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One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China

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It is well known that with a population of 1.3 billion people, China's market is moving quickly toward surpassing those of North America and Europe combined. Companies from the United States and around the globe are flocking there to buy, sell, manufacture, and create new products. But as former "Wall Street Journal" China bureau chief turned successful corporate executive It is well known that with a population of 1.3 billion people, China's market is moving quickly toward surpassing those of North America and Europe combined. Companies from the United States and around the globe are flocking there to buy, sell, manufacture, and create new products. But as former "Wall Street Journal" China bureau chief turned successful corporate executive James McGregor explains, business in China is conducted with a lot of subterfuge -- nothing is as it seems and nothing about doing business in China is easy.Destined to become the bible for business people in China, "One Billion Customers" shows how to navigate the often treacherous waters of Chinese deal-making. Brilliantly written by an author who has lived in China for nearly two decades, the book reveals indispensable, street-smart strategies, tactics, and lessons for succeeding in the world's fastest growing consumer market. Foreign companies rightly fear that Chinese partners, customers, or suppliers will steal their technology or trade secrets or simply pick their pockets. Testy relations between China's Communist leaders and the United States and other democracies can trap foreign companies in a political crossfire. McGregor has seen or experienced it all, and now he shares his insights into how China "really" works. "One Billion Customers" maximizes the expansive knowledge of a respected journalist, well-known businessman, and ultimate China insider, offering compelling narratives of personalities, business deals, and lessons learned -- from Morgan Stanley's creation of a joint-venture Chinese investment bank to the pleasure dome of a smuggler whose $6 billion operation demonstrates how corruptiongreases the wheels of Chinese commerce. With nearly 100 strategies for conducting business in China, this unprecedented account combines practical lessons with the story of China's remarkable rise to power.


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It is well known that with a population of 1.3 billion people, China's market is moving quickly toward surpassing those of North America and Europe combined. Companies from the United States and around the globe are flocking there to buy, sell, manufacture, and create new products. But as former "Wall Street Journal" China bureau chief turned successful corporate executive It is well known that with a population of 1.3 billion people, China's market is moving quickly toward surpassing those of North America and Europe combined. Companies from the United States and around the globe are flocking there to buy, sell, manufacture, and create new products. But as former "Wall Street Journal" China bureau chief turned successful corporate executive James McGregor explains, business in China is conducted with a lot of subterfuge -- nothing is as it seems and nothing about doing business in China is easy.Destined to become the bible for business people in China, "One Billion Customers" shows how to navigate the often treacherous waters of Chinese deal-making. Brilliantly written by an author who has lived in China for nearly two decades, the book reveals indispensable, street-smart strategies, tactics, and lessons for succeeding in the world's fastest growing consumer market. Foreign companies rightly fear that Chinese partners, customers, or suppliers will steal their technology or trade secrets or simply pick their pockets. Testy relations between China's Communist leaders and the United States and other democracies can trap foreign companies in a political crossfire. McGregor has seen or experienced it all, and now he shares his insights into how China "really" works. "One Billion Customers" maximizes the expansive knowledge of a respected journalist, well-known businessman, and ultimate China insider, offering compelling narratives of personalities, business deals, and lessons learned -- from Morgan Stanley's creation of a joint-venture Chinese investment bank to the pleasure dome of a smuggler whose $6 billion operation demonstrates how corruptiongreases the wheels of Chinese commerce. With nearly 100 strategies for conducting business in China, this unprecedented account combines practical lessons with the story of China's remarkable rise to power.

