This was an easy, interesting book about trade between the US (really, the western world, including Britain) and China between the late 1700s and earl...moreThis was an easy, interesting book about trade between the US (really, the western world, including Britain) and China between the late 1700s and early 1900s.
You meet interesting characters from every side: American trade merchants, American captains, British captains, Chinese traders and Chinese bureaucrats. The stories about life in Canton - where all trade between China and the West took place was good, though not AS detailed as I've read in similar books.
The impact of Chinese goods on American culture was fun to read about, though I wish there had been more of that. I enjoyed understanding the economics of trade and how people (men) could become quite wealthy even after you paid for and kitted out a ship with goods.
The discussion of the Chinese/US/British political triumvirate was very informative - helped me to understand further those dynamics (historically and today). There was a lot about the Opium Wars which I'd never really read about before. And as always with books like this, the Bibliography is chock full of great references to check out from the library!
I would actually probably give this a 3.5 - but not a 4, so I opted for the lower rating.
It's important to remember that this is first and foremost a...moreI would actually probably give this a 3.5 - but not a 4, so I opted for the lower rating.
It's important to remember that this is first and foremost a business book. I had been reading in the last little while a few personal narratives about life in China - so I went in with that mindset. I found it a little slow going at first. I was a little frustrated by the format (typical business book - not a narrative structure). So that took some getting used to.
About 1/2 way through, I finally started to feel Doctoroff's groove and enjoyed the book.
No question - Doctoroff knows his stuff. He's been there for years, speaks the language, worked in the ad agency alongside native Chinese. Some great insights. A teeny tiny bit repetitive in parts, but that in some ways helped reinforce his message about how to market to Chinese.
This book is more than just a marketing book - he speaks intelligently and thoughtfully about the psyche of the Chinese as well as the modern history of China and how cultural values are impacted. And this is all super interesting.
Doctoroff does share a few personal anecdotes - I wish there had been more. These were some of the best parts of the book. He talked about buying and renovating a lane home in Beijing. I wish he would have shared more of this story - could probably have been a whole chapter. It's these anecdotes that give him the authority to speak for Chinese culture and a few more of them would have strengthened the book.
I also enjoyed his observations and stories about Chinese brands - but again, I wish there had been a bit more of that.
I'm not sure if I would read his earlier book, Billions. He only referenced it once or twice. Doctoroff has good info, but concerned it repeats what's in here.
If you are a Sinofile or if you are a marketer who is going to do business in China, read this. If you're looking for a narrative of what it is like to live in China, stick with something like Country Driving by Peter Hessler.(less)
Really enjoyed this book - so much better than "Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada". As some of the other reviewers said, it is...moreReally enjoyed this book - so much better than "Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada". As some of the other reviewers said, it is a little disjointed - Lee could have used a stronger editor. But, the content is really interesting; the rabbit holes that Lee follows around different aspects of Chinese food, from fortune cookies to takeout containers to soy sauce, as well as the immigration plans and patterns around Chinese restaurants in the US are all really fascinating. A good interesting read.(less)
I really really enjoyed this book. It's a great history of the interaction between Americans and China, focused on food. Includes details of the first...moreI really really enjoyed this book. It's a great history of the interaction between Americans and China, focused on food. Includes details of the first Americans to visit, right after the American Revolution up through Nixon's visit in 1972 (there is a mention of later interactions, but they take up less than a page). The focus is definitely on early history - late 18th and the 19th century. As well as immigration from China during these periods. It is an easy read, but fact-laden and the teeny tiniest bit repetitive. But an amazing bibliography.
Detailed, interesting and well-researched. If you have an interest in this topic at all, I highly recommend it!(less)
Or, perhaps more accurately, "No, if you're looking for an interesting book about the history of chinese food/restaurants/culture in small rural t...moreNo.
Or, perhaps more accurately, "No, if you're looking for an interesting book about the history of chinese food/restaurants/culture in small rural towns in Canada". This is an academic tome based on Cho's PhD research which really focuses on the idea of diaspora - and how it can be applied to Chinese immigrants to Canada.
There is some relation to Chinese restaurants in rural Canada, but the ties are tenuous.
Also, the book is full of big words. Lots of big big words that, at the end of the day, say very little.
Now, I've been to grad school. I can read big words with the best of them. I know about concepts like agency. And if I were doing research in a field related to this one, I would probably be super-excited about this book.
But, I was expecting something a lot more popular culture-y.
This is not that book.
However, the bibliography is QUITE extensive and probably the best thing about this book (from my perspective) because there I may have found the more popular culture-y books I was looking for :)
Confession: I did not finish this book. It is organized into five essays. I read three. I simply could not get through the last two. So, I'm marking it as "read" (b/c I feel this should count towards my reading investment for this year) but I've also started an "Abandoned" shelf - b/c life is too short to keep reading books you're not enjoying.(less)