This book reveals how and why U.S. corporations helped replace the Goddess of Democracy that once stood in Tiananmen Square with the Gods of Mammon and Mars that dominate China today.
Gutman is clear about his neo-con political views, clear about his (many) prejudices, and clear about his disaffection with Beijing and with the American business community there. This is not, as other reviewers have labeled it, simple realpolitik propoganda. Having laid out his prejudices for all to see Gutman dives into poking around Beijing, investigating his thesis.
Beijing is a complex, sprawling city in an even more complex country. As an ex-China expat I know that just about as well as anybody. Understanding China is like the blind man trying to comprehend the elephant by touch. What most expats lack is the humility to admit how little they understand no matter how much they know. What Gutman does through racy writing and personification of the issue is shine a little light on issues such as US tech companies selling tracking software to China's security services, or pharmaceuticals moving R&D and manufacturing to American's so-called strategic competitor. His conclusion: that American, European and Asian businesses bend over backwards to secure contracts. In the process American firms ignore the formal and informal rules that govern business domestically, while expats ignore the social norms that govern their lives at home.
I disagree with many of Gutman's conclusions, but that does not detract from it being a thought-provoking and engrossing piece of investigative writing on an important and always timely subject.
Gutman -- starring as the repentant sinner -- believes his moral compass is now sure. It should be up to each individual reader to decide where theirs lie.
First, he is an American and comes across as expecting America's multinationals to export all of America wherever they go. What a Big Mac fantasy! Sure, American multinationals have to stick to their guns and follow laws of the US, but they are far from being American anymore--they are multinational staffed with people from all over the world and PAYING TAXES to governments all around thew world.
Second, the author never owned a business in China and could not speak the language. He SURELY missed out on many things and SURELY misinterpreted situations among Chinese. It's to his credit that he does rely on the good analysis of many local Chinese, as well as his wife (a China scholar). But even with those things, he still gets only a surface texture of what is going on in Beijing right now.
The writing of the book was decent, but the segments into 4 main areas (with a Chinese character for "greed" at the beginning of each chapter--was this for the Chinese greed or American greed?) were a bit haphazard and disjointed.
It's almost as if he came of age in China (nothing wrong with that) but it's frustrating to see he walked away after 3 years still naive and lost. You sense that he was lonely throughout his stay and perhaps was not well received by those already in Beijing. However he overcame thee things and does provide decent background to an expat's life in China.
Overall, it needs to be rated with 1 star only because it really lacks much depth--if you have never been to China you will most likely think WOW THIS IS GREAT, but trust us that it is not and there is far far more that the author never discovered and parts of the book were written upon the reliance and auspices of public relations companies and professionals who spun him in certain ways as to make him believe certain companies prospered or went down, when in fact the opposite may be true. The Old China Trap! What a fool...