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97 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Middle Kingdom to Global Juggernaut
"China Inc" reminds me of the "Japan Inc" of the 1980's. The Japanese business model, at the time, was very successful and feared by many as superior to our own. Since then, we've had the longest economic expansion in our history and Japan has had the longest recession since the end of World War II. Should we feel complacent? Definitely not. The economic juggernaut...
Published on March 25, 2005 by Izaak VanGaalen

versus
50 of 63 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Fishman Travels Around China and Talks to People
The fact that this book is subtitled "How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World" is likely one of the most clever and slick false advertising campaigns ever designed to sell a travel log to the public.

The very first part of this book is a personal story of the author visiting Shanghai. He writes about what he sees, what he does,...
Published on December 18, 2005 by Dianne Roberts


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97 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Middle Kingdom to Global Juggernaut, March 25, 2005
By 
Izaak VanGaalen (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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"China Inc" reminds me of the "Japan Inc" of the 1980's. The Japanese business model, at the time, was very successful and feared by many as superior to our own. Since then, we've had the longest economic expansion in our history and Japan has had the longest recession since the end of World War II. Should we feel complacent? Definitely not. The economic juggernaut that is emerging in China is different and it will be more difficult to compete against. Our present government policies and our patterns of consumption are feeding the beast. We are a primary component of China Inc.

Ted C. Fishman is a veteran journalist and former commodities trader who has traveled widely in China and interviewed many workers, managers, and exucutives of Chinese and American companies. He gives us an avalanche of facts detailing the incredible growth that the Chinese economy has experienced in the last 20 years (averaging about 10% annually as opposed to our meager 3%). Can this growth rate be sustained. Fishman doesn't have the answer but he gives us a multitude of statistics to draw our own conclusions.

There is, in retail and manufacturing circles, something known as "the China price." Goods manufactured in China cost anywhere from 30% to 50% less than what they could possibly be made for in the US, in many cases it is less than the cost of materials. American multinationals - such as GM and Wal-Mart - are telling their suppliers to meet the China price or else - which means that the suppliers either set up shop in China or go out of business. Never mind trying to compete on price, China has an abundance of production workers that are willing to work for 40 cents an hour. Even at the high end they have chip designers that are willing the work for $2,000 a month, overtime included. The supply of labor is almost endless, keeping wages at a minimum. Anywhere from 100 to 300 million people migrated from farms to factories in the last two decades. China also graduates more scientists and engineers than the US, making the high-tech industries increasingly more competitive. And among the scientists and engineers that graduate from Americian universities one will find a large percentage are Chinese that will go back to China to work, even at a lower salary.

By meeting the China price multinationals are accelerating the industrialization of China by moving production there and, by the same token, they are deindustrializing here. It has been a major factor in the 2.7 million jobs lost in manufacturing since 2000. Even many small and medium size companies have no choice: move to China or go out of business.

Multinationals alone are not to blame, the American consumer has a seemingly endless appetite for low-cost goods. Low-cost Chinese goods have saved the American consumer more money than last year's tax cuts. What this leads to is a gigantic trade deficit with China of about 150 billion a year - and climbing (the US balance-of-payments deficit is nearly a record 6% of GDP). Add this to the record federal budget deficit and it should come as no surprise that the value of the dollar is in decline. If this situation is not rectified the global financial system will be in for a shock.

The Chinese are benefiting from our relationship in the short and the long term, the US is benefiting in the short term because they are receiving low-cost goods, however the long term outlook for the US is grim. Not only do the Chinese buy up many of the T-bills that finance our federal budget deficits, they buy up mortgages on the secondary market in order to keep us supplied with low-cost money. They are, in effect, lending us money to buy their products. The burgeoning trade and federal budget deficits are a serious problem. It is, however, not a Chinese problem, it's an American problem. The only legitimate complaint that we can make is that they keep the yuan tied to the dollar. No matter how low the dollar goes it won't help close the trade deficit with China.

Fishman has an excellent chapter called "Pirate Nation." He describes how setting up production in China is a double-edged sword for American companies. Everyone knows that these products are studied, analyzed, and reproduced perhaps with a few minor differences for local color. For example, GM spent billions of dollars producing a car for the local market. It was exhibited at the Shanghai Auto Show with a sticker price of $9,000. At the same show a Chinese auto company had basically the same car - called the Chery - for only $6,000. The Chinese auto company was owned in part by Shanghai Auto, GM's local joint-venture partner. Similarly, Microsoft is well aware of the fact that only about 10% of its software is actually purchased and the other 90% is pirated; they have no choice but to stay in the Chinese market. Indeed, at the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates seemed more optimistic about the Chinese economy than the American economy.

