Daniel R. Joseph

The main content provider and manager of this website is Dan Joseph.  Below is a brief introduction to Dan.  

Background Summary

  • 10 years working in China; 20+ years doing business there
  • Much time spent in remote parts of China including 3 years as only foreigner in town of 500K Chinese
  • Managed multiple foreign invested enterprises in China; advised more than 100 companies on China operations.
  • Worked with dozens of Chinese companies including old-school state-owned enterprises and fast growth entrepreneurial companies
  • Abundance of direct, hands-on cultural experience relative to the rule of law, leadership, initiative, empowerment, innovation, planning, foresight, analytical thinking, etc.
  • Studied international economics and well versed in the scholarship around culture, economics and politics
  • Speak and reads Mandarin Chinese
  • Author of two books on China plus countless articles, white papers, etc.   Award-winning documentary film producer.  Frequent media guest as expert on China, trade, global business. 

Quotes from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

“American advisors, practitioners, and coalition partners (were)…vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation. One U.S. official for example, told SIGAR that his team was played all the time by the Afghans.’”  


The ultimate point of failure for our efforts … wasn’t an insurgency. It was the weight of endemic corruption.

Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan

Indeed, the corruption that the U.S. and coalition allies encountered in Afghanistan seems to have been viewed the same way as it would be in the United States—as the deviant criminal behavior of individual Afghan officials, rather than a systemic phenomenon.

Practical Experience Differentiates the Author

For those wondering why someone who spent his career in business would be providing content on democracy, the answer lies in the quotes above which together point to one factor—Americans managing the effort in Afghanistan lacked practical, hands-on, on-the-ground experience working in less developed countries and therefore did not adapt to local conditions. 

Many years of direct, hands-on, cross-cultural experience in China

I spent ten years living and working in China and another 15+ years engaged in business there.  I was usually in remote, 2nd and 3rd tier cities where foreigners were few and far between, including 3 years I spent in a Chinese town of 500K people where I was the one and only foreigner.  This kind of experience demonstrated to me unequivocally that cultural differences are significant and impactful.  To put it another way, I would not have been “played” in Afghanistan because in China I learned how to avoid being “played.”

Experienced weakness in the rule of law up-close

I got my first job in Mainland China because our Chinese partner had experienced so much embezzlement and fraud from its own staff it insisted the American side of its joint venture provide a manager.  My foreman asked for an advance on his wages so he could pay the necessary bribe for his son to get a job at a local state-owned enterprise (SOE).  Another SOE offered to sell us a parts at such a low price we were forced to investigate and determined the managers intended to sell the parts “off the books” and keep the proceeds themselves.  I could go on and on with my personal experiences with the weakness in the rule of law in China, covering corruption, embezzlement, and just about as many types of fraud as you can imagine, not to mention straight-up coercion. 

The US State Department hasn’t learned the lessons I learned

Yet, while it probably took me less than three months to learn I had to adapt to that aspect of Chinese society, and not much longer to recognize that this is a common problem among less developed countries (LDC’s) worldwide, it appears the US State Department did not learn that lesson during the entirety of the 20-year US deployment in Afghanistan.  The quote from Ryan Crocker above underscores the huge impact that the rule of law had on the Afghanistan mission, and the quote referencing “systemic phenomenon” illustrates how the US failed to understand that when a particular behavior is cultural, i.e., widespread in a society, it can’t be addressed simply by targeting particular individuals. 

Scholarship and data on culture and politics is abundant

This website is based on far more than personal experience.  There is an abundance of data and scholarship in this area which US policymakers also seem to ignore. The Corruption Perception Index has been available for decades.  One does not need a Phd in statistics to notice the correlation with prosperity.  The same is true of multiple measures of the rule of law. 

Beyond the rule of law, I make reference to other cultural attributes including leadership, empowerment, planning and analytical thinking.  You can find these same attributes identified in scholarly works from institutions like Harvard, Stanford and Michigan.

You will also see on this site mention of the idea that economic development must come before democracy.  Again, this is not my idea.  This is a key conclusion of the founders of the World Values Survey, a group of social scientists who have been conducting surveys on politics and culture in more than 100 countries for 40 years.

Walking in Toqueville’s footsteps

The abundance of data and scholarship shouldn’t be a surprise.  The notion that culture is linked to democracy was introduced by Alexis DeToqueville in 1835.  Scholars have been gradually developing ideas since then.  Yet, as mentioned above, politicians, policymakers, and the public at large continue to ignore culture as a factor relative to economic and political matters.    The result is a long track record of failure in trying to spread democracy along with the current decline in democracy globally. 

My goal is to bring the appropriate attention to these critical concepts. I am hopeful that perhaps my ability to convey these concepts in more concrete terms, using my experiences among other means, might make me effective in communicating in this regard.  Thank you for your interest.