A pragmatic application of good-sense peasant wisdom in negotiating big financial deals with the Chinese.
An investment analyst who returned to his native England with his family in the mid-2000s after 20 years living in China, only to be lured back by a new high-stakes venture in “carbon credits” (“not the black stuff”), Clissold (Mr. China: A Memoir, 2005) chronicles the whole quirky yet lucrative journey. During his years in China, the author had learned to abandon some basic (Western) assumptions about society, business and government: “I’d learned the hard way that if you wanted to survive in China, it had to be on Chinese terms.” As a fluent speaker of Mandarin, Clissold was approached by a fast-talking Australian entrepreneur to help put together a mega-deal that would aid polluting Chinese companies with the installations of new equipment (incinerators available only in Japan) to reduce the country’s enormous greenhouse gas emission crisis. The English syndicate of investors researched horribly polluting factories in places like Hangzhou and helped fund the purchase of incinerators, then offered carbon credits on the eager European market. However, the way of doing business in China was not so straightforward or transparent, and the deal threatened to fall through. Hence the need for Clissold’s particular brand of patient, frequently amusing translation (“even a beast like a thousand-pound ox must lower its head to drink”). Between dispensing old saws about the futility of changing ancient ways, the author walks readers through the first attempts to crack China’s markets, namely by Lord Macartney in 1792, and subsequent resistance to outside change all the way to Mao Zedong. The author’s “rules” of respecting China’s particular way of doing business include the overarching need for stability and the use of indirection, among others.
Clissold’s deep knowledge of Chinese culture and language informs this useful work.