As I’ve not been in China for a longer period than usual I have a feeling of disconnection from my Chinese friends and colleagues. Via email, social media and Skype I have kept in contact with many people but as I have noted in prior posts being there makes all the difference. Yet sometimes (like right now) being there is not possible while the desire to stay connected to what’s going on in China remains strong.
One way I try to stay in touch is to read and follow the writing and posts of people that I know or know to be interesting. Since information coming from China is ‘filtered’, my Chinese-born friends are disinclined to write about what’s really going on in their view. The view of expatriates (mostly western) becomes even more timely since expats are given more freedom and in the absence of other information, the most direct and accurate source of trends and information (I admit accuracy is in the eye of the beholder and the opinion of people I know and trust is of much higher value than a reputed expert).
I’ve come to know people like Shaun Rein author of The End of Cheap China http://amzn.to/Tq4NJ6 and Michael Dunne author of American Wheels Chinese Roads http://amzn.to/UXSSyd both of whom I’ve met in New York. Their books are well worth reading for different reasons. Shaun’s book discusses changes in the Chinese consumer marketplace leading up to the current situation, in addition he runs a company CMR China which is a strategic market intelligence firm focused on China. Michael’s book catalogs the development of GM’s entry into China along with the partnerships and frustrations of same that were a part of his deep involvement in the process. His views help offer perspective on the dramatic growth of the Chinese economy and consumer marketplace. It has a cinematic feel to it at times and I’d love to see a movie made about his book. Also worth reading is Rebecca Fannin’s Startup Asia http://amzn.to/ReA8zg which also covers startups in India and Vietnam.
I’d like to meet Tom Doctoroff – current CEO J. Walter Thompson China whose book ‘What Chinese Want’ http://amzn.to/WsxYsm details the changes in behavior of the Chinese consumer and he postulates the reasons behind those changes. I also read an interesting book by Tim Clissold entitled ‘Mr. China’ http://amzn.to/U8ujzX about Mr. Clissold’s experiences in China in the 1990’s and 2000’s dealing with a country that had no understanding of western business protocols and methods. Right now I am reading (on Mr. Dunne’s recommendation) ‘Poorly Made in China’ http://amzn.to/Tq5VMD by Paul Midler which is a behind the scenes account about shifting manufacturing to China.
Staying in touch with and following westerners who live and work in China is a good idea whether you actually live in or travel to China. But when you can’t be there you take what you can get. I particularly enjoy diverging viewpoints and counterpoints from the many different people I follow. I feel that the more varied the sampling the better opportunity I might have to get a more accurate picture.
A lot can happen in five months don’t you agree?