Friday, May 29, 2015

Tells & Tales of A Head of State



Historically exhaustive studies, both private and governmental, are conducted with respect to individuals at the highest levels to determine their true intentions, particularly when they’re about to occupy a position of power. One such individual is Nigeria’s future president, Muhammadu Bhuari whose inauguration on May 29th is significant because of Nigeria’s critical political and economic role in sub-Sahara Africa.

Earlier this month, the All Progressive Congress (APC) had an affair in which Buhari met with 15 ambassadors each of whom had a photo-op. A single photo provides only a brief glimpse of assessing body language. For this reason, a more comprehensive body language analysis is required, particularly to establish a baseline that includes more dynamic elements such as movement, speech, and language. Although only a partial assessment can be made through these APC photos, a general opinion can indeed be formed with respect to president-elect Buhari’s style.

By necessity many politicians are quite skilled at cloaking their intentions through words and body language, sometimes achieved through misdirection and distraction by being overly flamboyant. President-elect Buhari is considerably more adept at this skill due to his former military experience as Major General through his lifelong training of discipline and patience. With respect to body language he’s consistently poised in many of the photos and he demonstrates a high comfort level with a naturally erect posture, open foot and body stance, and gently clasped hands in the form of a cradle on his lap. His primary ‘tell’ is his eyes which range from joy to disinterest to contempt. His more relaxed present-day body language is quite impressive because Buhari is now a democratically elected leader in a free society vs. his tenure as an autocratic ruler in military garb.

The APC event worked in Buhari’s favor because this was a celebratory and joyous occasion in which ambassadors from near & far came to congratulate him on his election victory.  A celebration offers a significantly lower risk of confrontation and lower negative stress thus the situation is less likely to provoke negative body language. And all parties are on their best behavior during joyous occasions tend cognizant that the media is usually recording their every move and gesture.

Rather importantly to note, these encounters are between unequal official relationships: ambassador to leader or leader-elect, not of equals with the focus exclusively on Buhari in his home country where he is most comfortable. A more comprehensive analysis can be achieved in the future with direct meetings with foreign leaders and businesspeople, particularly outside Nigeria, when the agenda focuses on serious topics.

Additionally, ambassadors are usually non-verbally subservient to foreign leaders or leader-elects yet they’re not answerable to him or her. On the other hand ambassadors are representatives of their respective government and subconsciously may provide the type and style of communications their countries will have with Nigeria.

A critical note to remember is that some ambassadors are professional, foreign service officers, are highly trained and are carefully selected for important posts. This means that their body language is more subtle and harder to read. On the other hand, some countries’ ambassadorships are political favors to businessmen who supported their leader’s efforts to get elected and may have less international experience.

For this reason my opinions of Buhari’s body language focus more on how he may deal with various countries at this moment and the near future internationally rather than his rule domestically. Based strictly on the limited APC photos of his greetings of ambassadors, my opinions of Buhari’s comfort level with foreign ambassadors are as follows:

His toughest relationships may be with the following countries:

·         Syria: Buhari is obviously highly uncomfortable as indicated by the tensions and stress in his face with the Syrian ambassador. The Syrian ambassador’s smile is more of a smirk, as if he’s full of himself, holding his arm tightly against his body seemingly trying to use his handshake to pull Buhari towards him, a possible sign of an attempt at dominance.
·         Qatar: The handshake by both parties are normal yet there’s an unusually far distance between the ambassador and Buhari between two people from cultures favor physical closeness. It seems that Buhari’s arm, normally at a 90 degree angle to greet people, is extended somewhat to maintain a distance.
·         Korea: The ambassador utilizes an exceptionally stiff-appearance with a rigid 90 angle handshake with his arm tightly against his body appearing to try to pull Buhari towards him in an attempt to dominate. Buhari’s facial expression clearly shows discomfort with this greeting.
·         The Iraqi ambassador gives the stark impression that he doesn’t want to be there. He has a highly defensive posture by using the thin portfolio to cover his lap and genital areas and squeezing his legs tightly as if he wants to crawl into a shell. His tenseness is obvious and appears to reluctantly force himself to angle his body towards Buhari. This is one of the few times Buhari’s hands are not clasped as he drapes them over each armrest and seems to have an expression of contempt and disgust.

His easiest relationships may be with the following countries:

·         Algeria: The ambassador is sitting edge on the edge of his seat enthusiastically, almost like a schoolboy, with a full frontal pose to Buhari.  His loosely clasped hands on his lap in the form of a cradle that mimics Buhari’s who feels comfortable because Buhari leans slightly towards him. The ambassador’s jacket is unbuttoned giving the impression that he’s communicating openly with Buhari.
·         Kenya: Buhari is probably most relaxed with the Kenyan ambassador, one of the few times his hands are not clasped and are resting comfortably on the chair armrests. With respect to the ambassador, his entire body leans sideways towards Buhari and has an honest, jovial laugh. Nonetheless despite the relaxed situation and large body, his jacket remains buttoned which may indicate that he’s holding something back.

