In My China—Living Inside the Dragon, Jeremy Bazley uses his 15 years of working in China and negotiating with powerful government officials and businessmen to provide insight into what it was like to live and work in China during an “extraordinary period of… growth and evolution.”
From May 2002 to April 2017, Bazley, an Englishman from Devon, was the general manager for a joint venture company in Jiaxing in eastern China’s Zhejiang province. The company primarily manufactured paper for cigarettes, and the joint venture partner to Bazley’s English one was the Chinese government.
“Doing business in China,” claims Bazley, “is all about making friends,” and the business banquette is of primary importance because there, amid an excess of food and drink, followed, oftentimes, by private karaoke sessions, guanxi, or “relationship networks” are made. For the Chinese, guanxi may also require the giving of gifts and favors—for example, placing a network member’s wife on the payroll, selling an apartment at discount—and more. “There is no limit,” the author writes, “to how far this could go.”
In addition to discussing the corrupt nature of the Chinese business model (including the disadvantageous playing field China gives to foreign venture partners), Bazley describes the 24 regions of China he visited, highlighting the customs, food and environment (the northeast China engineering factories “resembled dark satanic mills from a horror film”). He also provides sections on other aspects of China, such as family, security, and education.
Bazley employs a genial, chatty style, interspersing explanative narrative with journal entries. Oddly, the journal grammar is mostly correct, while the narrative portions are marred with run-on sentences, fragments and verb agreement problems. His coverage of China is wonderfully complete (even including the disgusting nature of the public toilets), except for descriptions of people and relationships. Often, he mentions colleagues without saying anything else about them.
Nevertheless, Bazley’s depiction of China is engaging and, with editing, would provide a delightful read.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.