I had been hearing a lot about China for the past many years. Mostly, my understanding was based on the news from US & European media and to some extent from the Indian press. The news, either was dominated by over-optimism of the Chinese Economic miracle or by pessimism of an economic collapse or sometimes by concerns of national security & impending conflicts.
This swinging pendulum often confused me and I am sure many of you will agree. China for long had been a closed country and the cold war paranoia didn’t help. The sudden opening up of the economy has helped Chinese and global economies to establish deep ties. But the gap in understanding Chinese economy, business environment, politics, culture, and society still remains.
India & China are neighbors with the potential for bilateral trade to cross US & China’s in the coming decades. But I feel that people from both sides seem not to have a good grasp of the other. In fact, people from both countries have a far better understanding of US than each other.
China is here to stay. Sooner or later, most professionals will encounter Chinese as potential suppliers, clients, business partners, colleagues & even make a few friends. Although the best way to start understanding a different culture/society is by learning the local language. However, for a lot of working professionals with packed schedules taking a significant time out to learn Mandarin might be a bit difficult. For the enthusiasts, better get enrolled in the nearest Confucius Institute.
For the rest, I have shared my own experience of how I went about exploring China. It initially started as a curiosity, but later I became engrossed in learning more and more. It was quite haphazard for me….so, I have given it a bit of structure
Books form an important component of this journey as Chinese history, society and political-economic system has evolved very differently. There is a need for depth to understand & analyze any news/information regarding the Middle Kingdom. My only suggestion is to keep an open mind.
Books that I have read:
Dealing with China by Henry Paulson Jr (By far the most comprehensive)
China’s Disruptors: How Alibaba, Xiaomi, Tencent, and Other Companies are Changing the Rules of Business by Edward Tse (Focuses on the changes happening in the Chinese Economy)
The Hundred-Year Marathon by Michael Pillsbury
Alibaba’s World by Porter Erisman
The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics by Andrew Small
The Himalayan Face-Off by Shishir Gupta
Other Books that I recommend:
Taiwan’s China Dilemma by Syaru Shirley Lin
Will Africa feed China? by Deborah Brautingam
Apart from books, I really recommend watching Al Jazeera’s documentary series 101 East. There are quite a few episodes on China. The Wired UK documentary on Shenzhen was also interesting.
In addition, you can follow USC US-China Institute & Hudson Institute YouTube Channels. Discussions cover a variety of topic (although they can a bit boring sometimes). You can a shorter version of the above books in video discussions.
There a few issues which will decide the direction China is going to take. It is good to get an idea to keep yourself up to date with them:
- China’s Anti-Corruption movement
- Chinese economic reforms under President Xi Jinping
- One Belt One Road Initiative
- Chinese business expansion in African Continent
- China Debt Bubble (estimated to be 300% of GDP)
- Overcapacity in Real Estate & Infrastructure
- Aging Population (Negative impact of One Child Policy)
- The South China Sea (Potential conflict with its neighbors Philippines, Vietnam and US)
- The East China Sea (Potential conflict with Japan & US)
- Indo-China border issue
Hope this helps !!