With respect to the European country ambassadors, Denmark, Serbia Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands, Buhari maintains his standard pose.  The encounters with the ambassadors from Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands are nothing out of the ordinary. As the only female, the Finnish ambassador strangely she sits at the far end of the chair with legs protectively tightly together. Her outfit is shockingly simple and casual for such a high-level encounter and could be deemed disrespectful. The Serbian ambassador is enthusiastically making a point yet there’s a disconnect in his message. His upper torso leans slightly towards Buhari with gesturing hands but his lower body and waist point straight ahead which may indicate a mixed message.

The Japanese ambassador shows a typical Nippon respective deference to Buhari by leaning slightly forward and offering a mini-bow.

To reiterate, because the APC event represents a tight scope to perform a comprehensive evaluation, my analytical opinion provides only a peek, a hint, of the relationships that must be investigated and observed more closely under varying circumstances.


Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2015.  All rights reserved.
 

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

Available for speaking engagements and workshops. Contact us at:

http://www.indobrazilian.com






Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Difficult Path of the 21st Century Civil Rights Movement



The high-profile shooting captured on video during the past several others in various US cities and towns has prompted many to demand and even expect a new Civil Rights movement similar to the protests during the 1950s through 1970s.

There are several factors why a repeat of the 1960s Civil Rights movement will be difficult:

First, there are already a multitude of laws since the 1960s on the books protecting minorities and ensuring that they receive equal treatment under the law. Unfortunately, the problem seems to be their lack of enforcement or disregard, and the light punishment of the guilty parties.

Second, there are no universally credible or respected civil rights leaders on a national scale who are trusted by the community and with whom government has a good dialogue. Indeed there are strong civil rights leaders throughout the country but their reputation and appeal are limited to their local communities.

Third, the current and near-term political atmosphere is toxic. The GOP, already in the majority in the House and Senate, is actively trying to dismantle many civil rights provisions, and a lame duck Democratic president who has decreasing domestic influence. This means that the successful introduction and passage of Civil Rights legislation to strengthen current laws will face a difficult battle because there are no powerful political advocates.

Fourth, America is a significantly more ethnically diverse and ‘browner’ country than in the 1960s as a result of greater immigration from non-white countries and increased mixed marriages and relationships. Ironically this same increased diversity hampers a potentially strong coalition because the concerns and priorities differ between African-Americans and an astounding diverse block of Asians and Spanish-speaking citizens. For this reason there’s no one leader or even small group of leaders representative of each group can emerge, and be universally accepted by all groups to be an effective political force. Back in the 1950s and 1960s it was almost exclusively and literally a black vs. white problem. Balkanized leadership is fragile at best and is usually ineffective.

Fifth, although social media is effective in conveying messages instantly to diverse groups across vast geographical boundaries, its drawback is that it can complicate matters because it easily foments subgroups which may muddle and dilute the core message.

Until the political situation is sorted out after the 2016 President elections, little if any progress will be made in forming a Civil Rights strategy which will certainly be needed in a 21st century America.


Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2015.  All rights reserved.
 

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

Available for speaking engagements and workshops. Contact us at:

http://www.indobrazilian.com







Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2016 Presidential Showdown: Bush vs Clinton - Clash of the Political Dynasties



Just like a Hollywood B-movie, the formulaic script for the anxiously-awaited upcoming titanic battle between the Bush and Clinton political powerhouse dynasties in the form of Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton will come to a polling station near you next November. The almost inevitable showdown will be achieved by the shear entertainment value, not by any of the candidate’s positions on the issues. Americans love rivalries whether it’s in sports (Yankees vs Red Sox) or business (Coke vs. Pepsi). And what better way to do this than on the biggest most important world stage with all the marbles at stake than the US presidency?

Because Americans are already enamored with vintage Americana everything, the not so subconscious theme for each candidates will be to return to America’s past glories of their familial political predecessors, regardless how delusional the illusion. Emotion, not logic, drives everything. We may scoff at how many countries engage in revisionist history through lies of omission and denial of negative facts.  However we’re just as guilty. Perhaps it’s a human condition especially when the stakes are this high.

Hillary Clinton will evoke the glorious and robust economic Roaring 1990s in a simpler and safer pre-9/11 and pre-gentrification world. For Jeb Bush, he follows the son & father team, the darlings of conservatives, in aggressively reducing crime at home (aka “law & order”), defeating terrorism abroad and spouting just cool-sounding rhetoric.

Despite a growing and diverse demographic melting pot, American politics are becoming increasing divisive and polarizing. This means that this campaign with politically diametrically opposed candidates will only exacerbate this trend by creating a chasm.

For the GOP, Mark Rubio is politically the de facto “advance team”, a front-runner to test the Democratic strategy. The only thing to derail the Hillary Clinton machine from securing the Democratic nomination is a scandal or public relations calamity.  In the meantime each side is actively yet cautiously positioning their political chess pieces.

