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BOOK REVIEW: The War for China’s Wallet
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The War for China’s Wallet
By Shaun Rein

BT 201801 Book 01      如果你对有关中国问题的英文著作比较感兴趣的话,那么你可能听说过这样两本书著作:《廉价中国的终结:可能扰乱世界的经济和文化趋势》(The End of Cheap China- Economic and Cultural Trends that Will Disrupt the World)以及《山寨中国的终结:亚洲创造力、创新力和个人主义的崛起》(The End of Copycat China – The Rise of Creativity, Innovation and Individualism in Asia)。这两本书的作者雷小山(Shaun Rein )先生是中国市场研究集团(CMR)创始人、董事总经理。拥有麦吉尔大学荣誉学士学位、哈佛大学中国经济硕士学位的他曾为财富500强企业及领先的中国企业、私人股本公司、中小企业以及对冲基金等提供战略管理与咨询。他的书还被《出版人周刊》评为2012年前十名的商业书籍,更受到《金融时报》的好评。

      雷小山先生的新作名为《中国钱包战争》(“The War for China's Wallet”)。对中国有深入了解及长期洞见的雷小山,本次对中国经济和市场问题进行了考察。众所周知中国经济对全球经济有着巨大影响,雷小山不仅就国与国之间的经济现象进行描述分析,更带领我们了解政府、企业和消费者之间的协调关系。在该研究方面,雷小山再次领先于他人,率先做出了自己的观察研究成果。除了自己的观点,雷小山还为大家呈现了自己与各领域专家的对话。其中包括与携程网首席执行官以及各位政治经济学家的对话等等。他们在各自的专业领域都有着权威性。书中内容,一半纪实,一半评论分析,在提供宏观事实的基础上,给出了自己的判断和理解,实属难得。

Shaun Rein is well known as the founder and managing director of China Market Research Group, but perhaps is best known as the author of The End of Cheap China (2012) and The End of Copycat China (2014). Though his books were initially received with scepticism in some quarters, they’ve since come to be seen as prescient, with manufacturing costs in many areas now equivalent to those in the US, once taxes, logistics and frictional costs from sub-contracting, time differences and cultural barriers are taken into account. Similarly, China’s reputation as the land of knock-offs is abating as intellectual property is increasingly being taken more seriously, and (more significantly) as companies like Lenovo, Huawei and Tencent are producing internationally competitive products. The books are now set texts in universities, which is a proof of success if ever there was one.

Rein’s new book, The War for China’s Wallet, however takes a different tack, examining how the immense scale of China’s domestic market and the effect it has on foreign economies is being deliberately used to reward or punish other nations. While commercial policies have long been part of international relations, the scale of China’s efforts and their coordination between government, businesses and consumers is a new phenomenon. As an innovation in international relations, this field is very much worth exploring, and it is to the author’s great credit that he is again ahead of the curve.

After a short tour d’horizon of the current geopolitical scene, Rein examines economic areas such as the state-owned sector, outbound investment and Chinese tourism, and how they have to service broader geopolitical goals. Each chapter concludes a Dialogue with an expert in the field, and ends with Key Action Items. Dialogues are perhaps the best parts of the book: the experts include Victor Shih, a widely quoted political economist specialising in China, and Jane Jie Sun, the CEO of Ctrip. They speak authoritatively and are at the sharp end, whether in business or academia. Action items are useful if utilitarian, and there’s a risk that they could swiftly date the book, given how quickly diplomatic behaviours can change.

The War for China’s Wallet has first-mover advantage as a study of this area, but I’m not sure that it will have the lasting influence of Rein’s earlier books. Though it is well structured, presents a coherent story and is chockfull of facts and analyses, it is perhaps a step beyond Rein’s field of expertise. Whereas business can have deep-lying but discernible trends, diplomacy is both more intangible and more immediate. This contradiction sometimes eludes Rein, who tends to see things in terms of facilitating or inhibiting business. But diplomacy is rather more holistic than that.


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