A Roundup Of Some Of Our Favorite China Reads
Summer’s here, so what better way to kick back on the beach or on the road than with a good book? From hard-hitting economics and business primers to a hair-raising historical portrait and graphic novel, here are Jing Daily’s five favorite China reads for summer 2012.
What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism, and China’s Modern Consumer
by Tom Doctoroff (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 251 pages. US$27.00 hardcover, $12.99 Kindle)
Addressing a wide range of regular misconceptions about Chinese consumer and business culture, politics and the country as a whole, What Chinese Want, by veteran Shanghai-based ad man Tom Doctoroff, is a perfect primer for anybody in need of a crash course in modern China. Tackling tough issues and breaking down what sets Chinese consumers and nationals apart from their counterparts in the Western world and the rest of Asia, Doctoroff explains that China’s 30 years of economic modernization have been shaped by the developed world but have not, and will not, necessarily lead to any true measure of “westernization” in the country. Guided by fundamental aspects of Chinese culture that can be traced back through the country’s centuries of imperial rule, Doctoroff notes in highly readable detail that China’s distant past lives on in the decisions and strategies we see made in politics, business and even personal interaction.
Going beyond the tiresome clichés and generalizations that plague the typical “business in China” book — gifts, guanxi and guzzling baijiu —What Chinese Want is both a valuable introduction to those new to the country and its business culture, as well a well-written refresher course for those who’ve spent a good deal of time in the country and want to catch up to more recent developments.
Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
by Paul French (Penguin, 2012. 272 pages. $26.00 hardcover, $12.99 Kindle)
Intrigue, scandal, war and murder saturate Midnight in Peking, historian Paul French’s reconstruction of the murder of Pamela Werner in the Chinese capital in 1937, as invading Japanese soldiers loomed right outside the city. Bringing post-Warlord-era Beijing back to life in exquisite detail, French presents to readers a city in which old superstitions, foreign privilege, opium and prostitution and violent crime swirled together to the not-so-distant drumbeat of a protracted and costly civil war and the second Sino-Japanese War. As two detectives, one British and one Chinese, race to solve the mystery of who left Pamela Werner’s mutilated corpse by Beijing’s Fox Tower before Japanese troops flood into the city, readers are taken on a nail-biting rickshaw ride through the old streets of “Peking,” which bears little resemblance to the Beijing of today.
The End Of Cheap China: Economic And Cultural Trends That Will Disrupt The World
by Shaun Rein (Wiley, 2012. 240 pages. $24.95 Hardcover, $11.99 Kindle)
Structured as a primer for individuals and companies doing business in China as well as students or anyone interested in China’s transformation and global role, Shaun Rein’s The End of Cheap China holds that the global conception of China is out of step with what’s happening on the ground. After leveraging its vast population of cheap labor for the last 30 years and mass-producing cheap and lower-quality products for the world, Rein writes that China is changing, and the days in which cheap labor fed discount stores around the world are tapering off. Now, with China’s consumer market finally emerging and middle-class and wealthy Chinese shoppers becoming key demographics for everyone from Wal-Mart and Carrefour to Gucci and Hermès, a key contention of The End of Cheap China is that “Chinese [now] seek not to make iPhones, but to buy them.”
Geared more towards China greenhorns than seasoned veterans, The End Of Cheap China nonetheless includes enough market research and on-the-ground observations to give marketing types, as well as entrepreneurs with an interest in the country, plenty to consider.
The Art of War: A Graphic Novel
by Kelly Roman and Michael DeWeese (Harper Perennial, July 31, 2012. 352 pages. $22.99 paperback, $9.99 Kindle)
Turn off your brain and relax with a hard-boiled graphic adaptation of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, bringing to life a future in which soldier Kelly, recently freed from prison after serving time for a friendly fire incident, finds out that his brother died while working for historical strategist Sun Tzu — who now runs a dominant China’s global financial empire.
Shifting from a Mad Max-like suburban Ohio to a heavily militarized, dystopian Wall Street, Kelly — using his Special Forces skills and tactics of Sun Tzu himself — looks to infiltrate Sun’s vast organization and confront his brother’s murderer.
The New Chinese Economy: Dynamic Transitions Into the Future
Edited by Elias C. Grivoyannis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 206 pages. $29.00 paperback)
A complete U-turn from The Art of War, The New Chinese Economy, edited by Yeshiva University professor Elias C. Grivoyannis, uses hard figures and analysis to soberly break down China’s breakneck economic growth and what it means for the future. Over the course of its nine chapters, the book looks — first and foremost — to answer the question: into what kind of economy is China’s transforming? Using all-new statistics and research, scholars like Bingtao Song, Kaixiang Peng and Rudai Yang tackle complicated subjects like the role of governments in China’s developing economy, the viability of the so-called “China Model,” mathematics education in China and the role of higher education reform in China’s rising saving rate.
Less of an “easy reader” for the casual China observer than some of the other books on our list, The New Chinese Economy examines in great detail the most important issues facing the economy as it moves forward, beyond relatively easy growth based on construction and development and towards one shaped by geopolitical, cultural, demographic and political shifts. A must-read for number-junkies, academics, grad students and economics buffs.