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Mr. China: A Memoir


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About the Author

Tim Clissold has lived and worked in China for more than twenty years and has traveled to most parts of the country. After graduating with degrees in physics and theoretical physics from Cambridge University, and working in London, Australia, and Hong Kong, he developed a fascination with China. He spent two years studying Mandarin in Beijing before cofounding a private equity group that invested more than $400 million there. He has since spent time at Goldman Sachs recovering distressed assets and, more recently, started a business that invests in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in China through the UN's Clean Development Mechanism. Mr. China was his first book. It has been translated into twelve languages and was an Economist magazine Book of the Year.


This charming and shrewdly informative book is more than just a "coming of age in China" memoir (though it is a good one). In the 1980s, Clissold, a graduate of England's Cambridge University, left his job in a major accounting firm to go to Beijing and learn Mandarin. He was thus on the front line when foreign investors came to China looking for business partners and on the firing line when there was a clash of expectations and unforeseen results. Chinese businessmen and officials did not defer to the foreigners but instead showed them why China led the world in technology, industry, and business-that is, before the last few unfortunate centuries. Clissold is a sharp-eyed but sympathetic observer and a storyteller of Chaucerian verve. His book is also a dramatic account of how China changed in the years after Mao's death in 1976, becoming the global economic power we see today. Highly recommended for libraries that want a fresh and readable account of this period.-Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

A British businessman with a background in accounting and auditing, Clissold joined up with an entrepreneur in the early 1990s and set out to buy shares of Chinese firms and to work to make them more profitable. Within two years, Clissold's venture owned shares in 20 Chinese businesses, with 25,000 employees among them, but the story really centers on Clissold's encounters with the nation's "institutionalized confusion." Firing entrenched middle managers became a protracted process that led to factory riots and employees using company funds to set up competing businesses; the anticorruption bureau demanded cash bribes before opening investigations. Clissold's narrative is somewhat aimless, slipping from one misadventure (taking American fund managers to a condom factory) to the next, and there's a certain amount of too-easy humor derived from the exoticism of Chinese culture (e.g., the inevitable banquet where unusual body parts of rabbit and deer are served). Even in these passages, though, Clissold's fundamental respect for the Chinese culture is unmistakable, and the scenes where he leaves his office and interacts directly with the people can be quite vividly detailed. By the late '90s, millions of dollars poured into the companies yield disastrous results from an investment standpoint (and Clissold himself suffers a heart attack), but the Chinese economy as a whole hums ever more loudly. Crossover appeal of this title may be limited, but business readers are likely to be entertained. 25-city radio tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"A compelling account, related with sly humor and hard-earned wisdom."--Library Journal
"An adventure tale. Clissold is a wonderful and compassionate narrator (with) a deep respect for the culture, language, and history."--USA Today
"Hugely entertaining...Clissold loves China...but he also views it with clarity and no small amount of humor."--Washington Post
"Lots of Western businessmen have China war stories, but only Tim Clissold has written . . . this funny book."--Newsweek

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