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China Dawn: The Story of a Technology and Business Revolution Hardcover – March 19, 2002
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"In China, I feel the explosive combination of forces aligning to create the kind of change that alters the course of history," writes David Sheff in the introduction to China Dawn, his book on the entrepreneurs who are trying to spark a social transformation and make a mint as they bring the latest information technology to the planet's most populous country. The idealistic heroes of this story are Bo Feng and Edward Tian, both friends of the author. Feng is a Marin County busboy who becomes one of China's top venture capitalists; Tian is the cofounder of AsiaInfo, the first private Chinese firm to go public in the West. Like so many others, Feng and Tian were deeply affected by the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and they believe the Internet can set their country on an irreversible course toward freedom. At bottom, though, China Dawn is an engaging business book that chronicles the "unlikely group of revolutionaries" who hope to become the Bill Gates and Andy Groves of their country. It is difficult to know whether they will succeed, but hard not to wish them luck. --John Miller
From Library Journal
With China poised to enter the World Trade Organization, the importance of its billion-plus potential customers to the global economy cannot be overestimated. Journalist Sheff (Game Over) describes how the country's information technology leaders are battling outdated business models, a tumultuous market, and a government that pushes expansion while trying to censor Internet usage. Despite these sometimes overwhelming odds, estimates predict an astounding 30 to 60 million Chinese Internet users by 2005. Sheff uses biographies and case studies to introduce the visionaries and venture capitalists leading Asia into the 21st century. Readers will enjoy this well-written and clearly organized study of an extraordinary economic and social revolution, and anyone whose company plans to begin or increase trade with China will profit from learning about the major players and the forces influencing the new Chinese economy. Business collections in all types of libraries will want to purchase. Susan C. Awe, Univ. of New Mexico Lib., Albuquerque
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Starting in 1992, his story centers on the development of 3 main characters about 3 years after Tiananmen. Tiananmen galvanizes these young men's patriotism while studying in the US, leading them to discover their purpose in life. What surprised me was the government's vision towards rapidly installing broadband internet and voice over IP capability. Proactively before admission to the WTO, a government contract was let to a start-up managed by young entrepreneurial Chinese who had their own vision that the internet would catalyze "Democracy with Chinese characteristics." Of course, the CCP wanted the internet because they needed a catalyst for enhanced communication for Chinese companies to compete globally.
Bo Feng (b 1969), a native of Shanghai with teachers for parents, was sent to California at 18 as his stop of last resort in 1987, as his family despaired from his lack of ambition. At 21 years old, he drops out of the College of Marin, a local community college, bitten by the creative freedom with making films and storytelling like a budding Spielberg. He works in Chinese restaurants to fund his films (p36). He gets married to a round eye, and his father-in-law introduces him to the investment community, and soon gets hired in 1994@25 by Sandy Robertson, one of the Silicon Valley tycoons (p52). He works with Robertson to provide mezzanine financing for AsiaInfo $18M and SRS $7M in 1995. As Robertson retires, Feng sees a need for seed capital, so with Eric Li founds the Chengwei Venture fund...with $60M in 1999, lead by Yale, Sutter Hill, Stanford (p179). Eric Li, a UCB BSEE and Stanford MBA, had prior VC experience at Orchid Asia Holdings. This is just before the internet dot com bubble bursts in Y2K.
Suning (Edward) Tian, a native of Beijing, now the CEO of China Netcom Corp..., a privatized Chinese government start-up in 1999 with the mission of laying the national fiber network backbone. In Jan 2001 about a year after breaking ground, he is visited by China Premier Zhu Rongji for an hour presentation and he pleads for a broadened licence (p268). Born in 1963, from bourgeois scientific parents, he was raised by his maternal grandparents during the Cultural Revolution (CR) (p25) and his estranged father after. He places very high in the college placement exams and enters LiaoningU, Dalian, to study biology after his parents, with grad work at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing (p29). At 25, he leaves China to study at Texas Tech, graduates with a doctorate in ecology, but he finds his true calling in a college basement computer lab with a Macintosh (p31). Appalled by Tainanmen, he and fellow ISTI/Beijing, UCLA EE/CS techie sidekick Jian (James) Ding (p46) found BDI and create a Chinese pro-Democracy news website. He translates the Western news sources and becomes the first popular alternative web news source outside of the People's Daily. They rename BDI to AsiaInfo to become a Dallas portal/ Beijing provincial SW and network provider that later went public on the NASDAQ (ASIA) in 1999. AsiaInfo evolves into a general web portal, like a Chinese grown Yahoo, but operates in the States near UT Dallas.
On the mainland, a BDI subsidiary does network systems work. One of their first projects was automating the Shenzhen stock exchange for $2.2M in 1995 (p69) using Sun computers. For SW, they modified free Unix Open Systems shareware. They also established the first internet backbone over voice lines between Shanghai, Beijing, Guangdong and the West in 1994 for $4M (p70). Then they expanded it into ChinaNet, the national backbone over voice lines in 1995. Then Shanghai On-line wanted a website, portal, and local infrastructure developed for $3M in 1995. Running out of expansion funds, they meet Feng, who underwrites an $18M expansion as his second deal for Robertson, Stephens (p81) in 97. AsiaInfo is on its way towards becoming the dominant player in China's internet.
Wang Zhidong, the co-founder of Stone Rich Sight (SRS) in Beijing, created RichWin in 1996, a Chinese translator shell around MSWindows. He is a son (b1967) of Guangdong peasants, started working on radios in HS, and won a full scholarship to Beijing Univ, EE lab. He discovers the Computer Lab and switches to CS. Soon he is freelancing in Beijing's Zhongguancun. He makes an Adobe-like DTP and OS SW for a BeijingU spin-off. He teams up with Yan Yanchou, who started making Chinese IBM PC clones in 1983 at the National Research Inst (p60). Yan makes the 1st word processor using Chinese characters; using his video controller with a custom ROM (1985). They found SRS funded by the Stone Group (HK) in 1987, created RichWin with Feng's 1st deal of $7 million of VC in 95 (p64), becoming the defacto Chinese GUI OS by 97. They create SRSnet.com, for RichWin support, and later acquire Hong & Lin's Sina.net and morphs into a Yahoo-like portal (p88) in 1999 and has an IPO (SINA) in 2K (p208) in the midst of the dot com crash. After MS releases a Chinese Windows OS, it regains its world domination in 2001 (p264). With no source of revenue, Daniel Mao, a VC, fires Wang. Smarting from the loss, Wang starts up Dianji Technology with a new mission.