Books to read if you’re coming to China

I apologize for not posting for a while.  I was completing a year-long goal of losing 50lbs and running a triathlon, the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, this last week.  I have never been so proud of 618th place in my life!

I’ve also been incredible busy–I’m writing this from Vietnam. 5 countries in the last week and the contrast in national “personalities” is just striking–I’m literally overlooking a huge street party in HCM city right now.  Vietnam just won the Asian Games football gold.  Thailand was a vacation (whether we wanted it or not) and China is 24/7 business–we were gone for only a week and came back to a new building that had previously just been cement, with a totally new glass face.  Taiwan seems more and more depressing each time I go and Hong Kong is still amazing.   And as we’re heading back to the US for Christmas (country #6 in 10 days), this will be the last post of the year too–other than the annual year-end review of the most popular posts.

Thanks for reading and commenting.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

At the last Global Sources show in Hong Kong I was asked after my presentation: “So is there anything else that you think we (people new to business in China) should know?”  I answered, “Yea, tons!  Do you have a year?”

my bookself Here’s the longer answer to that question.  These are my suggestions based on the books that I’ve read over the last few years.  These are all books that I liked and found to be of value, or at least to be of interest.  I tried to focus the list and limit the qtty to what I expected is a manageable amount of reading for someone who is busy moving to another country.

Of course, this list is in no way exhaustive.  Feel free to add to it.

I’ve divided the suggestions into different categories based loosely on the situation of the coming reader.  The first link is to SRI’s book review (if I wrote one), and the second is to Amazon–you’re welcome.  My favorites are numbered (1-10).

First, Business Professionals—meaning people that are going to be working in China in a more or less completely Chinese environment full time.

(4) Inside Chinese Business, by Ming-Jer Chen

(3) Chinese Business Etiquette, by Scott D. Seligman

(7) The China Price, by Alexandra Harney

The Chinese, by Jasper Becker

Managing the Dragon, by Jack Perkowski and (8) Mr. China, by Tim Clissold

Business Leadership in China, by Frank T. Gallo

(5) The Coming Collapse of China, by Gordon G. Chang

(Yes, there are a ton of other books that could go here–feel free to add to the list below–but these are the ones that I thought were the best.)

Sub category: Importers—people trying to build their own brands and markets within China.

All of the Business books above, plus:

Luxury China, by Michel Chevalier and Pierre Xiao Lu

(6) Elite China, by Pierre Xiao Lu

Where East Eats West, by Sam Goodman

Sub category: Buyers—these are people that are here irregularly, but still have significant in-China experience.

All of the Business books above, plus:

Poorly Made in China, by Paul Midler

Factory Girls, by Leslie T. Chang

All the Tea in China, by Jeremy Haft

One Billion Customers, by James McGregor

Second, non-business types. Maybe spouses of professionals and/or English teachers or students (non-business focus).

(9) River Town, by Peter Hessler

Oracle Bones, by Peter Hessler

The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang

Will the Boat Sink the Water, by Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao

Wild Swans, Jung Chang

Life and Death in Shanghai, by Nien Cheng

Soul Mountain, by Gao Xingjian

Chinese Lessons, by John Pomfret

China Hands, by James R. Lilley and Jeffery Lilley

Lonely Planet China, here’s the web site too.

Sub category: Politics and/or higher education

(10) China: Fragile Superpower, by Susan L. Shirk

The Tiananmen Papers, by Liang Zhang, Andrew J. Nathan, Perry Link, and Orville Schell

(1)Gifts Favors and Banquets (anthropology), by Mayfair Mei-Hui Yang

(2) Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics, by Yasheng Huang

The Great Wall, China Against the World, by Julia Lovell

What does China Think?, by Mark Leonard

The Search for Modern China (history), by Jonathan D. Spence

Chinese Religiosities (anthropology), by Mayfair Mei-Hui Yang

6 Responses to “Books to read if you’re coming to China”

  1. Some one in a Link-in Group that I’m part of made this great comment (sorry I couldn’t find your name, the exact quote or the link):

    “The most important book is small, with only a few pages–it’s called your Passport.”

    I couldn’t agree more. The most important part of any China business is being here yourself.

  2. I am currently reading Think Like Chinese by ZHANG Haihua and Geoff Baker and find its insight to be profound.

    Laura K.

  3. Thanks for the posts in 2009. I have learnt heaps from your posts. I find them very truthful.

  4. Hi, happy New Year to you too, and thanks for all your observations on China. It’s likely I’ll be back in China for business soon, so will put everything into application soon enough!
    Have a great year – good luck

  5. All great books ! Thanks for the list !

    I was a big fan of Peter Hessler for my “night reading”

    Some others i liked :

    For buyers : Doing Business in China (Third Edition) (London: Routledge, 2008) (with Tim Ambler & Morgen Witzel)

    Very insightful stuff and not just like every other book. My professor was a co-author in it . Otherwise, i never would have picked it up.

    For LAW /Politics and/or higher education :
    Contract Law in China, Bing Ling
    Hong Kong, Sweet and Maxwell Asia, 2002

  6. Thanks for these recommendations. I delayed my travel to Asia because I felt culturally ignorant. I hope these books will help.