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NO ANCIENT WISDOM, NO FOLLOWERS: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism [Kindle Edition]

James McGregor
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the past three decades, China has risen from near collapse to a powerhouse -- upending nearly every convention on the world stage, whether policy or business. China is now the globe’s second largest economy, second largest exporter, a manufacturing machine that has lifted 500 million of its citizens from poverty while producing more than one million US dollar millionaires.

Then why do China’s leaders describe the nation’s economic model as “unstable and unsustainable”? Because it is.

James McGregor has spent 25 years in China as a businessman, journalist and author. In this, his latest highly readable book, he offers extensive new research that pulls back the curtain on China’s economic power. He describes the much-vaunted “China Model” as one of authoritarian capitalism, a unique system that, in its own way, is terminating itself. It is proving incompatible with global trade and business governance. It is threatening multinationals, which fear losing their business secrets and technology to China’s mammoth state-owned enterprises. It is fielding those SOEs – China’s “national champions” -- into a global order angered by heavily subsidized state capitalism. And it is relying on an outdated investment and export model that’s running out of steam.

What has worked in the past, won’t work in the future. The China Model must be radically overhauled if the country hopes to continue its march toward prosperity. The nation must consume more of what it makes. It must learn to innovate. It must unleash private enterprise.

And the Communist Party bosses? They must cede their pervasive and smothering hold on economic power to foster the growth, and thus social stability, that they can’t survive without. Government must step back, the state-owned economy must be brought to heel, and opportunity must be freed.

During the Tang Dynasty, an official in the imperial court observed: “No ancient wisdom, no followers.” He was lamenting that regime was headed alone into dangerous and uncharted waters without any precedent for guidance.

Again today – as McGregor makes clear – this is China’s greatest challenge.

Product Details

  • File Size: 352 KB
  • Print Length: 150 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1935212818
  • Publisher: Prospecta Press (September 25, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009G5ASM0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,080 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For $3.99, you can't go wrong September 29, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this because the introductory price was so great. On balance, I would have to say that it was worth it. The whole book can be read through in about 3 hours (if it has the read of an extended broadside, that's because it is). In the index, it had a nice synopsis of what each chapter was about. The chapters could also be read out of order if you wanted to focus on some particular subject.

There's a lot of what you would already know if you read the newspaper every day (which was basically the source material for this book, plus a few books by China watchers):

