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No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism Paperback – 2 Oct 2012


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Amazon.com: 25 reviews
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
For $3.99, you can't go wrong 29 Sep 2012
By Lemas Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this because the introductory price was so great. On balance, I would have to say that it was worth it. The whole book can be read through in about 3 hours (if it has the read of an extended broadside, that's because it is). In the index, it had a nice synopsis of what each chapter was about. The chapters could also be read out of order if you wanted to focus on some particular subject.

There's a lot of what you would already know if you read the newspaper every day (which was basically the source material for this book, plus a few books by China watchers):

1. Consumption as a percentage of GDP is too low, and the leaders of China know this.
2. The SOEs (less government subsidies) yield negative rates of return-- and yet they are the backbone of the economy.
3. The innovation strategy of China, Inc is emphatically NOT to innovate, but to find some way to trick their foreign partners out of their hard-developed technology through some variety of dishonest means. (Did you ever doubt this? "Co-innovation"? "Re-innovation"? "Assimilation of imported technologies"?)
4. It's not quite clear even what *is* an SOE nor how much they participate in the economy. But the (vague) answer is that they are "many" and participate "a lot."
5. The Chinese companies use the technology that they have stolen from foreign companies against those very same companies in the role of competitor.
6. Yes, the Chinese are in Africa. No, they are not popular there.
7. The strategy of the Chinese government is tit-for-tat and intimidation of the foreign companies that work for them. What McGregor included was a few more examples than what we might remember from reading the papers every day.
8. No, the WTO has no teeth to solve the problems put before it. And even if it did, there is nothing like an impartial legal system in China to carry out any investigations/ make rulings anyway.

Some things were new:

1. The subsidization part of the SOEs takes place basically through: a) Free use of land; b) Preferential interest rates.
2. Some specific examples of things that we might have missed were included. One example was the Cathay Industrial Biotech debacle.
3. There was some talk about the steps that people take to keep their conversations secret-- something very much like a James Bond movie. (Flying to South Korea to make phone calls. Removing batteries from cell phones to not allow them to be turned on by remote listening devices. Deleting one's entire laptop on traveling from one country to another.
4. As this author sees is, the exchange rate is a minor factor in the trade imbalance (Loc 1640), and that much of the US damage is self-inflicted by other poor policies.

What would I have liked answered (none of which were since this was essentially a broadside):

1. I would like to have seen the actual Chinese characters included for ALL of the 4 character idioms. There were also just acronyms ALL OVER THE PLACE. That is not the nicest thing to have when reading on Kindle. In a book, you can just mark the page and go back to it. But on Kindle, it takes several steps to get back to the page of acronyms. There were also no page numbers.

2. The purpose of all this mercantilism is to acquire gold (fiat currency). But that brings its own set of problems. How is China getting around them?

3. How is this case so much different to the all powerful MITI (Japan)? Books were written about the omnipotent and omniscient Japanese Ministry, which came all to naught. There has been more than one case of a country that was trying to choose between underdevelopment/ absolute political control and development/ devolved political control. Is China really so unique in this regard?

The writing of the book seemed a bit....disconnected. A chapter will start of on one topic, and then have an insert of several points. Then it will get back to the chapter. Sometimes it seems like the insert will be a synopsis of what was written above. Other times, it will be a miniature article.

Overall, this is a pretty good read. For $3.99 and a few hours, you can't go wrong.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The book gives interesting facts about contemporary state-run business in Communist China. 14 Jan 2013
By Jackson MS Consumer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book explains how the Communist Party owns and operates large companies in China. It also explains the clever ways which the Party uses to suppress foreign competition by operating within the letter, but not the spirit, of international trade agreements. From the title, I had expected a little more discussion of the philosophy behind this, but the focus was primarily a description of the mechanics. The book could use two more chapters: one explaining more reasons why the Party moved into owning business after Mao's death, and another discussing the future implications of this unique state-managed economy.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Accessible yet superficial treatment of Chinese political economy 8 April 2013
By B. Stewart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Those with deep background knowledge on the Chinese political economy, or anyone accustomed to rigorous research, will find this book wanting. Mr. McGregor reaches reasonable conclusions, and therefore offers a sensible treatment of the topic. However, there is little to no original research, and I was frustrated by the endless pages filled with material drawn from previous reporting. For example, three consecutive pages are consumed by the demise of one private Chinese firm, Cathay Biotech. The firm's abuse at the hands of state-owned enterprises and their supporters within the Chinese bureaucracy highlights the institutional obstacles that indigenous private enterprises face, but the anecdote is drawn entirely from a single report by the NY Times which I had already read. Such reliance on single sources to occupy large spaces of a very small book suggests an unwillingness to conduct thorough, independent research on the part of the author. As a consequence of the author's over-reliance on previous reporting, readers are unlikely to be introduced to original knowledge or unique perspectives. Instead, the book serves as a copy and paste job of mainstream business and political reporting from the past few years. This book is not the product of scholarship or investigative reporting. For a more original and insightful introduction to China's political economy, look elsewhere.
14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Save your time...there are better options 6 Nov 2012
By David - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jim continues his recent pattern of ranting against China--often on topics that the government has opened itself to criticism. However, this book has little new information or revelations. He does little to explain why China's model has proven so resilient even as underlying factors like wage inflation, massive debt and weak demand abroad point to a potential serious slowdown. Instead, he clings to broad generalizations about the lack of legitimacy of the Party and its inherent troubles.

This effort seems to validate the rumor that most of his work these days--like the recent Indigenous Innovation Report--has been heavily outsourced to his research team. If that's not the case, it is unclear why such a skilled writer has made such a weak effort. He barely manages to scrape together 146 pages--and comes up with such brilliant revelations as China has helped out SOEs by providing free land and giving them loans at preferential interest rates (something mentioned in every housing bubble article since 2007).

If you're thinking about buying a book that provides insight in China's current economic and political challenges Red Capitalism, China's Superbank, or Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics are all better bets.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Worth reading, but not enough material for a book this size 25 Dec 2012
By The Shovel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book introduced me to James McGregor, whom I'm now following on Twitter. The thesis of the book is simple and well presented. By simple I do not mean "light-weight" - just uncomplicated and clearly presented. I enjoyed what I read and found it enlightening, but I had hoped for more. Still, this is worth reading for anyone who is interested in the development of China's economy, as any investor should be these days. McGregor presents his case clearly and supports it well. Following him on Twitter has proven to be worthwhile as well since he tweets about articles and news reports that supplement his book.
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