty, Radicals for Capitalism
    • Details the rise of the American libertarian movement. Serious study, but the personalities are so crazy that it’s fun to read.
  • Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Excerpts)
  • Frank, The Economic Naturalist
    • Short stories about the economic way of thinking.
  • Isaacson, Steve Jobs
  • Shakespeare: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, Othello
  • Packer, The Unwinding
    • (Excerpts, with a focus on the Thiel story)
  • Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Rand, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead
  • Duffy, The World as I Found It
    • A novel about the interactions of Russell, Wittgenstein, and G.E. Moore. Very fun.
  • Kafka, The Castle, The Metamorphosis, assorted short stories
  • Williams, Stoner
  • Harford, The Undercover Economist
    • Best parts were the sections about price discrimination.
  • Nabokov, Lolita
  • Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter
  • Zola, Germinal
  • Taleb, The Black Swan
  • Landsburg, The Armchair Economist
  • Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
  • Wharton, The Age of Innocence
  • Haidt, The Righteous Mind
    • Kevin Simler put it best: “How humans actually, empirically, think about morality.”
  • Cowen & Grandin, Thinking Differently (Notes)
  • Baker, Days of Fire (Notes)
  • Lewis, The Big Short
  • Arrison, 100 Plus
  • Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Monroe: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship
  • McCloskey, Bourgeois Virtues & Bourgeois Dignity
    • First 50 pages of the Apology in Virtues is most worth reading.
  • McArdle, The Up Side of Down (Excerpts)
  • Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • Knausgaard, Min Kamp Vol. 1
    • Uncomfortable, mesmerizing.
  • Lewis, Liar’s Poker (Excerpts)
  • Wapshott, Keynes Hayek
  • Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers
    • The first economics-y book I read; I spent two years of undergrad wondering when we were going to cover Thorstein Veblen.
  • Thaler & Sunstein, Nudge
    • Super well argued, I couldn’t continue to be a knee-jerk skeptic.
  • St. Aubyn, Patrick Melrose series (Excerpts)
  • When I was little I read most of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I really liked them, but haven’t picked any of them up again.

(Chronological from here…)

  • Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
    • A lot of science wrapped in a thrilling story.
  • Cumings, The Korean War (Excerpts)
  • Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century
  • Cowen, An Economist Gets Lunch
  • Cirincione, Bomb Scare
  • Kaplan, Wizards of Armageddon
  • Lewis, Boomerang
    • More fun than The Big Short, not quite as good as Liar’s Poker.
  • Roberts, The Storm of War
    • Really engrossing read on key battles and personalities in WWII.
  • Flynn, Gone Girl
  • Brecht, The Threepenny Opera
    • Translated by Ralph Manheim, try to go see it in original German.
  • Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World
  • Rilke, Duino Elegies, trans. Stephen Mitchell
  • Wolfe, The Right Stuff (related essay)
  • Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
  • Judt, Memory Chalet
    • Excellent essays on growing up in ’50s/’60s Europe.
  • Mann, The Magic Mountain, trans. J.E. Woods
    • First 150 pages or so are stultifying, but it picks up. The ruminations on death/dying make it worth it.
  • Glass, Music Without Words: A Memoir (related essay)
  • Sebald, Austerlitz
  • Stephenson, The Diamond Age
    • I tweeted: “Wow, does anyone mix fun and deep as well as Neal Stephenson can?” Maybe I just don’t read enough science fiction, but Stephenson’s world is so fun and immersive. Plus, you feel like you’re learning a lot.
  • Palaver, René Girard’s Mimetic Theory (related essay)
  • George, Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping
    • I love ships and ships love me back. This is pretty much the perfect nonfiction book: many, many interesting facts weaved into a narrative story; and it’s slim, and doesn’t go overboard with too much detail.
  • Benford, The Wonderful Future that Never Was (related essay)
  • Watson, The German Genius (related essay)
  • Wharton, Ethan Frome
  • The Box, Marc Levinson (I now work at a company that arranges for air and ocean freight)
  • Dick, The Man in the High Castle
  • Scurlock, King Larry: The Life and Ruins of a Billionaire Genius
  • Parsons, The British Imperial Century
  • Stargardt, The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945
    • The war from the perspective of the German population. One interesting fact: A quarter of Goebbel’s budget was spent on theatre, which was about as much as he spent on propaganda, and more than twice as much on film.
  • Pomeranz and Topik, The World That Trade Created
  • Chang, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
  • Koestenbaum, The Queen’s Throat
    • A remarkable book; this is how you write about opera.
