Mr. China: A Memoir
by Tim Clissold, Collins, 260 pages, $14.95 Paperback, Feb 2006, ISBN 9780060761400.
Why am I doing a Jack Covert Selects on a book that is over two years old? Lately there has been a flood of books about China. Many of them are good and some are really good, but most of them deal with 21st century China and don't offer context for the huge changes that took place in the country over the past 30 years or so. This book, written as a narrative by a British businessman, sheds light on a singular and interesting time in the business history of China, when pioneer investors were the early bird trying to catch a very big worm. It is also an engaging narrative that might not teach you how to make a million but does present a fascinating story about China's potential.
In the late eighties, Clissold went to school in China where he spent two years improving his language skills. His stories of life in the dorms are both scary and funny. He leaves China but returns a few years later, working with a US investment fund looking for investment opportunities. This is in the very early days of the opening of China's opportunities, and Clissold works alongside a partner, the eternal optimist and driving force of the project, who calls China "the Vietnam War of American business.