30 review for One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rajat Tiwari

    Author, through his unique positions in the growing China's economy of 90s to early 2000s, shares detailed information on how the Chinese bureaucracy functions. I picked up with the intent to know little about the nitty-gritties of how a chinese consumer functions. Though I did get a glimpse of this but this book largely about Chinese business history & derived learnings from it. A decent read overall. 3/5 rating. An anecdote about Chinese people's competitiveness which I enjoyed the most (don't m Author, through his unique positions in the growing China's economy of 90s to early 2000s, shares detailed information on how the Chinese bureaucracy functions. I picked up with the intent to know little about the nitty-gritties of how a chinese consumer functions. Though I did get a glimpse of this but this book largely about Chinese business history & derived learnings from it. A decent read overall. 3/5 rating. An anecdote about Chinese people's competitiveness which I enjoyed the most (don't mean to stereotype anyone)- Story of 3 monks: When one monk is asked to fetch water from river, he brings 2 buckets full of water on the either side of the shoulder pole. When two monks are asked the same, they come together with 3 buckets- 2 on either side & 1 in center of the shared shoulder pole, signifying their need to do minimum but equal work When the same is asked to three monks, they come back with nothing!!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mystic Miraflores

    This was an interesting book but I'm afraid the info is outdated by now. I actually don't have it anymore. I bought it for the office I was working at in 2005 and left it there with a colleague when I left to study Chinese for a year. That colleague moved on to another job and I never returned to that office after my sabbatical was over, so not sure where it is now. Wherever it is, I hope it is doing someone some good! This was an interesting book but I'm afraid the info is outdated by now. I actually don't have it anymore. I bought it for the office I was working at in 2005 and left it there with a colleague when I left to study Chinese for a year. That colleague moved on to another job and I never returned to that office after my sabbatical was over, so not sure where it is now. Wherever it is, I hope it is doing someone some good!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mack Flavelle

    Great little book about doing business in China. General format is case studies, followed by analysis plus some maxims mimicked from Mao's Little Red Book format. A little too much padding but the case studies were both engaging to read and felt relevant to trying to do business in China as a foreigner, with the caveat that they generally weren't stories about or for small business. Great little book about doing business in China. General format is case studies, followed by analysis plus some maxims mimicked from Mao's Little Red Book format. A little too much padding but the case studies were both engaging to read and felt relevant to trying to do business in China as a foreigner, with the caveat that they generally weren't stories about or for small business.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Great book that shows a powerful insight into business and politics in the Middle Kingdom, while certain aspects of the book are outdated due to the constant change in China. There are still some great takeaways from this book. Thank you James McGregor!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Interesting perspective on Chinese business culture.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nguyet Nguyen

    After reading this book, I understand how much Vietnam and China alike in both culture and politics.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Superqs

    most of the suggestions are outdated, I guess. But this book is fully of anecdotes, which helped me connect a few dots in my memory.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristof Verbeke

    This book goes very well together with poorly made in china and mr. China to further understand chinese cukture. Although many examples about the business life in china are given this book focusses a bit more on history and how history of the prc is still relevant today, especially in a business context. After each part an important short recap is given. Extremely handy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Lauren

    I think James McGregor did an absolutely fantastic job in writing this book. As a novice to the Chinese system, I found his assessments both level-headed and helpful. I found his stories extremely engaging and continually as I was reading it, I found myself showing the cover to my roommates and saying, "This book is phenominal." I believe that this is a good read for anyone - I have no intentions of getting into business with China - at least not anytime soon - but even in the act of travelling I think James McGregor did an absolutely fantastic job in writing this book. As a novice to the Chinese system, I found his assessments both level-headed and helpful. I found his stories extremely engaging and continually as I was reading it, I found myself showing the cover to my roommates and saying, "This book is phenominal." I believe that this is a good read for anyone - I have no intentions of getting into business with China - at least not anytime soon - but even in the act of travelling to the country, I found that this book has given me a lot of ideas about the general culture. Well written and informative, I applaud McGregor's work. My only qualm, which caused me to lower the stars, is that some of the stories, especially toward the end, didn't seem like they could be helpful to anyone who wasn't in his exact situation. They were interesting anecdotes, but didn't teach a whole lot.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    This book even helps Chinese to understand their own society. As common people, there is no way we know about the details of theses big deals from newspaper. We saw what's happening around but we don't know why. I appreciate the author for sharing his unique experience and deep view about the market from a foreign investor's perspective. Some advices of doing business in china is very interesting. MNCs should understand the environment more before they land on this absurd battlefield. A good bal This book even helps Chinese to understand their own society. As common people, there is no way we know about the details of theses big deals from newspaper. We saw what's happening around but we don't know why. I appreciate the author for sharing his unique experience and deep view about the market from a foreign investor's perspective. Some advices of doing business in china is very interesting. MNCs should understand the environment more before they land on this absurd battlefield. A good balance of business expansion and ethic should be kept. Otherwise, just see what happened to GSK. Politics and corruption is yucky, yet the country is still functioning itself, which I think is quite amazing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brigham

