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Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and The Chinese Dream

(Columbia Global Reports)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  300 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Almost unknown to the rest of the globe, Xiaomi has become the world's third-largest mobile phone manufacturer. Its high-end phones are tailored to Chinese and emerging markets, where it outsells even Samsung. Since the 1990s China has been climbing up the ladder of quality, from doing knockoffs to designing its own high-end goods.

Xiaomi — its name literally means "little
Paperback, 128 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by Columbia Global Reports
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Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi and the Chinese Dream, by Clay Shirky, is a book about the rapid rise of Chinese phone and OS manufacturer Xiaomi, and an overarching examination of Chinese censorship and information technology policies. This book is an interesting perspective on the issue, blending corporate economics with Chinese political power and the conflicting and overlapping interests of both. China is the world's largest market, and there are more smartphone users in China than the comb ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
If asked who the three largest manufacturers of smartphones are, it would be fairly obvious that Apple and Samsung would be in the top 2. Unbeknownst to many, however, a Chinese upstart company by the name of Xiaomi (pronounced ‘show’ -as in shower- ‘me’) has stealthily become the third biggest smartphone merchant.

The book Little Rice, whose title derives from the English translation of “Xiaomi”, reports on the rise of a Beijing based software provider to the world’s most valuable startup (valu
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This easy, well-written little book is not only a business book about Xiaomi, but also it gives a very clear description of the background: the big environment of information age and the domesctic environment in China during the past several decades, where Xiaomi is born. I have not much background knowledge in the Internet industry, but this book makes it easy for me to understand the story behind the development of this Internet company. What I like especially about this book is that it gives ...more
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Here is a book that a certain generation would understand as being a crammer’s guide, a highly concentrated little book drilling down on a certain subject and providing just enough core, essential information about it (usually to help pass an exam). This book, the second in a new imprint from Columbia University Press, looks at a not-so-secret Chinese mobile phone company that has yet to shake the western world – yet it might be a case of “when” rather than “if” it does.

Cellphone nerds and astut
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Clay Shirky's easy style of writing takes you on a trip through the busy corridors of a tech mall in Shenzhen to discover how China became the economic powerhouse it is today, and how its citizens are still struggling through poverty and climbing to the middle class.
Xiaomi, the young maker of a successful line of Chinese-designed and Chinese-made smartphones, is the focal point, but is only the beginning of a much larger story, a story about China's economic rise, its struggle to achieve economi
Ankit Agrawal
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Clay Shirky's first hand account of Xiaomi's success story. He has access to the founder and the marketing director of the company and the entire narrative is constructed based upon interactions with them as well as the author's understanding of the country from his readings and his ongoing residential stint in Shanghai. Some parts of the book do give some insight on how Xiaomi managed to take China and Asia countries by storm. However, Shirky meanders and digresses too much in between to enter ...more
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: china, business, mobile, technology
The book is really more of an extended essay. A somewhat bipolar essay. One part focuses on Xiaomi: its rise, the conditions that made it so, the challenges it faces as it expands,the broader trends it represents etc. The other part is about internet in China and how the Party deals with it. The book is at its best dealing with Xiaomi, crisply so. While there are some interesting insights into how the Party selectively censors the internet, nothing especially new. I did appreciate Shirky avoidin ...more
Kent Winward
Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Clay Shirky's "Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and The Chinese Dream" was an interesting little diversion into the burgeoning and problematic Chinese market and tech-market in particular. Shirky wrote the book "Here Comes Everyone" about crowd sourcing, but this book felt like it had a split personality in examining Xiaomi, a Chinese smart phone manufacturer and Chinese policies and struggles to build a middle class. Overall, not a cohesive and focused book. ...more
Chris Beiser
Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Breezy, but lacking depth. The small errors (Google bought a startup from ex-Danger employees, not Danger itself, which was bought by MIcrosoft) aren’t problems, but the omissions (Xiaomi as an ecosystem play for the connected home, Xiaomi as a product-driven company) make it clear that Shirky is not entirely sure why Xiaomi has been successful, and make him overly skeptical of the stability of Xiaomi’s market position. Bits on the Chinese Dream were generally solid.
Junjie Huang
Dec 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting approach. News coverage on Xiaomi usually focused on the business side. In Little Rice, Prof. Shirky linked Xiaomi's growth with the mixed development environment in China.

But other than that, the book failed to bring anything new to people that follows both the smartphone market in and economics/politics conflicts in China (Age of Ambitions is a much better work on the second part).

Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it
A quick, easy read touching on Xiaomi's strategy which is actually a derivative of Microsoft's strategy for desktop PC's. There is actually not much in-depth study of Xiaomi. Rather it reads more like a long op-ed on the exponential growth of smartphones (plus other things like social media) in China and the increasing difficulty faced by its ruling party in balancing outward growth vs domestic control. 3.5* ...more
Tim Kadlec
Dec 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I typically really enjoy Shirky's writing, but this one was a little subpar. While the topic itself is fascinating, it felt like Shirky kind of threw this one together a little too quickly—the connections between the main topic and his tangents were tenuous. There are a few interesting tidbits scattered throughout, but overall the discussion felt a bit shallow. ...more
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: china
Clear and relatively easy to read. I picked it up because I have a Xiaomi phone that I bought in China. The book is a mix of analysis of the company and of Chinese technology as a whole.
Diah R
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clay Shirky wrote about how Xiaomi as a relatively new brand of phone could help shape the geopolitical and economy of China. It is not an easy road for Xiaomi, who was born and bred in China; the country we all presume as 'where the cheap things come from', to rise above some gigantic and well-known cellphone brands in the industry.

However, Shirky noted, that Xiaomi is well-loved by the fans and rely a lot on said fans to do the marketing and test-drive as well. Buyers who buy Xiaomi might as w
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a quick easy read. Shows the innovation of China and how many have become rich. They were able to reproduce things quickly and change designs quickly so customers could have a customized product.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This a random pick from my local library. Pretty well written about the rise of Xiaomi and it's place in China's socio-economic development. I may have actually played a role in it's rise when I installed the MIUI custom rom way back in '12. Just saying hahaha ...more
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A good, short read. I dont normally read non fiction so most of mu problems with it were because of me and not the book. One of the few exceptions being he didn't cite sources in text or even with foot notes ...more
May 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Some good background information on the rise of Xiaomi within the context of the modern Chinese manufacturing market. Draws some conclusions about both consumers and manufacturers in both China and abroad that I think are a tad simplistic and broad.
Todd Cheng
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting delve into cell phone supply chain and the growth of China as a real global competitive partner.

I guess we expected another nations rise into a complex field to take as long as took the US. They took good notes.
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Albeit short, great book for understanding chinese manufacturing and internet industries today.
Dani Ollé
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting short essay about Xiaomi's rise ...more
Jingwei Shi
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: tech
This book only provides a brief introduction to Xiaomi and lacks many key elements.
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nice take on a technology Chinese company.
Pretty interesting strategy decision overview.
Yashank Sakhardande
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you have 0-3 work experience, this book is a good read.
Lorenzo Huang
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good summary of China new tech era
Mike Madden
May 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Very little about Xiaomi and too much about China.
Bianca Smith
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I’ve lived in two countries and spend a lot of time in a third, but they’re all rather homogenous. All are English-speaking and tech-enabled. Your phone runs either iOS or Android. It’s all pretty easy. That’s why I loved reading Little Rice by Clay Shirky. It tells a story that’s similar to my everyday, but so very different.

I should probably point out that this book isn’t like the usual marketing or business books I review. Little Rice is more a commentary/case study on the smartphone industry
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a satisfying snack for a long flight. I'd heard of Xiaomi previously and wondered why I hadn't seen a Xiaomi phone in the US. Turns out it's all about intellectual property lawsuits: while China's government has its own laws regarding international copyright protection, the much stricter laws in the US mean that a company thriving in China can be barred from entry to US and Western European markets. This book is a thorough examination of the Xiaomi business model and as such serves ...more
Nenad Vukusic
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Latest from the prophet of the interwebs is a tale of China, and its entwined web of politics and economics giving birth to pioneering companies that might eventually grow large enough to compete with the western companies that used China as giant low wage factory for decades. Based on the example of Xiaomi telephone company, discussing their marketing tactics as well as the role of the Chinese culture in the success of Xiaomi.

Having enjoyed Shirky's previous books, I would appreciate a wider v
Uwe Hook
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
The author nails the importance of the mobile telephone in just a few words and if you reflect on it, it is not hyperbole: “The mobile phone is a member of a small class of human inventions, a tool so essential it has become all but invisible, and life without it unimaginable.” Of course, food, drinking water and shelter are more important, yet once you get past the basic elements of human survival, the humble cellphone is capable of being a lot more than just a means of calling. It can deliver ...more
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Mr. Shirky divides his time between consulting, teaching, and writing on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. His consulting practice is focused on the rise of decentralized technologies such as peer-to-peer, web services, and wireless networks that provide alternatives to the wired client/server infrastructure that characterizes the Web. Current clients include Nokia, GBN, th ...more

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