Mr. China

Mr. China

3.5 2
by Tim Clissold
     
 

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The idea of China has always exerted a pull on the adventurous type. There is a kind of entrepreneurial Westerner who just can't resist it: red flags, a billion bicycles, and the largest untapped market on earth. What more could they want? After the first few visits, they start to feel more in tune and experience the first stirrings of a fatal ambition: the

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Overview

The idea of China has always exerted a pull on the adventurous type. There is a kind of entrepreneurial Westerner who just can't resist it: red flags, a billion bicycles, and the largest untapped market on earth. What more could they want? After the first few visits, they start to feel more in tune and experience the first stirrings of a fatal ambition: the secret hope of becoming the Mr. China of their time.

In the 1990s, China went through a miraculous transformation from a closed backwater to the workshop of the world. Many smart young men saw this transformation coming and mistook it for their destiny. Not a few rushed East to gain strategic footholds, plant their flags, and prosper. After all, the Chinese had numbers on their side: a seemingly endless population, a thirst for resources, and the tide of history. What they needed was Western knowledge and lots of capital. Or so it seemed ...

Mr. China tells the rollicking story of one man's encounter with the Chinese. Armed with hundreds of millions of dollars and a strong sense that he and his partners were — like missionaries of capitalism — descending into the industrial past to bring the Chinese into the modern world, Clissold got the education of a lifetime.

The ordinary Chinese workers, business owners, local bureaucrats, and party cadres Clissold encountered were some of the most committed, resourceful, and creative operators he would ever meet. They were happy to take the foreigner's money but resisted just about anything else. At every turn, the locals seemed one step ahead of Clissold's crew threatening to take the Westerners for all they were worth.

In the end, Mr. China isn't a tale of business or an expatriate's love for his adopted land. It's one man's coming-of-age story where he learns to respect and admire the nation he sought to conquer.

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Editorial Reviews

Tucker Carlson
“One of the wittiest, most compelling accounts of anything I’ve read in a long time. A terrific book.”
Time magazine
“Present at the creation of China’s economic miracle, Clissold’s memoir is an instant classic. Sharply observed, funny as hell. Indispensible.”
Newsweek
“Lots of Western businessmen have China war stories, but only Tim Clissold has written . . . this funny book.”
Forbes
“One would be hard-pressed to find a serious Western investor in China who isn’t aware of Clissold’s eye-opening account.”
USA Today
“An adventure tale. Clissold is a wonderful and compassionate narrator (with) a deep respect for the culture, language, and history.”
Washington Post
“Hugely entertaining…Clissold loves China…but he also views it with clarity and no small amount of humor.”
Playboy
“Hard to put down... with passionate characters and vivid landscapes. Clissold excels at analyzing a strange business culture....”
Jonathan Yardley
This hugely entertaining book is the story of an ambitious young Brit (the author) who arrived in China in the late 1980s, fell in love with it and soon was seized by "the first stirrings of a fatal ambition: the secret hope of becoming the 'Mr. China' of [his] time, the zhongguo tong or 'Old China Hand' with the inside track in the Middle Kingdom."
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
A British businessman with a background in accounting and auditing, Clissold joined up with an entrepreneur in the early 1990s and set out to buy shares of Chinese firms and to work to make them more profitable. Within two years, Clissold's venture owned shares in 20 Chinese businesses, with 25,000 employees among them, but the story really centers on Clissold's encounters with the nation's "institutionalized confusion." Firing entrenched middle managers became a protracted process that led to factory riots and employees using company funds to set up competing businesses; the anticorruption bureau demanded cash bribes before opening investigations. Clissold's narrative is somewhat aimless, slipping from one misadventure (taking American fund managers to a condom factory) to the next, and there's a certain amount of too-easy humor derived from the exoticism of Chinese culture (e.g., the inevitable banquet where unusual body parts of rabbit and deer are served). Even in these passages, though, Clissold's fundamental respect for the Chinese culture is unmistakable, and the scenes where he leaves his office and interacts directly with the people can be quite vividly detailed. By the late '90s, millions of dollars poured into the companies yield disastrous results from an investment standpoint (and Clissold himself suffers a heart attack), but the Chinese economy as a whole hums ever more loudly. Crossover appeal of this title may be limited, but business readers are likely to be entertained. 25-city radio tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This charming and shrewdly informative book is more than just a "coming of age in China" memoir (though it is a good one). In the 1980s, Clissold, a graduate of England's Cambridge University, left his job in a major accounting firm to go to Beijing and learn Mandarin. He was thus on the front line when foreign investors came to China looking for business partners and on the firing line when there was a clash of expectations and unforeseen results. Chinese businessmen and officials did not defer to the foreigners but instead showed them why China led the world in technology, industry, and business-that is, before the last few unfortunate centuries. Clissold is a sharp-eyed but sympathetic observer and a storyteller of Chaucerian verve. His book is also a dramatic account of how China changed in the years after Mao's death in 1976, becoming the global economic power we see today. Highly recommended for libraries that want a fresh and readable account of this period.-Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060761394
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/01/2005
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.93(d)

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