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Mr. China: A Memoir

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. Mr. China tells the rollicking story of a young man who goes to China with the misguided notion that he will help bring the Chinese into the modern world, only to be schooled by the most resourceful...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings


Mr. Clissold illustrates business experiences in China masterfully. As an ethnic Chinese who have worked mostly in US-based companies, I have often wonder how best to explain the vast difference in US vs. China business culture. It comes down to this: in US we assume trust until proven otherwise; in China the reverse is true.

A must-read for anyone wants to understand modern China

As a person who was born in Taiwan and came of age in the States, I marvel at Tim's in-depth understanding of Chinese culture. All those proverbs he quoted at the beginning of each chapter are old sayings that are known for almost all Chinese and capture much essence of Chinese view of life and world through ages. His sincerity and truthful portrait of the Chinese that he encountered makes this book truly educational for anyone who wants to do business in China, like many reviews have already mentioned. What makes this book so special is Tim's compassion toward fellow human beings, in the instance of this book, toward people who live in the land that European happened to call "China." Scratching the surface difference of customs or language, people everywhere are pretty similar--they all long for a better live, try to do the best of what they are given and want to be treated respectfully. Being a member of this exclusive five-thousand year old club, I admire and appreciate Tim's efforts to put a humane face of Chinese people and try to build deeper understanding between two great nations.

Must Reading Before Business Travel to China

Several days ago, I learned of the book Mr. China by Tim Clissold. I started reading it last night and finished it early this morning - only 252 pages. It is an absolutely mesmerizing chronicle of the investing in China in the 90's, and of the challenge to traveling out into the hinterlands of that enormous nation. To a great extent it explains to me the situation I was actually in during my trip to Humen China last November - the balance between the Party and the private sector there, the role of the press, the work ethic and entrepreneurial drive of the Chinese, the intrigue of their nefarious rules/regulations and the balance between Beijing and the provinces. It reinforces the wisdom of our non-profit trade group having over 30 members with offices in China, a resouce we can draw from in our network. But this book is what individuals must read and come to grips with prior to travel to China. I almost can not imagine what our members went through in opening factories there. After you read this book, neither will you. And the same holds true for our many members there or soon to be in one form or another. Simply amazing and an important, informative, moving and almost visceral read for those of us in this global game.

A Cautionary Tale about Making Lemonade from Lemons

The title of this book, MR. CHINA, refers to the notion in the early 1990's that many Westerner businessmen wanted to be the first to get inside China's nascent boom, to become a "master of the universe" with respect to the People's Republic. While the winner is ostensibly the author's mysterious business partner, known only as Pat, the author lays his own claim to that award. By the end of this book, however, it's quite clear that no Westerner could ever be "Mr. China," and that those who chased earliest and hardest missed out almost completely on the real blossoming of mainland China's relationship with Western business. The author's near miss bicycling through a dark tunnel, intended as a metaphor about the emerging China, seems far more apt as a metaphor for his own decade of hopeless running in place. In MR. CHINA, Tim Clissold tells a remarkable story of some of the first Western business forays into China during the 1990's. The model seemed simple enough - bring Wall Street to the People's Republic by raising huge sums of capital in an investment fund, trade that capital for majority shares in going businesses that seemed promising, infuse them with new technology and management practices, then buy up weaker competitors and consolidate them into massive, unbeatable players in the domestic and export markets. Of course, it was all far easier on paper than it was in reality, and that is the crux of Mr. Clissold's story. By any measure, Clissold's tale is a businessperson's nightmare, a sort of Wall Street meets the Wild, Wild East. Politics infects every transaction, rules and contracts are broken as fast as they are made and signed, paperwork is a mess, accounting principles are nonexistent, money disappears or moves from one bank account to another to hide it, local managers lie, embezzle, or compete against their own employer, and everyone works hardest when they are busy lining their own pockets. Attempts to fire managers spark massive lawsuits, beatings, and even riots. Clissold spends nearly all his time putting out fires, holding off his investment fund managers, arguing with Chinese managers he has fired, and pleading his case to judges, government officials, and Party representatives. The harder he works, the more the fund's companies fail until his own health suffers. Tim Clissold tells his story in a surprisingly matter-of-fact tone; he deserves to be far angrier and more cynical. He writes in an entertaining and engaging style, mixing a sort of detached amusement about events with some interesting cultural background. His Chinese managers and officials come across a bit too stereotyped and some of his background is clichéd, but those shortcomings are far outweighed by his outrageous exploits. The only false note occurs in the final two paragraphs of the book when the author attempts - badly and unnecessarily - to soften his message and rationalize the dishonest and outlandish behaviors he has spent the previous 248 pages de

What a Way to Get an Education

I read this book on the long flight from the US to China. It wasn't my first flight, and probably won't be my last. But reading this book put a different twist on my thoughts. Well, not too different. His reporting is right on the money. China is different, better in some ways, worse in others. I can't imagine even thinking of doing a joint venture in China using Western money with any thought that you would ever make a profit. Buy anything you want from China, be it shoes, machine tools or computers. But a joint venture, no way. The author had an ambition to teach the Chinese about business. Are you kidding? The Chinese have been businessmen for centuries. Because of the confusing governments (for centuries) they have learned that business is best conducted through an extended family system. You can trust your brother (even if he is not too bright) more than any outsider. And if you have trouble, your mother will arbitrate between the two of you. Nepotism, no crime, it's the way of life. Accounting systems, sure we have one of those, what would you like it to say? As a people, great people - bright, hard working, well educated (go look at the enrollment at any large university). And it's the way and the light of the future. Mr. Clissold has told a great tale. I'm waiting for the next installment to see if he ever gets any money out of China.
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