China contiues to develop at a frantic pace. They add 4 to 6 million cell phone subscribers every month - over a year they would be adding as many as the entire cell phone market of Germany. The Chinese are adding infrastructure every month that is the equivalent of a Houston, Texas. They are in fact lifting more people out of poverty than any country in the history of the world. We can all applaud their achievements.

While I was reading this book, I kept thinking this is good news for China, bad news for the US. This book should be read by those who are concerned about America's place in the 21st century, because it might well be known as the Chinese Century. China, too, faces some daunting challenges but they seem to have the edge in optimism and dynamism - that which America had at the beginning of the 20th century.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somebody Finally Gets It Right about China, March 22, 2005
By 
Steve Koss (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
I spent most of the period from 2001 - 2004 living and teaching in Suzhou, China, a smallish city by Chinese standards that, in the last decade, has come out of nowhere to have the fourth largest GDP in the country. I have also read dozens of books attempting to describe what's going on in China. Most get parts of the picture right, but many are badly dated. Regardless, no one has done as good a job as Ted Fishman in describing the business and economics of today's China. If you truly want to understand how China's business engine works and how it is changing the rest of the world in ways we have barely begun to recognize, CHINA, INC. is an essential read, and easily the best book published on the subject.

Mr. Fishman approaches his subject matter from a wide variety of informative angles, supporting his arguments with factual data, statistics, and numerous anecdotes, any number of which I recognized from Chinese news reports. He begins with a look at Shanghai's transformation into one of the world's leading cities. He next steps back in time to present an historical perspective on how China's peculiar brand of "rule-breaking" capitalism came into being, illustrated by a fascinating look at the city of Wenzhou. He traces the rise of Shenzhen in southern China and the growth of the real estate and personal automobile markets. Chapters 6 through 9 are the strongest in the book, detailing China's impact on business in Pekin, Illinois and Rothenburg, Germany, the role of Wal-mart, the global impact of the "China price," technology transfer, and product counterfeiting and piracy. Throughout, these topics are illustrated with plentiful stories, specific examples, and commentaries from executives in the effected industries.

Fishman makes it clear that China has become a formidable global competitor, with the potential to become an economic juggernaut. The numbers are enormous, the entrepreneurial drive is remarkable, the educational system is extraordinarily focused a single goal, and the speed of adaptation and ability to capture market share in every industry they tackle are frightening. Combine this with massive government subsidies and a laissez faire attitude with regard to patent and intellectual property rights, and you have the makings of a country in which anything is possible, at the least cost imaginable. China's steady capture of manufacturing jobs from the West, its enormous build-up of American dollar and Treasury bond holdings, its thirst for oil and natural resources, and its steady production of science and engineering graduates create the distinct possibility of a huge international power shift over the next 30 - 50 years. CHINA, INC. presents these arguments clearly and forcefully, in an engaging and very readable manner.

CHINA, INC. is at its best describing the country's entrepreneurial spirit, springing from peasants, small villages, and hungry neo-capitalists starting on a shoestring. Their no-holds-barred drive for economic success and quick payoff leads tens of thousands into every corner of the business world. For example, Fishman illustrates effectively how migrant peasants struggling for a toehold in Shanghai have discovered eBay and the Internet. More significant, he shows how entire Western industries like furniture, buttons, socks, shoes, and Christmas ornaments have been rocked by competition from small-scale Chinese entrepreneurs. No State agency planned and studied these industries, no management consultants prepared market potential reports or competitive analyses, and no governing body stepped in to create rules and regulations. They happened because small businessmen smelled opportunities and pursued them ruthlessly. That's the competition America faces for the next fifty years. CHINA, INC. draws a clear picture of what it looks like and what it portends.

