An insightful, compelling introduction to the intricacies of Chinese business and life.

Understanding China


An American expatriate in China explores the country’s culture, citizens, and economy in this open-minded meditation.

Moreau, now retired and living in Beijing, arrived in China in 2007 to run a glass factory for an American corporation and experienced a sink-or-swim immersion in its sometimes-baffling, always intriguing mores. His memoir-cum-reflection covers everything from Chinese etiquette, holidays, and cuisine to the country’s medical system, police force, and geopolitical ambitions. This debut book traces China’s idiosyncrasies to the deep imprint of Confucian and Taoist philosophies. In contrast to the West’s “linear” and “deductive” logic, based on clear cause-and-effect relationships and moral absolutes, Moreau argues, Chinese society is infused with “inductive” and holistic reasoning that takes the world as a given and values social harmony above rigid ideals. The result, he contends, is that the Chinese are pragmatic and flexible but incurious and lacking in innovation. These broad generalizations are sometimes overdrawn and look for philosophical rationales where more prosaic explanations might do. (For example, Chinese business executives’ preference for making informal compromises with government demands, rather than standing on legal principle, probably owes more to the nation’s lack of an independent judiciary than to Confucian precepts.) Moreau’s examinations of day-to-day life and habits include discussions about the difficulty of learning to read and speak Mandarin, the irrepressible anarchy of Chinese driving, the tightknit bonds of Chinese families and folkways and the difficulty foreigners face in coping with them (his advice is to be proudly foreign—the Chinese expect it), and the official crackdown on, um, funeral strippers. Moreau expertly examines Chinese business culture and writes shrewdly about subjects ranging from how to navigate rabidly hard-nosed Chinese business negotiations—the silent treatment is his secret weapon—to the increasing difficulties that Western companies, addicted to set-in-stone “process” and paperwork, face in China’s hypercompetitive domestic marketplace. Moreau’s well-informed but highly readable and entertaining prose strikes a nice balance between revealing anecdotes and thoughtful analyses. Westerners interested in or traveling to China can learn much from his engaging observations.

An insightful, compelling introduction to the intricacies of Chinese business and life.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5170-0886-4

Page Count: 322

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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