Beyond the highly-charged nostalgic rhetoric, some hard questions need to be answered. Whether the GOP or Democrats secures the presidency, to what extent will they continue or change President Obama’s current policies? President Obama has laid down substantial groundwork in many domestic and international areas that are proving to be effective. For the GOP, will this then be a national political déjà vu when GOP Rudy Giuliani won the NYC mayoral elections and claimed many successes based on his predecessor David Dinkin’s initial groundwork particularly on enhancing the NYC police force. For the Democrats, how would they justify a change from Obama’s achievements should his recently implemented policies continue to be successful?

The world is a starkly different place from when their family predecessors were in office. Even their de facto mentors from that era would struggle to deal with the extraordinarily complicated problems of today. This may mean that the only thing left to distinguish each candidate will be based, as always, on image.


Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2015.  All rights reserved.


Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get on the "Short List".

Available for speaking engagements and workshops. Contact us at:

http://www.indobrazilian.com




Sino-American Commonalities



Chinese students who are studying in democratic countries represent the future leadership of China. However the aftermath of their sojourns will only minimally impact Chinese culture. For thousands of years China has been a collective society where these students feel most comfortable. Additionally this future generation that will assume positions of influence and power realizes that this collectivism also represents an effective form of societal control under their eventual leadership, albeit a slightly more flexible and broader containment of individual freedoms that today.

With respect to their studies in open democratic societies, this future generation will be better prepared with respect to commercial relationships with their western counterparts particularly in negotiations because of their exposure to the western democratic mindset whereas most westerners will struggle or continue to be ignorant of the Chinese business practices mindset.

Ironically there’s a fascinating relationship between the future Chinese and western generations. The Chinese students studying in western countries are learning that the present-day western societal policies are determined by a corporate elite that has a powerful influence over government.  In China, the dynamic is the same but utilizing different levers - a powerful government with influence over the corporate elite. Yet in both China and western countries the end result is the same: a ruling elite with overwhelming commercial and culture influence over the population.

For this reason the future generations of young Chinese and westerners prefer to work for the most powerful and influential components for power and success in their respective countries - different roads, same destination. Thus there are more commonalities than differences between the future leadership of Chinese and western students.

Another interestingly parallel dynamic is that, China’s economic policy in tolerating Hong Kong’s free-wheeling style, is “one party, two systems.” In the US politically we have “two parties, one system”, Democrats and Republicans within a capitalistic society. 

Chinese students studying in most democratic countries, especially the US, are discovering many familiar things. Ironically young Americans are becoming more like their Chinese counterparts while the Chinese are mirroring western trends resulting in many commonalities between the two countries as follows:

Urban Living: One parallel development is the trend of living in cities, and gentrification through the displacement of long-time residents. In the US gentrification occurs through the economic displacement of current residents, frequently poor and of color, through ‘market forces’ making renovated and new housing unaffordable which economically displaces them. In China forcible displacement of residents is by government decree with minimal compensation– urban planning through eminent domain followed by new construction and development for the upper-middle class to wealthy residents.

Self-censorship: In the US there’s an insidious trend towards strong self-censorship in order for young people to obtain and maintain good jobs. Corporations routinely troll through their social media and affiliations to determine the candidate’s or current employee’s so-called moral suitability for future or continued employment. For example if an employee is affiliated with the ‘wrong’ political party, he can get fired, demoted, or denied promotions.  The power of the internet has allowed US private industry to become the Big Brother collecting information through data mining with few legal restrictions what authoritarian governments have always done. Nowadays a credit card company knows where you are and can predict what you’re going to purchase before you do. This new dynamic results in an American de facto collective white-collar work force made to submit and obey and mavericks are ostracized a forced collectivism in the US where in China it’s a cultural tradition.

For the Chinese government it’s a two-layered issue. The Chinese government encourages a world education for its students providing that it’s administered overseas yet restrict such teachings on Chinese soil similar to most authoritarian regimes. The reasons are as follows:

1.             Firstly, for the Chinese government it’s politically unpalatable to have academics on Chinese soil teaching western concepts than are counter to Chinese policies and practices.

2.            Secondly, the teaching of western concepts on Chinese soil is significantly more far-reaching - in the hundreds of millions – vs. the 275,000 students requiring governmental documentation to study overseas in western countries. The Chinese government can more easily control and limit the number of students studying in the west vs. monitoring those being taught those same concepts in China.

The Chinese government needs a future leadership that understands western countries for external tactical and strategic political and business purposes as long as this particular education is acquired outside of China. As a safeguard, those Chinese students permitted to study overseas are from the upper and middle classes and are less likely to foment any revolutionary ideas once they return. Any western ideas taught to the poor in China, who have less opportunities for overseas travel and overall advancement in society, would be more likely to result in greater dissatisfaction with their lives in China and create a nest of potential civil disobedience and unrest.


Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2015.  All rights reserved.


Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

Available for speaking engagements and workshops. Contact us at:

http://www.indobrazilian.com