My biggest criticism of CHINA, INC. is that I believe Mr. Fishman has somewhat overstated his case by downplaying China's negatives, of which there are many beyond the obvious ones of rural poverty, wealth imbalance, and industrial pollution (sounds like the U.S. prior to 1940, doesn't it?). First, the country has a totally dysfunctional banking system, burdened by weak controls, massive frauds and embezzlements, and non-performing loans on the order of 40% or more. Second, China's stock markets are nothing more than poorly regulated casinos - it's no coincidence that their stock markets are off by nearly half over the last 3-4 years while their GDP has skyrocketed. Third, the same lack of intellectual property rights protection that enables China to copy almost anything will inhibit its own best talents from creating anything new out of the same fear of counterfeiting. Fourth, China's form of capitalism almost completely lacks a rule of law - contracts are meaningless, courts are unhelpful, and connections matter far more than right or wrong as defined by law. Finally, China stands one day to find itself repeating Japan and Korea's experience once its labor rates begin to rise and manufacturing jobs begin to migrate once again, perhaps to India, or maybe Africa. History has a way of repeating itself in this regard.

Although I found CHINA INC.'s organization a little loose and the material wandering occasionally, I heartily commend Mr. Fishman for pulling a wealth of information and analysis together to draw an appropriately alarming picture of a country we understand too little and ignore too often (just as we once did with Japan). CHINA, INC. is an excellent, fact-filled study of how China is playing the global economic game today, and it is right on target. This book deserves to be read by anyone trying to understand the world economy today, and it should be required reading for everyone in Congress and the White House.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good starting point but not perfect as a whole, March 29, 2006
By 
Tolga BALCI (Istanbul, Turkey) - See all my reviews
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Before reading this book I was wondering about how could China could manufacture everything from simple wooden materials to highly technological electronic parts. As the laws of economics state the product is a mixture of capital and labor. A small wooden backgammon set can be manufactured with a high input of labor and small amount of capital. But considering the mainboard of the computers, the capital must be intense to make the products. You can't just fit these tiny pieces of electronic parts in place just by people's hands.

Taking the perspective from the macroeconomic sense, countries are usually concentrated on "high capital" production [say rmany, United States, Japan] or "high labor" production [African countries]. Where can we put China in this perspective where they can do both?

With these in mind, I split the book in two parts: The first part gives us the unusual things that China did so far. Really astonishing figures for the reader in terms of population, economic forces and the like. I can say that this part is "what they did". The second part is more economy-based, a rather "how they did".

The book is an easy-to-read one. There are in-depth explanations, presentations but they are not mind-bending and you are not lost in the paragraphs. Perspectives of the Chinese and American workers, consumers, manufacturers are well analyzed and presented. "Pirate Nation" and "China Prices" are two of the most striking chapters in the book.

At the end, after finishing reading it I had many of my questions answered, but I am left with a couple of questions more: The book concentrates the impact mainly on United States and to some extent Germany. But there are other countries in the world who can/will be affected by the Chinese giant. I would better find some more pages onIndia, Malesia, Indonesia etc where there are also low production costs. Especially India deserved much more attention. The influence on the other nations could also be presented: Say what will be the picture look like for the Middle East/Western European/African countries? What will the situation be (both for China and the rest of the world) if China stops its anchor on the currency? What will the picture be when the forces of economy come into the scene; say more income to China will inevitably give a rise to the wages of the workers. In turn the production costs will increase. In the other parts of the world, the same laws will come into the scene in an opposite way: the wages will decrease, efficiency will increase and all will come to a balance. So, is China now a place which companies must take advantage of? In other words, is it a "hype" now? Why 99.9% of the examples are about a couple of brands but not more? For example, why brands like Jeep, Harley Davidson, GM, Volkswagen etc are examined but not brands like Honda, Toshiba, Sony, Dell, Ducati are not? In economic terms, why did not the author mention about the purchasing power parity; which is one of the major measures of an economy: at the very minimum, how many loaves of bread can I buy with 1 yuan?

I can give this book a fair of 4 stars, because it presents many of the facts clearly. I deducted one star because:

1. The book is lacking the points above. You may not have these questions at the end, but I did.

2. The author has some kind a negative prejudice against China. This is not obvious by the sentences, quotes or else, but by reading between the lines. OK, I can understand the author on this point because he is American and he is aggressive by the consequences of the Chinese workforce. Ok, He greatly stands in the midpoint and takes an objective point of view. But if I feel this negativity ...
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50 of 63 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Fishman Travels Around China and Talks to People, December 18, 2005
By 
Dianne Roberts (Los Angeles, California United States) - See all my reviews
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The fact that this book is subtitled "How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World" is likely one of the most clever and slick false advertising campaigns ever designed to sell a travel log to the public.

