China Fortunes by John Kuhns -- A novel by a veteran American investment banker with years of experience wheeling and dealing in China, the book is loosely based on the author's personal story. It is a highly entertaining yet informative book for anyone interested in how fortunes can be made or lost almost overnight in the world's fastest growing economy. This was just published this year, and I couldn't put the book down after I started reading it.
—Robert Hsu, Editor, China Strategy
“John D. Kuhns, the first American to acquire commercial hyrdro-electric generating equipment from China, and one of the first western businessmen to do business there after the economic reforms of the late 1970s, draws on his experience in the novel China Fortunes: A Tale of Business in the New World (Wiley, hardback, 2011). The fictional tale follows Jack Davis, a character modeled very much after Kuhns himself, as he begins to conduct business and chase potential wealth in 1980s China, delving into many of the issues that awaited foreigners in the early days of China’s “reform and opening-up” period.
Eschewing the traditional format of the often self-aggrandizing, increasingly tiresome “pioneering businessman” or “how to make it in China” genres, China Fortunes vividly illustrates the opportunities and obstacles experienced by foreign businesspeople in the early days of China’s sometimes uncomfortable embrace of capitalism. Reading much like other recent China books such as Lawrence Allen’s business memoir Chocolate Fortunes or Lisa Brackmann’s novel Rock Paper Tiger, China Fortunes manages to tread the fine line between entertainment and education, never losing sight of the adventure and mind-expanding aspects of living and working in China as a foreigner.”
From the Inside Flap
— From Book Three, Chapter Twenty-Four, of China Fortunes
The year is 1984, and America's "greed is good" is going global. After decades of strict communist rule, China had finally enacted free market reforms that meant opportunity for the daring. For fictional character Jack Davis, the timing couldn't have been more perfect, though Jack worried the end was near when even the secretaries began asking for stock tips.
It was do or die for Catapult Energy, his struggling hydroelectric company. China, as Jack would soon learn, could provide Catapult with the turbines it desperately needed at a fraction of the cost of Western competitors. China was about to make the American entrepreneur very rich. But as Jack would also learn, his professional success and good fortune in being among the first to embrace the new China would come at a price even greater than his losses from the 1987 stock market crash.
Written by one of the leading—and one of the first—American business figures to partner with China, China Fortunes: A Tale of Business in the New World is a wild ride into the Middle Kingdom as it rises from the cold war years to build a new future.
Jack, now hardened and cynical, having made millions only to lose it all, goes back China-side, desperate to make one last fortune in the crucible of the sprawling, aspiring country, firmly convinced that as tough as China's business challenges would be, the sustenance of mere friendship, let alone love, was unattainable.
Based on the author's own career, China Fortunes not only arrays the glittering profits and gut-wrenching losses awaiting pilgrims seeking the greatest business opportunity of the new century, but shares the treachery and heartbreak, admiration and affection that buffets travelers crossing the cultural chasm from the Occident to the Orient.
For any reader interested in China, Wall Street, and the drama of human endeavor, Jack Davis's story is one you won't want to miss. In the spirit of James Clavell, China Fortunes is a vast and sweeping fictional story of the opportunities that accompanied the opening of China to Western companies and entrepreneurs, and a story that is certain to entertain and educate those who desire to do business with the Middle Kingdom, as well as one that will captivate those with an interest in Chinese culture.
"Reality is disappointing, Jack," someone tells him. "China is better."