David Pilling

Africa Editor, Financial Times
Author, Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival

A ringside seat on developments in Africa.

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Biography

David Pilling, long-time Asia Editor of the Financial Times, has now added Africa to his portfolio, following a move to London in 2016. David has long spoken about business, economics and politics in China, India, Japan and across Asia more generally. He now adds close-up knowledge of Africa, with a particular emphasis on Nigeria and South Africa and some of the continent's more promising economies from Ethiopia and Rwanda to Kenya. He is also an expert on the fast-developing and geopolitically significant relationship between China and Africa.

David is a knowledgeable and entertaining speaker on Asia and Africa, as well as a strong moderator who uses wit and incisive questioning to produce lively on-stage interviews and panel discussions. For lighter occasions, he can also provide behind-the-scenes anecdotes and insights about the famous Lunch with the FT series, of which he is a regular contributor, tailoring stories and personalities who have appeared in the series to the audience's requirements.

He was FT's Asia Editor, based in Hong Kong, for seven years from 2008-2015. Before that he served as Tokyo Bureau Chief. With 25 years of journalistic experience and some 15 years in Asia, David brings insight to economics, politics, culture and development across Asia and the developing world more generally.

David crystallised his experience living and working in Japan in a widely acclaimed book about the country's social and economic resilience: Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival. In many ways, Japan has foreshadowed the problems that have beset the west since the 2008 financial crisis and he argues that Japan may have more to teach us than has generally been recognised. In his view, the so-called "lost decades" may not have been quite so lost after all.

David has had a long and distinguished career at the FT as a foreign correspondent, senior editor, and columnist, starting in 1990 in London on the international desk. From there he was posted to Santiago, Chile in 1993. Between 1994 and 1997 he was based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before returning to London to become Deputy Editor of the comment and analysis section. Between 1999 and 2002, David was the global pharmaceuticals and biotechnology correspondent, covering topics from mega-pharmaceutical mergers to the scourge of AIDS in Africa and the scientific race to decode the human genome. In 2002, he moved to Japan for a seven-year stint as Tokyo Bureau Chief covering the Koizumi years, growing tensions with China and the burgeoning nationalism that was to lead to the rise of the Shinzo Abe.

He has travelled extensively to China, India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, and beyond. He has now added frequent trips to Africa to his itinerary, visiting the usual suspects (Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya) as well as lesser-known and more challenging countries such as Liberia. In his career, he has interviewed an enormous range of politicians, business leaders and artists from Shinzo Abe to Aung San Suu Kyi and from Ai Weiwei to celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

David has won several prizes, including for coverage of Japan and China. In both 2011 and 2012, he was named Best Commentator by the Society of Publishers in Asia for his weekly column. He was also named Best Foreign Commentator for 2011 in the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards for coverage of China, Japan and Pakistan. David regularly contributes features, including for the Weekend FT, and frequently interviews business, political and cultural figures.

David is also an experienced moderator at international conferences, including the FT’s own and at events organised by the World Economic Forum and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (APEC).

Books

Bending Adversity

Japan and the Art of Survival

David Pilling

A pacy, fresh and surprising portrait of Japan and the Japanese - from David Pilling, award-winning writer and Asia Editor of the Financial Times

Despite years of stagnation, Japan remains one of the world's largest economies and a country which exerts a remarkable cultural fascination. David Pilling's new book is an entertaining, deeply knowledgeable and surprising analysis of a group of islands which have shown great resilience, both in the face of financial distress and when confronted with the overwhelming disaster of the 2011 earthquake.

The resulting tsunami, which killed some 19,000 people, and nuclear catastrophe highlighted both the deeply impressive practical resilience of ordinary Japanese and a political culture of extraordinary carelessness and arrogance. Pilling describes the emergency and its aftermath, but then writes far more broadly about many aspects of Japan which are little known to outsiders and which do so much to explain these contradictory responses to the earthquake. Bending Adversity is a superb work of reportage and the essential book even for those who already feel they know the country well.

Allen Lane (2 Jan 2014)

Reviews

Rising SunNew York Times Sunday Book Review
Sitting TightThe Economist
ReviewFinancial Times
Bending AdversityThe Telegraph
Bending AdversityThe Observer
Bending Adversity —Bill Emmott

Topics

David tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

China: David first visited China in 1989, a month before the Tiananmen Square student uprising. He has been writing about the country and visiting it regularly for the past 15 years. He can talk about all aspects of what is the most pressing story of our generation: the rise of a great power and the business, economic and political implications of China's spectacular growth story. Is China's economy headed for crisis? Will it come into conflict with its neighbours in the South China Sea or East China Sea? What are China's global ambitions and what effect will this have on the post-war order? David can talk with first-hand knowledge about these and many other aspects of the China story. 

Japan: David was the FT's bureau chief in Japan for seven years (2002-2008) and is the author of the acclaimed 2014 book, Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival. He has spoken and lectured throughout the world on Japan, from a business, cultural and geopolitical perspective. David is considered an expert on the country, who can talk about the subject with authority and insight. 

India: He has been following India's progress off and on for more than 20 years. As Asia editor, David was a frequent visitor, spending a total of many months in the country in the run-up to Narendra Modi's momentous victory. He has met and interviewed almost all of India's leading business figures. David can talk about the country's bid to overtake China as the fastest-growing large economy in the world, its hopes to become a manufacturing base, and its institutional and infrastructural problems.

The Rise of Asia: Having lived in Asia for 15 years up until January 2016, David was a regular visitor to much of the vast region, from Indonesia and Malaysia to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and all points in between. He has views on subjects including the Asian investment landscape, the reasons for Asia's rapid rise and the possible impediments to its future growth. More generally, David can talk about the historical challenge that the emergence of a continent containing 4 billion of the world's 7 billion people poses for the west. 

Africa: David became the Africa Editor in 2016 and is now a regular visitor to the vast continent. He is able to talk about the Rising Africa narrative, Africa's investment and business prospects, the demographic changes sweeping the continent and Africa's growing and increasingly interesting relationship with China. David can discuss the continent as a whole or individual countries or regions, including South Africa, Nigeria or the promising East African Community (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda etc). He is also able to tailor a discussion on particular sectors, including oil and gas, mining, IT or retail. 

Lunch with the FT: David has conducted around 30 of the famous Lunch with the FT interviews, talking to politicians, businesspeople, artists, novelists, economists and thinkers from Asia, Britain, the US, Africa and beyond. People he's interviewed for this slot include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, award-winning author and thinker Jared Diamond and South African firebrand Julius Malema. He can tailor a talk on a behind-the-scenes look at one of journalism's most famous interview formats to suit the interests of a particular audience. 

GDP: David is working on a special project looking at the limitations of GDP as a measure of economic activity. He argues that we have made a fetish out of a number, conceived during wartime in the 1940s, that is increasingly unable to capture what is going on in modern service-driven economies. The inadequacies of GDP can have sometimes disastrous consequences and may even have contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. David has written about these issue for the FT and is currently researching the subject for a longer-format project. Any audience or organisation with an inkling that modern statistics are not serving us well would benefit from such a talk.

Videos

Abenomics or Abegeddon?

'Bending Adversity' book launch

Articles

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The benefits and perils of riding China's coat-tails

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