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Doing Business in China? Read These Books

Fashela Jailanee Brewton|Producer, CNBC Asia Pacific
Thursday, 28 Oct 2010 | 9:02 AM ET

Doing business in China has become easier over the years, thanks to improving regulatory reforms. The country retained the number two spot out of 183 economies in a World Bank report on the "Ease of Doing Business".

But for those new to wheeling and dealing in the country, we've asked five market commentators to name their favorite books on doing business in China and the reasons behind their choices.

These books are meant for the intrepid entrepreneur, the new investor and the all-round explorer. If that is you, then try to get hold of at least one of them.

1. A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy - by Sara Bongiorni

"Sara Bongiorni, the author, is a journalist who decides to abstain from buying any products "made in China" for one whole year.

Her goal is to find out if an endeavor of that magnitude can, in her own words, be done. She then tells a series of often funny and occasionally humiliating stories centering around the everyday difficulty of finding simple necessities such as sneakers, sunglasses, DVD players and toys for her 2 young children (and a skeptical husband). Her self-imposed inconvenience reveals the impact of globalism on her family and showcases how China is indeed the all powerful manufacturing hub of the world. I often like to quote this book to clients because it supports the Templeton Emerging Market Group's 2 main investment themes - consumers and commodities. Her quest to go China-less and her subsequent struggles make clear in the most succinct way possible Templeton's argument for favoring consumer staple companies across the emerging market platform."

-Mark Mobius, Executive Chairman,Templeton Emerging Markets Group

2.The Dynasties of China: A History - by Bamber Gascoigne

"Bamber Gascoigne has entertained generations of Britons, and foreign students like me, by hosting the famous TV quiz program 'University Challenge'. He made the program both educational and entertaining and, most importantly, kept a riveting pace. All these features come through in his insightful book on China, weaving a social and economic history through the tale of its ruling dynasties. To understand China, in my view, is to understand the strongly hierarchical nature of its society and the interplay between rulers and the ruled. Gascoigne uses little known facts to illustrate how a desire for order permeates Chinese history even if it means that progress in desirable measures, such as pursuing freer financial markets, have to be curtailed. It includes valuable citations (mostly from primary sources), an index (which contains both pinyin and the "traditional" transcription of Chinese names) and a short timetable and a map. These will make the book even more valuable for future reference. Pictures are always a nice bonus."

-Arjuna Mahendra, MD, HSBC Private Bank

3.The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers - by Richard McGregor

"This is one of the most, if not the most insightful book on China that I've come across. "The Party" by FT reporter Richard McGregor offers a detailed insight into the inner workings of China's often elusive Communist Party. This is key if you are trying to comprehend how policy is formed there. McGregor describes a Party that is far more pervasive than most would imagine...and he fills it up with surprises and intrigues by the page-full. McGregor's work in this book is significant particularly as China establishes its next 5-year plan and grapples with the country's impending leadership change. To understand China's economy, you need to first understand how China's communist Party works because it is Party policy, more than anything else that shapes and directs China's economy — which in turn might help illuminate your investment choices there. 2 diplomats from 2 different countries told me I had to read this. They weren't wrong."

-Kirby Daley, Senior Strategist, Newedge Group

4.China into the Future - edited by John Hoffman and Michael Enright

"This book provides a collection of assessments by leading China experts about the political, economic and business outlook for China over the medium to long-term. It provides excellent strategic insights into the many challenges facing China over the next decade, as well as expert assessments of the political and economic risk landscape in the years ahead. The great strength of this book is that the authors each have a deep knowledge of China, and are able to bring to the table different areas of expertise across the spectrum of politics, macroeconomics, finance and business strategy."

-Rajiv Biswas, Director, South-East Asia, The Economist Group

5. Operation Yao Ming: The Chinese Sports Empire, American Big Business, and the Making of an NBA Superstar - by Brook Larimer

"When you consider China's growth figures and towering skyscrapers, you might easily forget just how far the country's come in the last 3 decades since Marshal Ye Jianying and Deng Xiaoping initiated political and economic reforms.

You should not. In the 80s, China was dirt poor and recovering from the chaos and excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Many in China try to cast away those dark times but it remains a difficult task. China is still mired in the past. Brook Larimer's "Operation Yao Ming" is a book that best illustrates that point — particularly how China's recent history impacts the China we do business with today. Larimer writes about NBA basketball star Yao Ming's mother — who as a young member of the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution — treated the country's leading sports authorities with disgust and disdain, submitting them to unbearable pain. But when that period came abruptly to an end and the leaders restored to their positions of power, Yao became a victim of their wrathful vengeance. Larimer's book is a tale of ironic proportions. And it's a unique perspective on power, revenge and redemption — made only in China."

-Shaun Rein, MD, China Market Research Group

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