Wednesday, May 31, 2006

China, Inc.

China Inc.
By Ted C. Fishman

Unlike Guanxi, which I was heavily disappointed with, China, Inc. was exactly the type of book I was looking to read on China. First, it provides a fair and wide-ranging perspective on China: discussing various industries, concerns over legal enforcement of intellectual property, an attempt at historical perspective, etc. Second, given the rapid changes that China is undergoing now, it is essential that the book be as recently published as possible and this is (2005). Third, despite doing his homework and digging up numbers from a number of studies and articles, the writing remains very accessible and contains a number of personal stories of when Fishman was in China. And lastly, the perspective with which he writes, I appreciated on two levels: as an American citizen, I have concerns over whether China's rapid growth will cause a decline in the excellent quality of life here. Fishman cannot obviously answer those issues (can anyone?), but does his best at bringing up the issues to the forefront. And secondly, being Chinese in ethniticity, I appreciated that Fishman attempted to be as informed as possible in the culture and its differences. There is nothing worse than when an American of non Chinese heritage travels to China once and is suddenly convinced that he/she knows more than you about it.

All in all, a very good read and I would recommend it to anyone in the US to read, because like it or not, if things keep on going the way they are heading, China's dramatic growth will change the lifestyle here in the near future.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Guanxi: Microsoft, China, and Bill Gate's Plan to Win the Road Ahead

Guanxi: Microsoft, China, and Bill Gate's Plan to Win the Road Ahead

by Robert Buderi and Gregory T. Huang

This book wasn't really that insightful in examining Microsoft's thought process in establishing their R&D lab in Beijing or into the Chinese culture. The authors write with too much reverence for Microsoft and those in China, such that they really don't challenge their subjects enough and delve into the more interesting issues. For example, while they proclaim that the researchers at Microsoft create truly innovative products, I never got the sense that they really understood why something was innovative and what the significance of the product was. Their discussion of everything else, Chinese cultural differences, decisions to expand, etc, were similarly light-weight.

I think the most interesting part of the book was their description of the departure of Kai-Fu Lee, the person who led the initiative to start a lab in Beijing, to go work for their competitor, Google. This part was interesting, for really the opposite of what you'd want out of a good book, because it seemed like the authors were so biased in favor of Microsoft, that you indirectly got a sense of how those at Microsoft reacted to the decision. That is, they attempted to be accepting, but on some level smarted with a sense of betrayal. To me, it was interesting to note that that particular aspect might be a large part of Microsoft's company culture now - that the best and the brightest of talents may not automatically go to work for Microsoft anymore; however, their employees remain fiercely (and slightly irrationally) loyal.

Anyways, I will be attending the authors' talk at MIT. It should be interesting to see whether my critiques were well-founded or not.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


By Banana Yoshimoto

This was a set of 6 short stories that were introspective and mostly dealt with the subject of the perception of life and relationships. It's decently written, but not particularly memorable. Mainly this is because the writing style seems like a mix of different influences. In addition, the short story format inherently translates to less depth that I could sink my teeth into. I'd say this would be passable as relaxing reading material on a plane, but I can't imagine myself rereading this again.