The very first part of this book is a personal story of the author visiting Shanghai. He writes about what he sees, what he does, contrasts it with what China must have looked like in the past, how much a boat ride costs, what the boat looks like, blah, blah, blah. OK, fine, you think he's just luring you into an important and well thought out argument that should tie into the subtitle with something human and easy to read to set the mood. I was OK with this because he writes pretty dang well, the story was minimally interesting, and it left me anticipating some sort of eventual really meaningful information, or analysis, or context, or something along those lines.

So you keep reading. Mr. Fishman introduces you to Chinese person number 1. They lived on a farm and now they live in the city. The city's very big. Here's person #2. She also lived on a farm, now she works in a factory. That factory is very big. Welcome to person #3. They moved from the countryside to a city and opened a small trinket shop. They had a big number of trinkets though. Then the government bulldozed their shop and made something big where their old shop used to be. Their new shop still has a big bunch of stuff. #4 is a teen punk who spikes his hair and works out all day and goes to big night clubs at night. He can afford this lifestyle because his dad does something or another that's big.

Because there's just enough tantalizing information beyond random stories to make you think it will all be coalesced and turned into some sort of deep insight you keep reading despite the fact it's becoming tedious. But you still just keep getting introduced to regular Chinese people. (They all seem very nice and I wish them well, but that's not why I bought the book! I bought the book for the subtitle!) Marvel as Chinese person # 12 eats in a restaurant, a big restaurant! Wonder as Chinese person # 23 goes to the supermaket, a very BIG supermarket! Sit in awe as you're introduced to yet another Chinese person who migrated from a small hovel of a farm to a very, tremendously, ridiculously big factory.

By the time you reach chapter 12, the last chapter, and read the title "One Last Story" you know you've been had.

Basically: China's big. It's really big. Lots of people are moving to the cities. The biggest migration ever. The factories are big and don't pay people much. They're the biggest factories ever. The people really want a good life just like everyone else, and they're working hard to make things, everything, big.

What does all this mean for the world? Your guess is as good as mine, but you've met a lot of Chinese people in the process and learned about their trinket stores and factory jobs.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The first chapter tells the whole book, August 10, 2005
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China Inc. shouldn't be much of a surprise after the first chapter or so. If you've been paying attention to the latest headlines on China then you've pretty much got the gist. The book is just one story after another about how China uses its massive labor force to literally run the country like a company. From DVDs to leather belts and cars to mobile phones, China has a nearly inexhaustible supply of human capitol which means it can do things cheaper than ever before. In this book you'll find out how they do it, which industries they're in, and a good sense of where the future of China lies.

The title is very befitting as you'll see time and time again. Ted Fishman doesn't go much beyond repetitive examples of Chinese progress, but he does ocassionall identify some points of weaknesses here and there.

This book is good if you have no clue about the rise of China and its economic power. If you've lost your job because of China, this is a good place to find out why.

Who this book is NOT for is someone who wants answers to countering Chinese economic advancement, Americas foreign policy solutions, and actual weaknesses of the Chinese economy. Fishman is a journalist not a policy wonk, he reports and that's it.

This book will scare you. It will make you think twice about that giant country thousands of miles away. You might even think learning Chinese would be a good thing about now...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Setting the China scene, BUT..., November 4, 2006
This book is similar to China Shakes the World, although the latter is better written - which is also why China Shakes the World has won the 2006 FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

So, if you are a general reader and want to understand how China is and will be impacting the rest of the world, read China Inc, which, I would say, contains a bigger amount of information than China Shakes the World (which is more entertaining because it does the job largely through stories).

If you are a business person and want to understand how to succeed in China, however, I would recommend Dr Wei Wang's The China Executive: Marrying Western and Chinese Strengths to Generate Profitability from Your Investment in China. I have found that The China Executive is simply the best book in this field and, with it, I am not puzzled by China any more.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Note from the Author, March 20, 2005
By 
Ted Fishman (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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Many thanks to the thoughtful reviewers and to those reading over the comments. Please note that there is more info, some entertaining notes and reviews on the book's website [...]
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A balanced primer on an important and polarizing topic., November 7, 2005
By 
M. Strong (Milwaukee, WI USA) - See all my reviews
Reading the reviews of this book, it's easy to see that people feel very strongly one way or the other about China and its rapidly increasing role on the world stage. Like most topics of this scale and importance, this isn't a tale of perfect goodness and benevolence, nor is it a story of incredible evil and malicious intent.

