Summary of Chinese Rules

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Forget the Wild West: When it comes to seat-of-the-pants business, China is like no place else. British consultant Tim Clissold, an expert Middle Kingdom hand, found that doing carbon-credit swaps with factories in remote regions taxed even his 20-year knowledge of China. Amid all the corporate derring-do, Clissold uses his business experience and his understanding of the country’s history and culture to derive five principles for doing business with the Chinese. He buttresses these axioms with sections about history detailing an 18th-century clash of cultures between imperial China and Georgian Britain, the Taiping Rebellion, and the careers of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Clissold describes maddening but funny incidents. His business-saga-meets-national-quirks exposition, while easy to read, offers insight into an enormously complex country. getAbstract recommends his business war story and cultural exploration to entrepreneurs, bankers, historians, climate-change professionals and anyone who wants to understand China better. Clissold’s five axioms seem simple at first – but like the wisdom of China’s sages, they turn out to be practical and profound.

About the Author

Tim Clissold is CEO of Peony Capital LP, a Beijing firm that invests in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. His first book, Mr. China, was an Economist Book of the Year.



A Big Deal

Tim Clissold has worked in China since the 1980s. He studied Mandarin in Beijing. He first learned how business functions in China when a Zhuhai factory director defrauded his employer’s firm. And later, when he helped a US investment bank salvage a nonperforming loan portfolio it bought from the Chinese. When construction leading up to the 2008 Olympics forced his family out of their home in an ancient Beijing hutong (alleyway), the Clissolds returned to England, but Tim felt out of place there.

Salvation came in the form of Australian Mina Guli, who represented a carbon fund that was trying to salvage its carbon-credit deal with a polluting chemical factory in Quzhou. Guli asked for Clissold’s help. They flew to Hangzhou, where they met Wang, head of the Quzhou factory. As a maker of refrigerants, the factory emitted copious greenhouse gases. The carbon fund would have invested in Japanese equipment that could handle the pollutants, but Wang wanted to renege on the deal and would not say why.

Rule 1: “China Has Rules of Its Own”

The experiences of 18th-century English diplomat Lord Macartney illustrate how China perplexes the West...

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