1. Consumption as a percentage of GDP is too low, and the leaders of China know this.
2. The SOEs (less government subsidies) yield negative rates of return-- and yet they are the backbone of the economy.
3. The innovation strategy of China, Inc is emphatically NOT to innovate, but to find some way to trick their foreign partners out of their hard-developed technology through some variety of dishonest means. (Did you ever doubt this? "Co-innovation"? "Re-innovation"? "Assimilation of imported technologies"?)
4. It's not quite clear even what *is* an SOE nor how much they participate in the economy. But the (vague) answer is that they are "many" and participate "a lot."
5. The Chinese companies use the technology that they have stolen from foreign companies against those very same companies in the role of competitor.
6. Yes, the Chinese are in Africa. No, they are not popular there.
7. The strategy of the Chinese government is tit-for-tat and intimidation of the foreign companies that work for them. What McGregor included was a few more examples than what we might remember from reading the papers every day.
8. No, the WTO has no teeth to solve the problems put before it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Those with deep background knowledge on the Chinese political economy, or anyone accustomed to rigorous research, will find this book wanting. Mr. McGregor reaches reasonable conclusions, and therefore offers a sensible treatment of the topic. However, there is little to no original research, and I was frustrated by the endless pages filled with material drawn from previous reporting. For example, three consecutive pages are consumed by the demise of one private Chinese firm, Cathay Biotech. The firm's abuse at the hands of state-owned enterprises and their supporters within the Chinese bureaucracy highlights the institutional obstacles that indigenous private enterprises face, but the anecdote is drawn entirely from a single report by the NY Times which I had already read. Such reliance on single sources to occupy large spaces of a very small book suggests an unwillingness to conduct thorough, independent research on the part of the author. As a consequence of the author's over-reliance on previous reporting, readers are unlikely to be introduced to original knowledge or unique perspectives. Instead, the book serves as a copy and paste job of mainstream business and political reporting from the past few years. This book is not the product of scholarship or investigative reporting. For a more original and insightful introduction to China's political economy, look elsewhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book explains how the Communist Party owns and operates large companies in China. It also explains the clever ways which the Party uses to suppress foreign competition by operating within the letter, but not the spirit, of international trade agreements. From the title, I had expected a little more discussion of the philosophy behind this, but the focus was primarily a description of the mechanics. The book could use two more chapters: one explaining more reasons why the Party moved into owning business after Mao's death, and another discussing the future implications of this unique state-managed economy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You could have a better choice than this one April 14, 2014
By Julien
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
James' previous book One Billion Customers is a really good book on doing business in China. When I discovered his second book, which was published on 2012, it took me less than a minute to place the order. To be frank, I didn't realize the title comes from a famous Chinese poem in Tang Dynasty. It was required to recite in junior high school. But it is the first time to meet the English version.
This book, however, is less enjoyable than the first one. But I will still recommend it to anyone who cares about China's economy and reform. By the way, this book has been published in Taiwan, not in mainland China.
China seems to close the door once again. But this time, the lock up policy causes trouble to multinationals. Any market of this size can not be ignored. No opium trade nor battle ships are allowed this time. It seems no way to get access without compromise.
I'm personally a casualty in the credit card war between VISA, MasterCard and UnionPay. Citi Bank China gave me two separated credit cards at the same time. The one with UnionPay logo is for in China use and one with VISA for the rest of the world. It is the most ridiculous policy I've ever seen.
James wanted to show me every aspect of China's authoritarian capitalism. Therefore, he explained where this came from, how it challenged the GATT/WTO system, and the future of this system. But he didn't do it very well. It seems all his points are based on existing papers by Unirule and World Bank. In fact, I found there are few original findings by James.
So my suggestion is like this. If you have no idea of how to do business in China, read his first book One Billion Customers. If you need in depth info regarding Chinese economy, you could have a better choice than this one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars ESSENTIAL Read on Chinese Economy
Pragmatic, exceptionally well written and researched insight into the real nature and structure of the Chinese economy. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Wine Lover
2.0 out of 5 stars Got bored, stopped reading
Sorry, not my taste. Got bored, stopped reading.
Published 10 months ago by Tragic City
5.0 out of 5 stars Expertly and Logically Written
James McGregor uses his expertise and understanding of the China Model to give us an accurate insight to China's past, present, and future as contingent on its economic success.
Published 15 months ago by Varun Menon
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for anyone trying to understand China
Mr. McGregor is among a small group of journalists who spent a long time in China and understand the country and its culture in politics on a level rarely achieved. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Peter M. Herford
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Despite some useful facts and information on the Chinese authoritarian capitalism, the author's treatment on the subject is superficial. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Koo Tat Kee
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but nothing especially profound.
Fairly easy to read, but as of yet not much new. It does reinforce much of what is out there however. Read more
Published on May 22, 2013 by Jeffrey A, Brueggemann
5.0 out of 5 stars Information-rich, Crisply Written Expert Analysis of China's...
Will China own the future? To many informed observers, both within and outside the country, an equally apt question is: can China cope with its current problems? Read more
Published on April 10, 2013 by W. Hutchens
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and very current
Refreshing antidote to the raft of glowing, over-the-top books on the boundless riches of the China market. Jim McGregor is one of the canniest commentators on China business.
Published on January 28, 2013 by FONG F MEI
4.0 out of 5 stars China's red capitalism needs retooling
China's authoritarian capitalism may be a victim of its own success. It is getting harder to satisfy a population that is devoid of ideology and which demands non-stop lifestyle... Read more
Published on December 28, 2012 by Reuters Breakingviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, but not enough material for a book this size
This book introduced me to James McGregor, whom I'm now following on Twitter. The thesis of the book is simple and well presented. Read more
Published on December 25, 2012 by The Shovel
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More About the Author

James McGregor is an American author, journalist and businessman who has lived in China for more than 20 years. He is a senior counselor for APCO Worldwide and a professional speaker and CNBC commentator who specializes in China's business, politics and society. In addition to his China books, he is also author of the 2010 report "China's Drive for 'Indigenous Innovation' - a Web of Industrial Policies."

From 1987 to 1990 McGregor served as The Wall Street Journal's bureau chief in Taiwan, and from 1990 to 1994 as the paper's bureau chief in Mainland China. From 1994 to 2000, he was chief executive of Dow Jones & Company in China, and he also became a vice-president in the Dow Jones International Group. After leaving Dow Jones, he was China managing partner for GIV Venture Partners, a $140 million venture capital fund specializing in the Chinese Internet and technology outsourcing.

In 1996, McGregor was elected as chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. He also served for a decade as a governor of that organization. He is a member of the Atlantic Council, Council on Foreign Relations, National Committee on US-China Relations and International Council of the Asia Society. He serves on a variety of China-related advisory boards. For more information visit his Web site,

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