7:23:15 China Shakes the World, a book review

There are a number of books about the amazing rise of China on the world economic stage over the last 25 years. But I learned more about why China has arrived from China Shakes the World by British journalist James Kynge than from all of several other China books I've read of late.

China Shakes the World is a refreshing read because I think Kynge gets right the nuances of a paradoxical capitalist economy driven by authoritarian political control. Kynge is the proverbial "old China hand." Fluent in Mandarin, he has been on the China scene since student days there in the 1980s. He has two decades of experience covering China for the Financial Times, and is presently stationed in Beijing.

[book cover]

Like any experienced journalist, Kynge knows the real story about something as phenomenal as China rising to the #2 position in the world's economic order is hypercompetive entrepreneurs. Individuals. Kynge puts in the shoe-leather time and his interviews take him to such unexpected places as Prato, Italy, where an immigrant Chinese population (numbering some 20,000) has taken over and vanquished a world-renowned, local textile industry. The Chinese did this by simply outworking everyone in their host country.

Kynge shows the displacement is complete when everything gets outsourced to China. A Chinese entrepreneur buys a marginal German steel mill, sends in an army of Chinese workers to disassemble down to the last bolt, then ship it all back to China, where the reassembled plant succeeds in a highly competitive world market.

Sometimes the Chinese can't get the techology transfer they want by "joint venturing" with Western corporations. That doesn't stop them from, as Kynge points out, reverse-engineering a Volkswagen Jetta and manufacturing the equivalent quality car at a third the price. U.S. exports of the Chery are forthcoming.

The insights that savvy journalist Kynge offers are numerous, but one of his "connect-the-dots" moments is unforgettable.

China's voracious manufacturing appetite for scrap metal has driven prices sky high. As Kynge writes, 'For me, this new trend reached its crescendo in the several weeks beginning in mid-February 2004, when, slowly at first but with mounting velocity, manhole covers started to disappear from roads and pavements around the world." Yes, in the dead of night these iron covers were levered up, sawn, and loaded on ships bound for China!

Read China Shakes the World for a compelling portrait of a nation on a mission to become top dog among the world's economies.

China Shakes the World by James Kynge. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, New York, 2006. 270 pp. ISBN: 978-0-618-70564-1.

Image credit: google images: amazon.com


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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.



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