One of the best things about my blog “job” is that I am constantly getting asked by publishers to review new China books. One of the worst things about my blog “job” is that I am constantly getting asked by publishers to review new China books.
I love reading books on China, especially good ones. And I am now at the point that I turn down the review copy if I think the book is not worth my reading time.
But I hate hate hate writing the reviews. I think it is because I never know really what to say beyond, “great book, read it if you are interested in ….” Or maybe it is because my father is a retired English professor and I know there is no way any review I write could match those to which he has become accustomed from his multi-decade addiction to the New York Review of Books.
So I read the books and then delay the reviews. Sometimes though my delays pay off when some other far more literate blogger reviews the book and then I can simply link over and say something like, “yeah, I read the book and I agree.” That is what has spurred this post today. But I am going to take it even further and very briefly review all of the China books I have read and enjoyed in the last few months.
- I start with an e-book written by my friend Andrew Hupert. The book is entitled The Fragile Bridge: Conflict Management in Chinese Business and I am going to liberally borrow from G.E. Anderson’s blog post on it to describe it. Anderson describes it as providing practical advice on structuring agreements and contracts with Chinese businesses and as providing necessary “warning signs of future conflict.” As Anderson so aptly puts it, many behaviors that come naturally to a Western businessperson are viewed as red flags by their Chinese counterparts, “and avoidance of these behaviors are a real key to setting up a partnership for success.” Anderson goes so far as to say that if you are serious about doing business in China, you need this book. Yeah, I read the book and I agree.
- The next book, believe it or not, is a case book. For those of you lucky enough never to have attended law school, a case book is essentially a law school text book. Most case books are incredibly dry and are sold or tossed after the class ends. But “Doing Business in China: Problems, Cases and Materials,” by Daniel C.K. Chow and Anna M. Han could not be more different. It is superb. So superb, in fact, that when interviewed today by a reporter I listed it as one of the three best China books I had read in the last year. So superb in fact, that when I asked an associate at my firm about what she thought of an expensive book we had purchased for her on Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property in China, she responded by saying that she had read the chapter in this book and found it “far superior.” This is now the book I refer to young lawyers and law students who write seeking a book that will enable them to better understand Chinese law.
- East Asian Labor and Employment Law, by Ronald C. Brown, is also a great law book. Brown wrote the book, Understanding Labor and Employment Law in China, which already has a prominent place on my bookshelf and which I reviewed when it came out here. Professor Brown’s newest book deserves the same accolades as I gave his previous book but it is probably suited for a somewhat different audience. This book is less a hands “how-to” and more of an exploration and explanation of how globalization affects “lawyers, business, labor, labor unions, and human resource management and the labor issues that can arise in dealing with EA [East Asian] trade and investment.” Its focus is on Japan, China and South Korea, but it makes for an excellent resource on how labor has become a global issue and the repercussions of that.
- When I first received The New Chinese Economy: Dynamic Transitions into the Future, by Elias C. Grivoyannis, I groaned. It is, to put it mildly, a very dense and academic-looking book. But once I started it, I could not put it down. It is a collection of essays on China’s economy by various different China scholars and the essays range from good to great. Most of the writers appear to be Chinese nationals, but thankfully, the editing of the book was excellent so it feels as though all of the essays were written by native English speakers. My favorites were “A Historical Background of China’s Economy and Lessons from Its Globalization, by Grivoyannis himself and “Understanding China’s Rising Saving Rate: The Role of Higher Education Reform,” by Binkai Chen and Rudai Yang. The back jacket of the book accurately describes it as follows “a must-read for graduate and undergraduate students, academic and economic policy researchers, business professionals, and economic consultants with a vested interest [or any interest?] in the new and evolving economy of China.”