China CEO I have had a rich cyber-life these few years. I have had the chance to dialogue with some extraordinary people. I have not had occasion to shake their hands or to look into their faces because they are Internet acquaintances. I now count some 20 people as “real friends” though I have yet to hear them speak except via VOIP. I am grateful for my time recently with Professor Chris Carr of Cal Poly’s MBA program. He is every bit as the informed, intuitive, and gracious teacher I had envisioned over the months we connected via blog comments and emails. He was here, flesh and blood, to scout out learning opportunities for 30+ MBA students at Cal Poly who will visit here in June as part of an ambitious trip to immerse themselves in China’s business and social culture. From what I have seen, if I can be so prosaic, they have the experience of a lifetime ahead of them.

An added perk for me was Chris making good on a promise to bring a copy of China CEO: Voices of Experience by Juan Antonio Fernandez and Laurie Underwood. Amazon is still just a rain-forest here and the area bookstores nearby rarely have material that I want to read: it is censored or just not in stock. I need more visitors from abroad!

The book is filled with dozens of insightful advisories for doing business in China. Professor Fernandez and Journalist Underwood have a well constructed, predictably pedagogical text about how business is done and should be approached by would-be expat executives. The authors mined the information presented from 20 American, European and Japanese Fortune 500 executives and 8 “high profile consultants.” The average interviewee in the book had was about 50 years of age, had 23 years of experience with the same company and five years of expat time in China out of a total average of 15 years abroad. The book details:

Qualities of a Successful International Manager in China Managing Chinese Employees Working with Business Partners Winning Over Chinese Consumers Negotiations with the Chinese Government and Living in China among other offerings wherein Guanxi, IPR, Cultural Adaptation and other expected challenges are discussed. The enormous scope of the book limits greater detail, but the reader will still glean many important tips from its pages. It is a must-read book for the executives or foreign service types being posted here for the first time. The chapters on adaptation strategies for new expat families and managers alone make it worth the cover price.

It is likely not a useful book for the young traveller/adventurer. It is not, as it purports to be, a guide to establishing and managing businesses in the Middle Kingdom. It is effectively written by the power elite in China. Most of these CEOs, personable and kind as they might be in life, likely don’t interact much with everyday Chinese citizens and long ago forgot what it feels like to be an entrepreneur or specifically a China Expatrapreneur.

It is an exceptionally well outlined text and would be a perfect prepackaged course for an MBA or DBA introduction to China. It will make you functionally conversant in the language of expats businessmen and is an worthy primer to read while on the path toward greater fluency.

I am now waiting for a book that looks over the impressive heads of the CEOs of Bayer, BP, GE, Coke and Siemens–all interviewed in China CEO–to the grass roots leaders who are part and parcel of the China most of the rest of us know or will likely come to abide in. I am hoping for a supplemental text that will chronicle the stories of the likes of Chris Barclay. I think the West and China is hungry for, and and in need of, a book about the cultural groundbreakers who came here with little more than a command of English and a love of Asia and who succeeded personally and professionally.

By Lonnie Hodge @ OMBW 

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