Mr. China: A Memoir
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Mr. China: A Memoir

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  499 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Mr. China tells the rollicking story of a young man who goes to China with the misguided notion that he will help bring the Chinese into the modern world, only to be schooled by the most resourceful and creative operators he would ever meet. Part memoir, part parable, Mr. China is one man's coming-of-age story where he learns to respect and admire the nation he sought to c...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 28th 2006 by HarperBusiness (first published January 1st 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Jim
I doubt I'll read a better business book this year. A cracking tale of a man trying to set up and invest in businesses in China, it reads sometimes like a drama, sometimes a soap opera, sometimes a comedy and sometimes a travelogue. It works on all these levels too. You can't help feel sorry for Clissold as he wrestles with business case situations that would be near impossible to control in the West never mind China, involving fraud, cheating, lying, shooting, rioting and cultural racism. The s...more
Patrick
Really enjoyed this book - if you've got at least a passing interest into the inner workings of large business, finance, and/or China as the rising international power of 21st century - this is worth a read. (I.E. even if you have some issues with 'Free Trade' as currently practiced, in my view it really helps to try and figure out at least what's going on). The author constructs a good narrative and writes well, has a good poetic sense. His insider perspective is fun too - he presents the work...more
James
Tim Clissold, businessman and China-aficionado aiming to strike it big in China, tells his own story of how he planned to help bring China into the modern world and at the same time make a fortune in investments in a rapidly-modernising Chinese economy. However, as he finds out is not all plain sailing; problems arise from the first day: language issues, corrupt managers, inefficient legal systems, impatient investors, poor planning, and a heart attack all challenge Clissold and yet he remains t...more
Kelly
If you have ever had business dealings in China, you might enjoy this book. The author of this memoir (but shelved in the business section of Barnes & Noble) breaks into the Chinese business market in the 1990s as a partner in a joint venture company. Tim Clissold does a great job of describing the hazards of entering into business agreements with several Chinese manufacturers. Business dealings are difficult and rife with cultural and legal difficulties. He paints a picture of a messy, comp...more
Erez Davidi
"Mr. China: A Memoir" is much more than a mere account of doing business in China in spite of being a memoir of exactly just that. This book is a story of a Mandarin-speaking Englishman who joins with a Wall Street banker, and together they found a private equity fund. The whole idea behind the private equity fund is to take advantage of the just-opened Chinese market and to provide capital to worthy factories, which are in a desperate need for cash to grow their businesses. The idea seemed bril...more
Fraser Kinnear
I (foolishly) studied business at university, and I've read more than enough business books, but my focus was on accounting and finance, both of which very theoretical, and there was clearly a vast swathe of understanding I missed: politics and negotiation. Tim Clissold seems to have been through the worst of those two, and in a country famous for making a quagmire out of them.

The memoir is an account of Clissold's managing the biggest foreign direct investment in China in the 90's: 17 joint ve...more
Peter
In part of my quest to learn more about that massive economy out there I picked this book up on a whim while at my local library. I'm please to say I was not disappointed.

This book describes and details the grave differences in the Chinese business mentality and ethic from our own. It's told from the perspective of an investor representing hundreds of millions of dollars (500 million I believe) of American dollars flowing into the Chinese system. The author, and his partner are chasing after the...more
Patrick
A memoir of the author's time setting up joint-ventures in China's early 90s. This is very clearly a business story. There are characters (although little character development), battles (of the corporate variety), intrigue, and nefarious dealings. There is not, however, much of a plot. Briefly: the author goes to China hoping to bring investment money to the ailing factories just starting to shake off the doldrums of communism. Some joint ventures succeed. Many more have growing pains, as the C...more
Lifeng Wu
I grew up in China in the 70's. I relate to most of the experiences discussed in this book.

It's one of the most humorous English books I read about China.

I recommend it to all my friends who have some China experience.


A good narrative. A good account of China in a specific period. Author's style could have been more polished. But , well, he's an investment banker.

The author could have put in a few "success" stories. The three main stories on Madame Wu (Beijing), Chen HaiJing (HuBei), and final...more
Julian King
This is an excellent memoir of a financial adventure in China in the early 90s.

As a layman, I can't comment on the wisdom or otherwise of the various undertakings described here, nor of the way in which they were undertaken. But this cautionary tale is told with sufficient clarity and verve to ensure that even I, financial illiterate that I am, came away with a good idea of what had happened, and I immensely enjoyed the freewheeling style of Tim Clissold's telling.

The Chinese are baffling, even...more
Chilly SavageMelon
A really engaging memoir about an englishman's love affair with China and trials in doing million dollar business there during the early and mid-90's. My four stars are real testament to Clissold's ability to make a possibly tedious tale relateable, because I am certainly not the type to enjoy the chronicles of business.
There was also insight shared about the chinese character and hints as to why it might be as it is I found illuminating after some mysterious moments during my own brief visit th...more
Joana Marta
I love China history and their costumes, I love to read books that explain all of these and more. This book is very different of all the others I've ever read, it's very focused in businesses in China and its growth in the early 90's, when the rest of the world is trying to reach this big economy!

Is in the middle of this that Tim founds himself, but after all of this time, a country so close and with their own costumes and values, he will discover that you can have all the money in the world, bu...more
Wellington
I was disappointed in this book. It seemed cobbled together. Maybe it should have been relabled as a collection of short stories on China.

I got the impression this is book to dip your toe into the waters of understanding the Middle Kingdom's ways of doing business. The pace was too fast for me to know which information was important to the next chapter.

