Dexter (Tiff) Roberts

Reporter and U.S.-China Political, Economics and Business Relations Specialist

Dexter (Tiff) Roberts is the author of The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World which was chosen as one of The Economist “best books of the year” for 2020. He is an award-winning writer and speaker on U.S.-China political and business relations and on the Chinese economy. He currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Asia Security Initiative and a Fellow at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, and teaches Chinese history and politics at the University of Montana. He publishes a newsletter on China called “Trade War.”


During the more than two decades he served as China bureau chief and Asia News Editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, Dexter regularly spoke on China’s politics, economy and business to multinational CEOs, senior executives, and heads of business associations and at numerous conferences including the World Economic Forum in China, the United Nations World Urban Forum, and the American Chamber of Commerce in China. He also frequently lectured at academic institutions including Tsinghua University. In the U.S. Dexter has been a regular commentator on U.S.-China relations on television and radio including CNN, Fox News, and the BBC, and to business associations and think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations and CSIS. He has also given numerous addresses at universities and institutes and in 2020 testified on the Chinese economy to a bipartisan U.S. congressional committee.


While based in China, Dexter reported from all of its 30-some provinces as well as from Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Cambodia, Mongolia, and North Korea and wrote numerous award-winning articles on China’s economic transition and its opening to multinational business. Dexter is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and is a graduate of Stanford University with a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Download Bio
The Myth of Chinese CapitalismThe Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World
St. Martin's Press

The untold story of how restrictive policies are preventing China from becoming the world’s largest economy. Dexter Roberts lived in Beijing for two decades working as a reporter on economics, business and politics for Bloomberg Businessweek. In The Myth of Chinese Capitalism, Dexter explores the reality behind today’s financially-ascendant China and pulls the curtain back on how the Chinese manufacturing machine is actually powered. He brings to life the problems that China and its people face today as they attempt to overcome a divisive system that poses a serious challenge to the country’s future development. In so doing, Dexter paints a boot-on-the-ground cautionary picture of China for a world now held in its financial thrall.

Understanding China: Global Partner, Angry Rival or Social Volcano? Whether it is siding with Russia in its war against Ukraine or launching political campaigns that wipe out billions of dollars of market value for technology companies, China is ever more disruptive in business and geopolitics, even as it becomes more important. Based on a quarter century of reporting from China as a business journalist who traveled to every province and region in the country, and more recent in-depth research on the growing politicization of the Chinese economy, done through a top D.C. think tank, as well academic work teaching modern Chinese history and politics, Roberts will help draw the dots between the stalled market reforms and the rapid move to state capitalism and the country’s troubled Maoist past and the ethnonationalism of the Xi Jinping era of today – what it means for multinationals and policymakers, and the opportunities and constraints it poses for the world. Roberts’ lecture will combine lively and telling anecdotes drawn from the stories of the entrepreneurs, cadres, workers, and American business managers encountered during his reporting from the country, with informed analysis of the future trajectory of China’s economy, business and politics - and what its turbulent rise means for the world.
The Trade War: the U.S. and China’s Battle for Economic Supremacy China’s push to become a global economic and technological powerhouse is moving up against the U.S. desire to maintain its supreme position leading to frictions everywhere from boardrooms to factories and classrooms, and in hot-spots like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the South China Sea. Is a resolution possible or will the future bring worse tensions?
The Future of the Factory: From Workers to Robots China’s economic rise has above all been based on its low-cost labor. That is changing as wages rise and demography leads to a shrinking workforce in China, with huge implications for multinationals like Apple and Wal-Mart deeply reliant on supply chains on the mainland. A look at the challenges multinationals face as they try to reduce costs in China while diversifying their production to new places including Vietnam, Indonesia, and India, and China’s big plan to automate its factories and become a robot superpower.
The China Technology Dream From Indigenous Innovation to Made in China 2025, China’s leaders have long had elaborate plans to make their country into a technological superpower. Their aspirations are now bumping up against foreign enterprises unhappy about being asked to continue sharing their technology with Chinese partners as well as countries frightened how China is harnessing technology to satisfy authoritarian goals. What this means for China’s private companies who are finding themselves squeezed out by Beijing’s planning goals and global tech enterprises that are facing tough restrictions on their China business, and the future of global technological superiority. Can China leverage its huge market to become a global tech power and compete globally?
From Factory of the World to Superpower: China's Troubled Transition A deep dive look based on two decades as a reporter following China’s shift from a manufacturing powerhouse to the technological superpower it aims to be today. How China at home is struggling to keep expanding its huge middle class to support economic growth and end its unsustainable reliance on debt and property, while overseas it is facing new resistance to its mercantile bid to become a global economic leader. What this troubled transition means for the multinationals and countries of the world.