Fishman does a nice job of presenting the positive aspects of China's rise as well as pointing out the downsides. Further, Fishman does a great job of looking at China's rise from multiple perspectives. Over the course of this book, he analyzes the perspective of US consumers, workers and manufacturers; he talks about the US and Chinese marketplaces; he discusses how European countries and other Asian countries view China's rise versus how the United States views the rise; he talks about political and military issues. This is a tall order, and Fishman does an admirable job of giving an introduction to it all.

If you are looking for a good introduction to a topic that will likely have an immeasurable impact on our world over the course of just two or three generations, this is a great place to start.

Highly recommended.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How will we cope with the China Price?, March 21, 2005
This is book provides solid information that I think every American would be better off knowing. It is decidedly not an alarmist banging of a jingoist drum as some have claimed. Ted Fishman provides us with fine reporting of a broad view of the new China and the way its prodigious growth simply realigns its place in the world by force of its gargantuan scale. This is a scale we in America have not yet grasped because we have become so used to being the largest economy in the world and the dominance that generates.

We all know that China has over a billion people. The official count is something like 1.2 or 1.3 billion. However, many authorities on the subject believe there is a huge uncounted transient population that goes uncounted. They put the population at 1.5 or 1.6 billion. That means that a population as large as the United States is going uncounted in China. Staggering. The United States has dozens of cities of a million people or larger. China has hundreds of cities with more than a million people.

China's furious growth has implications on the pollution other countries experience. We add cost to our economies and worry about quality of environment, yet how much of it is undone in developed Asian economies and our west coast because of the pollution falling from the atmosphere that originated in China. It seems that the environmental groups should focus real effort putting pressure on Beijing.

It is not that America cannot cope with a China whose economy passes ours in size, we have adapted in the past. We beat off the Japanese threat. However, Japan is half our size, without resources, and is not militarized. China has a population four to five times our size and one that is hard working and becoming increasing well educated. China is also rich with resources or has them nearby. Australia has entered into huge long term contracts to provide all kinds of natural resources to China and is in many ways becoming more aligned with them than with us. We have a huge task of seriously rethinking our focus as a nation, the level of education we expect from our citizens, and the kind of innovation we can foster and maintain.

Mr. Fishman provides many interesting stories illustrating the present chaotic growth within China and the effects it is having on China's neighbors. The way this massive explosion of industrial growth is hollowing out our manufacturing base is treated late in the book, which provides a convincing context because we see how even jobs from Mexico are going to China. Jobs went from the US to Mexico because wages there were one seventh of those here. They are leaving Mexico for China because Chinese workers make one quarter of the Mexicans.

Surely, China could implode. Or their rising internal demand and the rising (relative) wealth of their citizenry will erode their labor cost advantages. However, there is also the reality of a similarly huge population in India. Our world is changing rapidly. We cannot count on our primary position in the world continuing from the inertia of the past century. This book is a wonderful primer on what we are facing and we need to summon our energies and confidence and face this future expecting success because we will pay the price rather than simply sinking passively into a second rate status.

One of the interesting ironies is that the lower prices we experience on our goods from China help offset some of the losses of manufacturing base. They also help the purchasing power of those workers displaced to poorer jobs because of that same migration of work overseas.

However, China isn't simply about loading up Wal-Mart with cheap goods. It is taking on the very highest ends of technology as well. From complex industrial machinery and software to the exploration of Space (and a promised mission to the Moon), China is reaching to become dominant in every aspect of the world economy. We simply must take this seriously.

I certainly don't have any pat answers, but I am confident we have everything we need to meet the challenge if we have the will to do it. The existence of that will is what we have to demonstrate. As always, time will tell.

Recommended with a bit of urgency.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful!, July 4, 2005
Squarely addressed to people with scant knowledge of China, this anecdotal excursion into the economics of the Middle Kingdom is dilettantish in the best sense of the word. Those who know China will learn only illustrative tales here, but those who do not know China will learn what even the most scrupulously accurate journalists cannot always convey: the feel of the place. Author Ted C. Fishman explores Shanghai shops, Shenzhen factories and markets for female companionship euphemistically known as karaoke halls, and he manages to put everything in the context of China's economic development. No doubt many readers will come away convinced that China is a threat - indeed, part of the author's purpose is to show how China challenges the world. He does that convincingly by alternating vignettes of China with vignettes of America. Critics may quibble, and not without reason, that the book is superficial, uncritical and naïve. Granted. But we counter: it's a heck of a read.
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China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World
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