    Decent book, lots of case studies. Unfortunately, it tries a bit to hard to boil the business mind down and oftentimes the metaphors are ridiculous. "Chinese business is like a dumpling..." What this author tries so hard to do is find a root cause, something central to the Chinese business mind. Unfortunately, the Chinese like all societies work on a number of co-existing contradictions that can't ever make perfect sense and may vary from one person to another. Still, for anyone frustrated with h Decent book, lots of case studies. Unfortunately, it tries a bit to hard to boil the business mind down and oftentimes the metaphors are ridiculous. "Chinese business is like a dumpling..." What this author tries so hard to do is find a root cause, something central to the Chinese business mind. Unfortunately, the Chinese like all societies work on a number of co-existing contradictions that can't ever make perfect sense and may vary from one person to another. Still, for anyone frustrated with how and why things don't get done properly over there, this book will give certain comfort and a bit of practical advice.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maria Nahlik

    Very true, well structured, interesting readng. Reading this book is important for anybody who wants to understand how China really works. An update would be interesting. The last ten years have opened China even more towards the west, and, although much of the fundamental typology described in the book still prevails, the world is getting (for the better or the worse) more and more uniform. The book is packed with interesting facts experienced first hand by the author, it is easy to read, captiv Very true, well structured, interesting readng. Reading this book is important for anybody who wants to understand how China really works. An update would be interesting. The last ten years have opened China even more towards the west, and, although much of the fundamental typology described in the book still prevails, the world is getting (for the better or the worse) more and more uniform. The book is packed with interesting facts experienced first hand by the author, it is easy to read, captivating and well structured.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joon

    This was probably the best book on China I've read so far. It may have been because it was the first book on China economics I read, but I don't think so. It was interesting, well written, contained lots of great insights, and very informative. It is 2 years old and on the China timescale that may make it outdated, but I would still definitely recommend it to anyone about to move to China or interested in the economics over here. This was probably the best book on China I've read so far. It may have been because it was the first book on China economics I read, but I don't think so. It was interesting, well written, contained lots of great insights, and very informative. It is 2 years old and on the China timescale that may make it outdated, but I would still definitely recommend it to anyone about to move to China or interested in the economics over here.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Noreen

    This book is full of current Chinese gems such as "Being corrupt is not a big deal. Everybody is corrupt. But you can't be corrupt and be politically incorrect at the same time. You don't have to be clean as long as you are loyal to your political protectors above you. Honesty in China will always lose out to piety and loyalty." "The procurement process in China is usually corrupt at every level." Yucky society. Glad I'm not Chinese. This book is full of current Chinese gems such as "Being corrupt is not a big deal. Everybody is corrupt. But you can't be corrupt and be politically incorrect at the same time. You don't have to be clean as long as you are loyal to your political protectors above you. Honesty in China will always lose out to piety and loyalty." "The procurement process in China is usually corrupt at every level." Yucky society. Glad I'm not Chinese.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Farrell