#DecodingChinaWithWION | Is China's rise myth or miracle? Dexter Roberts opines

Posted by WION on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Dexter Roberts weighs in on the US-China relations amid Russian invasion.The Economist named The Myth of Chinese Capitalism one of the best books of the year. Watch Dexter Roberts in an interview with DW News. See what Dexter has to say how foreign affairs are affected by the Presidential Election. Listen to Dexter on the Lowy Institute Covidcast. Listen to Dexter talk about Chinese factories returning to work after the pandemic on NPR Marketplace. Dexter discusses his book with the USC U.S.-China Institute. Dexter discusses China’s uncertain future with the Overseas Press Club of America. Watch a webcast Dexter did with Gateway House. Dexter Roberts shares his views on the India China stand-off with IndiaToday. Read Dexter’s article Commentary: China’s clear message to the U.S. on Hong Kong: Beijing will not back down in the Los Angeles Times. Watch Dexter’s interview on Fox News talking about the tensions between US and China escalate amid Beijing’s latest crackdown on Hong Kong Listen to Dexter’s interview on Wharton Business Daily SiriusXMBusiness Radio Listen to the podcast Author Spotlight: Dexter Roberts on the myth of Chinese capitalism. Watch Dexter on CNN International discussing the consequences on first steps taken by China to battle COVID-19. FOX’s Brian Kilmeade Show hosted Dexter Roberts to discuss COVID-19, China’s response, and the importance of global supply chain diversification. Dexter chats with Kaiser and Jeremy about The Myth of Chinese Capitalism on the Sinica Podcast. Read Financial Times’ review of Dexter’s The Myth of Chinese Capitalism. Dexter on the exacerbation of the divide between urban and rural citizens in China during COVID-19 with Bloomberg Businessweek. PRI’s The World hosts Dexter to discuss Chinese support during the US and Europe’s struggle to contain COVID-19. Check Dexter speak on exploiting workers through partnerships with China on The Hill. Listen to Dexter on the Brookings Dollars and Sense Podcast discuss questions about the economic implications of COVID-19 The Asia Society hosts Dexter to speak on The Myth of Chinese Capitalism. Dexter on China and its political system, the coronavirus, and trade decoupling with the Smart People  Podcast. Check out Dexter on Montana Lowdown Podcast looking to the Chinese economy for signs of things to come Watch Dexter with Cheddar TV – Big News speak on disruptions in supply chains and China restarting activity. Read Dexter’s essay for the Wall Street Journal on China and COVID-19. Axios featured The Myth of Chinese Capitalism on its significance and main points. The Missoulian ran a fantastic feature of Dexter. Newstalk KGVO discuses with Dexter recent economic developments in China. Check out Publishers Weekly review of Dexter’s book The Myth of Chines Capitalism. A recent article from the Missoulian quotes Dexter on the threats of trade wars. Watch Dexter on Newstalk KGVO speak on the relationship between U.S. and China. Check out his interview with the Missoulian on China’s economic future. Read Dexter’s past pieces for Bloomberg Businessweek, where he was an editor. Watch him speak on the panel Technology As a Tool for Control at Tiananmen 30 Years Later. Listen to his appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition on examining China’s investment records. Follow him on Twitter and check out his personal website as well as his newsletter on trade with China called “Trade War.”

"In August 2019, [Dexter] Roberts was our featured speaker at The ELEVATE Leadership Series at the New York Stock Exchange. This is our annual event in NYC for global brands, retailers and vendors where we share the latest data and trends in responsible sourcing, and shifts in traditional and emerging sourcing destinations. [Dexter]’s insightful and in-depth talk “From Factory of the World to Superpower: China’s Troubled Transition” provided excellent contextual material and perspective on the China market for the corporate leaders attending our event."
—Ian Spaulding, CEO, ELEVATE

"Tiff was the editor for Bloomberg Businessweek in China when I helped to launch the inaugural Global Green Business Summit in Tianjin for the company. He participated as moderator for the forum, I was not only impressed with his insight and knowledge on ‘green business’ and China, but his outstanding speaking skills and keen ability to engage speakers and audience."
—Christina Lee, Founder & CEO, Global Green Connect & GGEF

