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New page for Chinese business books

By Cecily Liu | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-01-05 18:51

In November, just a month after the Chinese currency, the renminbi, was added to the International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights basket, Paola Subacchi published a book explaining the ins and outs of the currency.

Her specialist book may sound like an academic read, but it is not, she aimed it at a wide audience "because there is a general interest from the public to understand this issue".

The People's Money: How China is Building a Global Currency, is part of a new trend of business books about China produced by the Western publishing industry.

Chinese firms' rapid overseas expansion, especially in the years following the global financial crisis, started this trend as Western businessmen and economists increasingly looked toward China as an example of a new, pragmatic economic development model.

Thomas Hyrkiel, publisher at John Wiley& Sons, said the new interest has grown out of an existing fascination.

"Historically, there has always been curiosity about, and interest in, China. What is different now is the immediacy of global engagement. Readers understand that business and economic trends in China may well have a direct effect on their lives."

Hyrkiel's views are echoed by Bridget Flannery-McCoy, an editor at Columbia University Press, who said popular themes for such books include: studies of major Chinese businesses such as Alibaba; China's future trajectory, especially in relation to the US; the environmental dimension of China's growth; trade and labor issues; and the details of what's often called the "market economy with Chinese characteristics".

Although statistics about the number of such books and the volume of sales are not readily available, many now sit on the shelves of popular stores and are used by Western business schools.

Examples of publications in 2016 include Arthur R Kroeber's China's Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know, which was judged by Forbes as being capable of sitting "comfortably relevant on the bookshelf for years to come", and George Yip and Bruce McKern's China's Next Strategic Advantage: From Imitation to Innovation.

Readers' feedback is also positive. Bill Fischer, a professor at Swiss business school IMD who co-authored a book about white goods maker Haier, said: "It was our determination to present the Haier story in sufficient detail that others could follow their lead and do the same things."

ShouYongyi, a professor at Zhejiang University who coauthored a book in English about innovative Zhejiang-based small-and medium-sized firms, said getting information was straightforward.

"Many of the companies are introduced to us through friends and contacts, and because these companies are private firms, many entrepreneurs are relatively open to us, and are quite honest and frank in sharing their stories and concerns."

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