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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 24 October 2004
As a native Chinese, I was really surprised to see how much Tim has understood China after all these years. I think he was very honest and objective about his opinions about the Chinese and their culture. If there are any book you need to read before you conduct business with the Chinese or in China, this is the one!!!
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on 22 August 2004
The China Dream: The Elusive Quest for the Last Great Untapped Market on Earth '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.
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on 6 June 2004
I worked in Hong Kong for an American news organisation from 1996-98, when many of the events in this book occur. During that time I heard countless anecdotes about the sheer impossibility of doing business in China. The trouble was this went against the official business news dogma of the time, i.e. doing business in China is great and we're all gonna be rich rich RICH! So the anecdotes were broadcast only on the dinner party circuit, and not across the media. Which was a shame.
If only this book was around then. What it does is to take the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) of those stories, weave them together, give them a narrative structure and then populate them characters you can identify with.
Despite being officially being a socialist country, there's no social security system for the unemployed in China. So what's nice to read is how the author resisted constant pressure from his Wall Street backers to carry out their panacea for ailing businesses: lay off the goddam workers. He preferred his companies to lose money in the short term, rather than destroy the social fabric of the villages he invested in by creating thousands of destitute unemployed.
Some scenes are laugh-out loud funny, particularly the final chapter at the Five Star Beer factory. Unlucky customers would buy totally empty cans of beer, whereas really unlucky customers would find their beer-bottles stuffed full of garlic bulbs.
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on 29 December 2005
As a Chinese, I can be quite sensitive when it comes to Westerners writing about China. The vast cultural differences always result in misinterpretation of Chinese culture and Chinese people. Everyone is free to write whatever they want, but objectiveness is the least I expect.
It was an equally enjoyable and touching experience to read Mr. China. What Tim described in the book, the Chinese way of doing things, the politics and the history, all seem so familiar to me, yet I’m seeing it through a Westerner’s eyes. Some of the silly things just made me laugh, and I would think, ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about!’ but there were also other things I don’t necessarily agree. I was touched by Tim’s curiosity about Chinese culture, especially right at the end when he cycled to some of the poorest rural areas and experienced his most frightening moment.
The book has focused on events from inland China, and very little was covered on the coastal cities in the southeast, which I think would provide a completely different picture. In a way, I wish the story was a bit longer. Nevertheless, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested to know more about China.
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This book, which reads like a thriller, relates the tribulations of a Wall Street banker and his investment business in China.
The reader discovers with consternation the unstoppable disappearance of millions of dollars invested in a country that is (was?) not business- but rather 'control by one party'-oriented.
Tim Clissold gives a stunning portrait of China's industrial landscape inherited from Mao's tactical ideas (hide China's major industries in remote places) as well as from the passage from military to civilian production.
He gives also an excellent picture of the different 'management' styles of Chinese industrialists: from the bullying old Red Guard over the clever opportunist to the cunning visionary.
This book is a must read for all those interested in China's history and economic revolution and even more for those interested in doing business in a key economic world player.
Napoleon has said (citation in this book):'Let China sleep, for when she wakes up, she will shake the world'. China woke up and the stakes are formidable.
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on 30 December 2005
This is an amazing and all-too-credible story of the pain of international business. I can relate to too many themes from this book.
Ultimately, this is a compilation of experiences by a novice to the Chinese market. It's a real humdinger of law-obsessed American banks verus Chinese blinkered-but-entrepreneurial reactionary thinking.
Entrepreneurial? Yes. Plus also a touch of fraud. Several major shareholder battles ensued because the Chinese didn't want to change. Just like an English business, the Chinese business just believed in the sanctity of its own existence (what the hell do customers matter?). So the Chinese just tried to take the money and run.... time and time and time again.
Most revealing of all is the language. I learnt that Chinese has only one tense: the present. Calendars appeared only in 19th century. A glass of water (p159) required an essay just to order!
A fantastic book and well worth reading.
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on 26 November 2015
Tim Clissold has written a first class and enjoyable book. It is informative and a very easy read. He keeps the reader interested by using
his very descriptive word pictures of the individuals that he met during his work in China, all from factory managers to government officials, local mayors and individual factory workers met on route. His Board meetings with his bosses back in the USA and their flying visits to China when all seemed to be falling apart are amusing and very corporate American. His knowledge of Chinese history told in a readable way, adds much to the book. I like also his excellent description of the countryside and cities, having seen and visited much of the areas, I quite 'relived' it all. His knowledge of Chinese working methods and local government involvement is intrigue in itself. The gearbox factory and the brake pad factory are almost books in themselves. The book was during a time when America was rich beyond, now it China that
holds the riches. What a humorous film it would make and imagine the fun the watcher would have from the beer factory saga in Beijing and the tantrums of Madam Wu.
I recommend Mr China as a 'cracking' read, and congratulate Tim on his tenacity and work ethic as a fund investor, and eventual author.
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on 24 April 2004
Doing business in China is certainly not for the faint-hearted, as thebook tells, all so vividly. Don't expect order, as there is none. Anddon't expect to gain an advantage over the locals unless you've masteredthe art of thriving in utter chaos. Yet, at heart, the Chinese are justthe same as any other people in the world. I think this is what theauthor is trying to get across.
It's not about offering advice - as there's no panacea to success inChina, but it gives one an idea of what to expect and be prepared to seewhy things are done differently, though the situations described mightsomehow be more extreme than others as they relate to joint ventures,which are more or less a thing of the past.
Despite the seriousness of the subject, the book is very readable andhighly entertaining.
I would recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who is interested in doingbusiness in China.
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on 5 March 2016
A very enjoyable read, even though I don't particularly like, and rarely read, non-fiction.

The story is fascinating and having been to China several times, I found explanations in this book for a lot of the behaviour of the people I met there. Plenty of good humour in there, too.

The only caveat to potentially using this as a learning resource is that is now a few years old and China is evolving at light speed. Having said that, one of the interesting points the book makes is how timeless certain elements of Chinese are.

Regardless, it is still a very good and compelling read. I recommend it.
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on 5 June 2006
Mr China is a fantastic read, and incredibly insightful for anyone wanting to understand the difficulties of doing business in China. This book focuses on every aspect, from some hilarious anecdotes about the Chinese language, to some more serious notes on the effects of the Cultural Revolution and the "Gang of Four" on the lives of Chinese natives.

A very easy read, and difficult to put down.
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