'This is the true story of a tough Wall Street Banker who came to China looking for glory. Determined to surf the next big investment wave...' as quoted from the summary of the book. Tim Clissold gives a GREAT account of this business (ad)venture.
Back in the early 1990's, everyone was trying to get in on China, the idea being to buy up the assets (factories, companies etc.), help them grow the business and cash in via a listing. Assets were found after a while and joint venture partners became available. Tim Clissold's description of touring Shanghai with a bunch of Wall Street bankers is an accurate account of this process and probably the most amusing I have read.
Eventually, contracts were signed and the funds disbursed. The problems started almost immediately. You as the western party may have a very clear idea what you have agreed to contractually, your domestic partner, however, often has a very different interpretation of the same contract, no matter how watertight you think you made it. Also you may find that you invest in something different than you thought you signed for.
Tim Clissold gives an excellent and very detailed account of some of these investments - and the day after. My favourites amongst these are the 'gearbox incident' and the investment in the brake pad factory. In many of the cases described in the book you feel that every time Tim gets on top of the situation, he finds himself ten paces behind the next minute. I was not surprised that his efforts eventually led to a heart attack.
All said and read, is there money to be made in China? There are indeed foreign companies in China which make money.
On the other hand, a lot of companies probably have to admit that doing business there is anything but easy. I would appear that investors are increasingly fed up with the rules changing all the time and having their products often pirated as soon as they hit the market, just to name a few business hazards. Nevertheless, the lure of 1.2bn potential consumers should keep them coming.
For any of these, Tim Clissold's book is a must. If you are keen on the subject yourself you will also want to have a look at Jim Mann's Beijing Jeep (A case study of western business in China) and Joe Studwell's The China Dream.