None of the characters were particularly memorable. For some reason, every character seemed trivial ..... in the conclusion, Tim hoped that he ga...more
Marjorie Bourgoin
I never thought I'd enjoy a book about business and wall street and china's economy this much, but I did. I really did, I loved this book, every page, every catastrophe story.
Santica
Jul 29, 2008 Santica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Santica by: Kelly Cieslak
This book is about a Brit with a China fascination who works on a series of joint ventures in the early to mid 90's. Each venture failing almost as dismally as the last. The book does not paint a very appealing picture of Chinese culture, and you have to wonder why he sticks with this line of work after it greatly begins to impact his health. I found the book relatively interesting since I worked with a Chinese company around the same time and could relate/empathize with a lot of what he describ...more
S.
tried to resist reviewing this since I read it in '07, and then in bits and pieces, but with my review of "Big in China," figured I'd just jot down a few notes. this is a business book, contrary to the good reads entry description, but in contrast to the 70-80% of foreigners in asia who teach english, clissold was hired to get factories functioning, and so it embraces capitalism in its raw, chinese, polluting form.

not a bad work; has even a poignant moment or two towards the end as clissold refl...more
Abby
This was one of the better depictions I've read about the great cultural divide between China and the US. Though a bit heavy on the business side of the time described, the reader can easily get a sense for what it is to communicate and work in China.

It is interesting to read about the first big push of international funds into China's new open economy. Being there now is a totally different experience. I'm humbled by what I see there now, barely 20 years into China's experiment into bringing f...more
Tj Smith
Must read for anyone looking to understand how China works and some basic history
Fiona
Sorry I wanted to like this book but the style didn't grab me so I came up - after all there are too many others waiting to be read and ENJOYed
Michael Wright
Jul 07, 2008 Michael Wright rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in China
Recommended to Michael by: Ollie Ward
A must-read for anyone considering setting up any kind of JV, Business, or Representative Office in China.

Whilst it's a little dated now (It focusses on the early period of mass US investment in China, led by wall street, and when China was in the 'Factory Era' rather than the 'Knowledge Economy' that China is moving towards) It's full of great lessons on HOW TO, but more often HOW NOT TO in The Far East.

A great read - recommended to my by my good Friend Ollie Ward who's been a source of const...more
Kevin
As sympathetic a take on China and China business as I've seen since Peter Hessler's writing. Clissold was here even earlier, learning Chinese at university right after Tiananmen and present during the first wave of wide-eyed foreign investment that has still not stopped.

As China enters the next stage of its development with the rise of Jim McGregor's 1.4B customers looking for stuff to buy, it'll be exciting to see how things evolve here as the investment starts heading the other direction...
Jon
A fun read, providing an insight into the 'gold rush' in China when Western businesses started to perceive potential. However, the pitfalls, as described in the book, were (are) excruciatingly myriad. Not 5 stars as the tale jumped about a bit and lacked real coherence. However, Clissold writes in an accessible way and the tales he tells are compelling (even if just to hear how so much money can disappear so quickly in pursuit of greater riches!).
Eve
l'histoire de mr shi : ce poet called gentleman shi who lived in a stone house and became addicted to eating lions he went in search of them and found ten in a market but realized that they were all dead when he got home

published by a universite professor about a 100years ago there was a move to abolish characters. they proposed the idea of replacing characters with a phonetic representation

shih shih.................... shih !
Nicholas Hodler
This mind-blowing narrative recounts the true misadventures of a Wall Street banker and a British ex-consultant who try to make it big in the chinese automotive industry in the early 1990's, and how they end up fizzling away $500 million.

The story is so incredible that it more than makes up for the mediocre writing and multiple repetitions. A story of the quintessential culture-clash, many will have trouble believing it's true.
Kenny
A review on the back of the book mentions the novel being Kafka-esque, which is an apt way to describe many of the encounters that the protagonist faces.

Quite a humorous read and an indication to how vastly different things are done in China.

The author seemed to write about landscape/scenery a fair bit. Typically skimmed through those paragraphs.

I was reading it for the action, and that part did not fail to deliver.
Kyle Stewart
Excellent book describing the experiences of a zealous British ex-pat trying to make the most of the massive opportunity in China in the early 90s. It drew a bit long in the end as it was quite clear that this would not be a full account of the endeavor but rather, just of the most troubling bits. I would love to read a second account of the success he experienced as well. Highly recommend nonetheless.
Douglas Tatelman
The stories of trying to do business in a lawless empire are fascinating. Lawless and way too many laws, local and national government bodies, local and national communist parties. Banks that allow funds to be drained illegally.

Mr Clissold learns and shares what he learned and his expensive mistakes.

Mandatory reading if you want to understand our world.
Stephanie
I couldn't even finish this book and I really tried. I got to page 152 and gave up, totally wasn't worth my time. I think if the memoir had produced this as a biography instead of authoring it himself it would have been more enjoyable. I felt a lot of the story was hard to follow because it jumped around. It just didn't hold my attention.
Mason
May 20, 2011 Mason added it
A rather biased and colored memoir on the experiences of a British expatriate trying to find his way through the promises of financial fortune during the 1990s. Clissold presents the frustrations that accompany investment in China at the time, but he often comes across as condescending and better-than-thou in relation to his Chinese counterparts.
Eveline Chao
The cut-off ear story bumped this up to five stars. But then that long boring passage in the middle about how the Chinese language works that seemed to have nothing to do with the rest of the story bumped this back down to 4 stars. Overall it's amazing though and I have been running around very enthusiastically recommending this to everyone I can.
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