China Book Recommendations

May 5, 2014

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It is a testament to the enormous interest in China in the U.S. that books on China are taking over the bookshelves.  Of course, the most authoritative recent book on the history of Sino American relations is Henry Kissinger’s On China.  It is a surprisingly lively read, given that its author is 91 years old.  His guttural Teutonic voice disguises a razor sharp wit that comes out in his book, which is surprisingly accessible.  It is an excellent way to understand Chinese history and how that history contributes to China’s behavior in the world today.

Another must read is by David Shambaugh, a political science professor at George Washington University and it is entitled, China Goes Global.  This is a macro analysis of China’s growth into a world power.  It covers diplomacy, culture and economics.  Shambaugh focuses more on current events that Kissinger and his book is more rigorous academically.  Of course, all the information Kissinger needs for his book is in his head.  Shambaugh clearly researched his.  It is full of statistics and counters some of the received wisdom on the inevitability of China’s rise.  Recent news that China will soon pass the U.S. as the largest economy in the world makes this book a very helpful reality check.

Finally, I am very much looking forward to reading China Goes West by Joel Backaler, which is just being released as this is posted.  While I have not read the entire book, I did read a pre-release sample chapter and was impressed.  Where Shambaugh takes a macro approach, Backaler works at the micro level.  Unlike Kissinger and Shambaugh, Backaler draw much of his knowledge from actually toiling in the vineyards of Sino American commercial relations. He is a consultant who is currently working both for American and Chinese companies to help bridge the economic and cultural divide.  His experience shows.  Where he finds time to write a book, I can’t explain. He bases his information on actual case studies of particular Chinese companies trying to make the leap into the global economy.  He has a lively writing style and draws compelling portraits of the Chinese entrepreneurs who launch these budding global companies.  They represent very rich source material for a book that will, I believe, be the best possible primer for those of us seeking to help Chinese companies coming to the West.