Struggling Giant (And Other Summer Reads)

Related entries: Business Issues, General, Research

Kerry Brown* of China Power List fame has recently published a new book, Struggling Giant, and was promoting it with a talk in London recently. A brief introduction to the book (which, I understand was almost, rather bravely, called China Does Not Exist), is provided by the author below:

    “Struggling Giant starts off with mapping out what a stable and unstable China might look like in two decades time. Both present challenges. The one will be the world’s largest economy, a superpower and an remorseless user of energy resources. The other will be highly decentralised, a cause of tension and conflict in the region and globally, and a negative draw on the world’s resources and stablility.

    It then looks at where China might go, by looking at what has happened in its recent past, and what clues might lie there – in the Cultural Revolution, in the lingering influence of Mao Zedong, and in the remarkable ability of the Communist Party to transform and change itself, yet still hold onto the main levers of power.

    The book then takes a journey through the Chinese provinces, with their different economies and preoccupations, asking the fundamental question of what we mean when we say `China’, and through some of the main character types of the new China – the cadres, young middle class, intellectuals, and entrepreneurs.

    Based on 7 years living in China, as a diplomat, businessman, academic, and engaged observer, this is an attempt to take a fresh look at some of the immense challenges China as it moves into the 21st century, and the impact this will have on the rest of the world. “

Kerry has obviously been busy, as he has also spoken about the book in Shanghai. The Editors’ Journal blog covered that presentation, and also carried an interview.

While Strggling Giant is next in line on the bookshelf, I have already started making progress with Joe Studwell’s Asian Godfathers (published in the UK, but still awaiting release in the US), which lifts the covers on the rich and powerful Asian business elite (who are mostly ethnic Chinese). An extract from the FT’s review gives an impression:”

    “Does Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, work as hard as the myth of the toiling Chinese tycoon suggests? Yes, if you count playing golf, arriving at the office at 10am, checking the press to see if anyone has said anything nasty about you, holding a business lunch and having a massage or two as hard work. For most tycoons, it is the “chief slave” – the boss’s fix-it man – or the western “gweilo running dogs” who actually run the operation.”

One of the interesting nuggets I have found so far is the role “The Bank” (HSBC) played in launching Li Ka Shing as godfather-in-chief. Also, don’t miss the notes in the back of the book.

While on the subject of books, I see in China Herald that Mark Schaub’s entertaining (and sobering) The Art of Law is finally available on Amazon).

That should be plenty of reading for what remains of the summer!

* Disclosure: Kerry Brown sits on the Committee of the 48 Group Club with your blogger.

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