  • Yip & McKern, China’s Next Strategic Advantage: From Imitation to Innovation
  • Vance, Elon Musk
  • Tombs, The English And Their History (related essay)
  • DeWitt, Lightning Rods
  • Herman, To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World
  • Liu, The Three Body Problem (related essay)
  • Liu, The Dark Forest
  • Foldenyi, Melancholy (related essay)
  • Liu, Death’s End
  • Kroeber, China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know
  • Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich
  • Gewirtz, Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China
  • Brown, CEO China: The Rise of Xi Jinping
  • Studwell, How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region
  • McPhee, La Place de la Concorde Suisse
  • Cowen, The Complacent Class (related essay)
  • Harford, Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives
  • Smil, Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing
    • Sometimes polemical, but still a good overview of the dominance and decline of the American industrial base
  • Wawro, The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871
  • Avent, The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century
  • Miodownik, Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape our Man-Made World
    • A wonderful, short book on materials: steel, paper, glass, plastics, etc.
  • Stephenson, Seveneves
  • Longerich, Goebbels
  • Stephenson, Snow Crash
  • Arthur, The Nature of Technology: What it is and How it Evolves
  • Ge Fei, The Invisibility Cloak
  • Yuk Hui, The Question Concerning Technology in China
  • Haskel & Westlake, Capitalism without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy
  • Platt, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom
    • A history that reads almost like a novel
  • Cartledge, A System Apart: Hong Kong’s Political Economy from 1997 Until Now
  • Mann, Buddenbrooks
    • Much easier to get through than Der Zauberberg
    • A very Chinese novel… shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in four generations
  • Lewis, The Tang Dynasty
    • What’s important about Tang? Drainage projects in the south (Jiangnan and Lingnan), making it the permanent economic center of the empire; institutionalization of the Sui Codes; breaking of the aristocratic families.
  • Bernhard, The Loser
  • Hanson, The Second World Wars
    • At some point one should decide to stop reading about this topic. This superb book is about it for me.
  • Babitz, Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A.: Tales
  • Shakespeare, King Lear
    • The heaps of suffering make it feel a little bit ridiculous by the end. Otherwise, it is very good.
  • Stephenson, Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing
    • Worth reading for the Stephenson fan. And which geek wouldn’t be?
  • Johnstone, We Were Burning: Japanese Entrepreneurs And The Forging Of The Electronic Age
    • The book does not live up to its fantastic title. Heaps of facts, but not really conceptually-driven, and I did not find that I was able to drew many broader lessons.
  • Kuhn, The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China
  • Brook, The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties
    • The best in the HUP History of Imperial China series; most analytically-driven, a focus on the right topics, and most cleverly written. It’s helpful to learn the impact of the Little Ice Age on the Ming.
  • Leys, The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays
    • Very good reflections on Chinese aesthetics, with a focus on painting and calligraphy
  • Rowe, China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing
  • Lee, Pachinko
  • Cao, Dream of the Red Chamber
    • All five volumes. It is our Proust.
  • Sigmund, Exact Thinking in Demented Times
    • An excellent book about some extraordinary people. It’s as demented as advertised.
  • Ball, The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China
    • I thought this was quite bad, so I’m encouraging you to skip it
  • Mikitani and Mikitani, The Power to Compete
    • My favorite genre of book: A deep realization that economic growth has been way too slow, and constructive proposals to accelerate it
  • Pierenkemper and Tilly, The German Economy During the Nineteenth Century
  • Lewis, The Money Culture
  • Field, A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and U.S. Economic Growth
    • Highly technical book, excellent reading on technology
  • Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
  • Brook, The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China
  • Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China
  • Porter, Takeuchi, & Sakakibara, Can Japan Compete?
    • Evaluation of Japanese industrial policy
  • Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China
  • Naipaul, An Area of Darkness
  • Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning
  • Baldwin, The Great Convergence,
  • Heilmann, The Red Swan
  • Dyson, Disturbing the Universe
  • Spence, The Search for Modern China
  • Simmons, Hyperion
    • Absorbing story, but it also makes me see why science fiction has a bad name in certain circles
  • Clark, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947
    • Ultimately a disappointment, with too much of a focus on political personalities. I am still desperate to read a good history of Germany, with a focus on economic growth rather than individual leaders.
  • Khakpour, Sick: A Memoir
  • Liu, Invisible Planets
  • Dick, Ubik
  • Williams, On Opera
  • Döblin, Bright Magic Stories
  • O’Donnell, Wong, and Bach, Learning from Shenzhen
  • Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
  • Ferrante, The Story of a New Name
  • Koss, Where the Party Rules
  • Luce, In Spite of the Gods
  • Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
  • Ferrante, The Story of the Lost Child
  • Tooze, Crashed: Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World
  • Can, Love in the New Millenium
  • Dick, Valis
  • Shan, Out of Gobi
  • Dick, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
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