    I read this book for my international business management class. I loved the do's and do not's of business in China and the insights it held, but it was very detailed I think that 50-75 of those pages could have been cut out. A lot of repeating went on, and I know it was probably to illustrate multiple examples and all that but it just dragged the novel along for me, especially when then I had to condense 300 pages into 2 for the book report. I read this book for my international business management class. I loved the do's and do not's of business in China and the insights it held, but it was very detailed I think that 50-75 of those pages could have been cut out. A lot of repeating went on, and I know it was probably to illustrate multiple examples and all that but it just dragged the novel along for me, especially when then I had to condense 300 pages into 2 for the book report.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lis

    Repeatedly mentioned corruption as part of doing business in China, like other business books on China. It talks about China as a market and not just a factory, unlike many other business books on China. I had to read books on the subject for business school. It's not something I really enjoy reading about, so my star rating is not truly fair. Repeatedly mentioned corruption as part of doing business in China, like other business books on China. It talks about China as a market and not just a factory, unlike many other business books on China. I had to read books on the subject for business school. It's not something I really enjoy reading about, so my star rating is not truly fair.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eveline Chao

    Old (in lightning-fast China time, anyway) but great. Felt like reading a collection of quick, entertaining Harvard Business School case studies, but about companies in China. McGregor's palpable glee when he recounts the standoff between Reuters/Dow Jones and Xinhua, which he was directly involved in, was especially fun to read. Old (in lightning-fast China time, anyway) but great. Felt like reading a collection of quick, entertaining Harvard Business School case studies, but about companies in China. McGregor's palpable glee when he recounts the standoff between Reuters/Dow Jones and Xinhua, which he was directly involved in, was especially fun to read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    James Cripps

    Way too boring. There is only one thing separating this from a one-star ranking, and that's the story about Lai Changxing, a thoroughly entertaining story about one of China's most notorious entrepreneurs. But the rest is either about BIG business or BIG government, neither of which is particularly relatable for the common person. Way too boring. There is only one thing separating this from a one-star ranking, and that's the story about Lai Changxing, a thoroughly entertaining story about one of China's most notorious entrepreneurs. But the rest is either about BIG business or BIG government, neither of which is particularly relatable for the common person.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jerel Bonner

    James McGregor's book was one of the early books written on how to understand and adjust your China business strategy based on "How China Really Operates". One of the best parts of the book is his summary of each chapter interestingly titled " The Little Red Book of Business". These sections highlight the main ideas and action points of how to do business in China. James McGregor's book was one of the early books written on how to understand and adjust your China business strategy based on "How China Really Operates". One of the best parts of the book is his summary of each chapter interestingly titled " The Little Red Book of Business". These sections highlight the main ideas and action points of how to do business in China.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    Facts, facts, facts! I learned a lot about the backgrounds of some of the major players in the up and coming economic war. Although I did not agree with everything the author talks about, nor did I agree with the numerous spelling mistakes, this pretty much sums it up.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Readortoread

    a great book to learn about contemprary China. Not only about the Chinese business culture, but also about its history, its ideology and its people. The author's understanding of today's China is profound and accurate. Thumbs up! a great book to learn about contemprary China. Not only about the Chinese business culture, but also about its history, its ideology and its people. The author's understanding of today's China is profound and accurate. Thumbs up!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Broad perspective blended with case analysis, delivered in an entertaining manner, painted an accurate picture of how business is conducted in China.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Neal

    Do business in China!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    A little too generic, but a fun read

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jdavidzapata

    China could be the next frontier to focus on

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stefan Martiyan

    Read because I thought I might be doing business in China, which I haven't as of yet, but essential for any Westerner taking the risk of doing so. Read because I thought I might be doing business in China, which I haven't as of yet, but essential for any Westerner taking the risk of doing so.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Yotam Gutman

    Incredible insight into China and its business culture.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Good summary of the experiences of people doing business in China.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Winstonsc

    Looks like an interesting book in the beginning but then it starts repeating itself from chapter to chapter. Half of the book would've been enough to understand the main idea. Looks like an interesting book in the beginning but then it starts repeating itself from chapter to chapter. Half of the book would've been enough to understand the main idea.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Tong

    Awesome, informative and essential. McGregor is an outstanding author and expert in his field.

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