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6 Books That You Should Read If You’re Doing Business in China

Let’s be real, if you’re a looking for information on marketing to China or doing business in China, there aren’t that many out there. Only a hand full of books are written on the subject of doing business in China, and most of them are on the subject of sourcing and importing from China.

This is why we’ve to search the internet and found these 6 books to be very useful if you’re marketing your business to China.

#1 Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

If you want to do business in China, travel to China, or just want to learn more about China, Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos is a must read. Evan Osnos is a journalist for The New Yorker but is mostly known for being the author of this book.

What make this book such a great read, even for myself, a Chinese raised abroad in Canada but grow up with affected by all the subtleties of Chinese cultures is that Evan is not just another Western journalist writing another typical and artificial piece about China, but the book is filled with years of conversation and experience of real people in China that rings true to me.

Age of Ambition is rich with facts and stories that expose the social, policies and economic revolution of China in the past twenty years. While the book is in no way a business book and has no business insights, guide, or actionable steps but it provides you with perspective, and an understanding of where China is today, and the desires and ambitions of its people.

#2 One Hour China Book

Personally, I really enjoyed this book it’s a short read, but it’s packed with insights, and lessons of doing business in China. In this short book, Professor Jonathan Woetzel and Professor Jeffrey Towson of Peking University explains the 6 megatrends of China of the past forty years using 6 short stories.

Urbanization: Since the late 1980s hundreds of millions of people from small villages and countryside begins to flood into the cities to seek opportunity and wealth. Shenzhen was the first of the cities, followed by Shanghai, Beijing, and dozens of other mega cities.

Huge Manufacture Scale: Made in China is the result of this trend. China has invested heavily in production equipment and training to drive down the manufacturing cost in order to achieve an unparallel competitive advantage in the world.

Rise Chinese Consumer: With an increase of income for an average Chinese household. Chinese consumers have changed from a saving focused lifestyle to more of a consumption-based lifestyle.

Money – And Lots of It: China has a lot of money. It currently holds well over $15 trillion in bank deposits with an average growth rate of $2 trillion per year.

The Brainpower Behemoth: China has more than 7.5 million college graduates in 2012. These graduates combine allows China

The Chinese Internet: Even though China is relatively a late adopter to the Internet compare to many other countries such as USA, Japan, Canada, and many European countries. However, due it’s sheer size of China’s population, it has become largest Internet usage country in the world with more than half a billion users that spend more than 70 percent of their spare time browsing the world-wide web (actually in China, it’s more of like the China-wide web).

#3 One Hour China Consumer Book

The 1 Hour China Consumer book is a sequel to the 1 Hour China book written by Professor Jonathan Woetzel and Professor Jeffrey Towson. The difference between the two book that 1 Hour China Book is about changes of China’s economy in general and The 1 Hour China Consumer book talks more about Chinese Consumer behaviors changes.

Just like the 1 Hour China book, this book also uses different stories to showcase the 5 profiles of China Consumer Pyramid.  While I enjoy this book and feel that it shared a lot of great insights into business in China, but I do feel that the title of the book is somewhat misleading.

While many of the insights shared in the book is true but the consumer behavior and desires shared in the book is very broad.  These insights are obvious to anyone that have spent a decent amount of time living or interacting with China. It isn’t hard to see the growing middle class in China, it isn’t hard to see the desire for luxury goods in China, and it isn’t hard to see the love of Basketball.

Regardless, if you’re new to China, then this is an absolutely great book to get you started, especially if you’re doing business within one of the industries mentioned in the book.

#4 China’s Super Consumers: What 1 Billion Customers Want and How to Sell it to Them

China’s Super Consumer is a book written by Savio Chan and Michael Zakkour a New York consulting firm. Unlike all the previous book above, this book is actually a China marketing book that gives you insights and some general tactics. The book is really separate into Three sections.

1 China’s History & Culture
2 Chinese Consumers and Markets
3 Channels and Marketing in China

The first half of the book goes into great length and depth about China’s history, language, and culture. While the second half of the book talks more about Chinese consumer, markets, channels, marketing, and a few case studies.

Second, the book does deals with the topic of how to do business with another Chinese businessman. While many of the culture differences talked about in the book is true, but personally, I find that whenever you penguin hole someone’s behavior based on preconceptions, you’ll lose on the opportunity to learn about who they really are. The key is to have a fine balance of understanding culture difference, and openness to learning about the person in front of you even if it doesn’t fit your preconception.

Overall, this is a great book if you’re new to China and are just starting to learn the ropes. If you’re looking for more in-depth strategies and tactics on marketing or selling your product to China then this may not be the book you’re looking for.

#5 Chinese Business Etiquette: A Guide to Protocol, Manners, and Culture in the People’s Republic of China

Like I said, I’m not a big advocate business etiquette, however, I can see the value of learning and showing respect for the tradition, culture, and history of China when developing guanxi (relationship) with other Chinese business owners.

So, if you’ve never conducted business in China before then this is a great book for perspectives of dealing and working in China. However, I find the book to be a little bit outdated as China becomes more and more Westernized not only in everyday living but also in business interactions. Many of the customs mentions in the book will also vary from region to region depending on where your conducting business in China.

#6 China Survival Guide: How to Avoid Travel Troubles and Mortifying Mishaps

Last but not least, China Survival Guide is a fun little book written by Larry Herzber and Qin Herzber. Unlike all the previous books, China Survival Guide is light and fun and is really a great book for anyone traveling to China.

Unlike Chinese Business Etiquette books, China Survival Guide shares more specific insights on culture shocks and what to watch out for when traveling in China. For example, the book talks about how Chinese people would carry around their own toilet paper in their bags, and this is shocking to many Westerners but from my experience, this is absolutely true even in mega cities like Shanghai. (If you want to know why you can email me 😉 ).

Other tips such as “black” taxis and how to protect yourself from being scammed in China are really useful especially if you’re traveling to China often for business deals. Besides this is a fun little book with a lot of humor.



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