"Dexter's public speaking skills convey a command of his subject and are coupled with the fluidness of his insights on the vast subject of China. The clarity of his thought is combined with timely stories of the lives of people, adding a public face to the struggles of a nation racing into the 21st century, while carrying the legacy of breakneck modernization. There are few who can articulate and inform on this kaleidoscope of events, it's people, history, economics and the grand geopolitical game as it plays out in real time, as well as Dexter Roberts."
—Robert Seidenschwarz, President Emeritus of the Montana World Affairs Council

"Tiff Roberts participated in the Helena Education Foundation's Great Conversations event, a dinner featuring 35-40 topics, each with a table leader. His guests were enthusiastic about their opportunity to spend an evening with Tiff discussing the United States' relationship with China. 'Tiff was a knowledgeable speaker with a relaxed conversational style. He has seen a lot of change in China during his 23 years there, and he has a good grasp of how the economy has evolved,' said one participant. 'I really thought Tiff was exceptional! I think this was the best table discussion I have experienced at Great Conversations,' another commented. 'Tiff’s 23 years of reporting from China provided a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives on this critical foreign economy that’s probably [become] our country’s key economic story… The changing manufacturing economy in China due to increasing wages explained a great deal about why more goods are coming from other Asian countries. It was also interesting to hear his thoughts on the trade wars. He had watched them his entire time in China and how they were handled by several different leaders in both countries,' commented one more."
—Lisa Cordingley, director of the Helena Education Foundation

Advance praise for The Myth of Chinese Capitalism "Roberts has given a well-sourced, thoughtfully reasoned, and cogently-written narrative of the largest migration in human history, as peasants from the countryside moved into cities to fuel the past several decades of China’s 'economic miracle.' But now that trade wars are raging and growth rates are slowing, many of these same rural workers are retreating home again. Roberts helps us understand why this could be an even more disruptive tipping point moment not only for China, but the global economy."
—Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director, Center on US-China Relations and co-author of Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century

"Dexter Roberts gives a sophisticated and readable take of China's triumphs and crises. He introduces us to global CEOs and takes us on tours of China's sprawling factory floors, but is most at home in the China's left-behind countryside. There, Roberts' decades-long contact with farmers and ex-factory workers shows systemic problems that could prevent China from becoming a wealthy country. A first-hand witness to China's transformation over the past quarter century, Roberts credibly challenges the myth of China's inevitable rise and global dominance."
—Ian Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Beijing-based correspondent

"Ever bought a made-in-China handbag at Walmart and wondered who made it? It’s possibly someone whose experience is similar to the people Dexter Roberts writes about so vividly in this smart and compelling book, workers who struggle to make a living and face deep discrimination in China’s cities. A potent mix of personal stories and deft analysis, The Myth of Chinese Capitalism takes a hard look at China’s migrants and rural people – together one-half the country’s population - who fueled their country’s manufacturing boom, but for whom the China dream remains elusive."
—Mei Fong, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment

"Anybody doing business in China should read this book . . . . By taking us from impoverished villages to factory floors and into the lives of unsettled migrant workers and overwrought bureaucrats who struggle to meet the goals of Party leaders, Roberts lays out why the assumption of an ever-larger China market is uncertain, with implications for multinationals everywhere."
—James McGregor author One Billion Customers: Lessons From the Front Lines of Doing Business in China

"There's an enormous gap between how 'China's rise' looks from a distance, and how its realities affect the hundreds of millions of poor and rural Chinese people still looking for a better life. Dexter Roberts has reported on these realities for decades, and he does a wonderful job of combining vivid personal stories with provocative larger points about China's fate. Anyone who hopes to understand China's strengths and vulnerabilities will want to read this book."
—James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic and author of China Airborne

"In this vivid, provocative account, Dexter Roberts leaves the glittering cities that attract too much of the world’s attention, and tells the story of China’s other half – the farmers and migrants who may never reach the mythic goal of middle-class life. Deeply fluent in China's economy and culture, Roberts challenges our assumptions about China’s path and delivers a vital warning about risks ahead."
—Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition, winner of the 2014 National Book Award

"Have you ever looked at the miraculous urban landscapes of today’s China—the Shanghai skyline, the Shenzhen roadways—and wondered what lies beneath? In The Myth of Chinese Capitalism, Dexter Roberts investigates the roots of China’s boom, tracking how rural institutions, communities, and people have been sacrificed for the sake of cities. This book is a welcome reminder of the more than half a billion citizens who make their homes in the Chinese countryside."
—Peter Hessler, author and contributor to the New Yorker