China Mission Impossible

Rainer Thomm again

As mentioned in a previous post, I needed to read again “China Mission Impossible” by Rainer Thomm. As far as I understand got his book on 31 January 2008. In the mist of times. But I found back the details, it was an event organized by (, a global network of international professionals. The event was in Block 8 (near Chaoyang Park).
 It was announced as “APEC presents the International Career Fair 2008 with ORIENTED, LinkedIn, The European Union and more”. No pictures.

His books: China: Mission Impossible – Business China: A Practical Insight Into Doing Business in China – China in the Fast Line – Chasing the Dragon.

Many of his books are however not available anymore. See the intro about him on Amazon (outdated – edited):

Rainer Thomm studied law and economics in London and Vienna and trained as a lawyer in London.
He served as an executive with major banks in Europe, Australia and Asia. In the early to mid 80’s, he was instrumental in building up the Asian investment banking business of foreign firms, and joined the board of a joint venture leasing company in Beijing.
His consultancy work was focused on supporting investors in developing suitable strategies for the Chinese market, identifying suitable Chinese partners, bridging differences and building relationships. His clients have included financial institutions and industrial companies as well as small and medium-size enterprises and individuals.
Rainer Thomm is the author of “Doing Business in China” and “Win/Win in China!” as well as numerous articles for periodicals and newsletters.

My review

Made it to the end. A few comments.
Overall a well done ABC on how to behave and do business in China. It was published in 2000, so today some of the practical tips are outdated, and the China business environment has changed, not always for the best. So, in some way the picture today is less rosy than in 2000.

However many of his observations and recommendations are still valid today.
I liked this statement:
“Anybody not ethnic Chinese in China is welcome as long as he behaves as a guest, but he will never be really part of Chinese society”.

Oh so true, let those “sinologists” tell you the contrary but after 40 years here, having an impressive track record and many Chinese “friends”. I do agree with the statement. We are “tolerated” as long as we are “useful”.

He also stresses the importance of using professional and PAID help to operate successfully and to avoid mistakes and spend money blindly. That is today even more valid.
Also he underlines the importance to have the backup from the head office, not changing the local representative in the wrong assumption Chinese deal with the company, not an individual (Oh so wrong!).
I could only suggest he updates the book to … twenty years later…

Socialism is Great by Lijia Zhang

Finally read

As reported earlier I found her book back in my library, unread: Socialism is Great by Lijia Zhang. The title is clearly sarcastic…

See about the book:

My view

Well I finished it, it took longer than I thought as the book is pretty long (358 pages of small print). Again, very impressed.

I expected something else but found out it is a meticulous narrative of her youth, a personal diary. She tells her story struggling to find her way inside a Nanjing government factory, trying to get a better education, going through love affairs, and trying to get a new life, well away from that dreaded factory work and her rather conservative and very modest family circle.

She shows how China changed from the early eighties to what it became later after the “opening up”. A period familiar to me as I arrived in China myself in late 1880.
So, many of the stories and facts she describes are all too familiar to me and I can say it is all very accurate. The eighties were years of fast changes but it was not everywhere at the same speed. In her surroundings it took longer than it did in the big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
She gives as such an interesting insight on how China was a few decades ago. It was at times very difficult. Like when she had to see the “nurses” in her factory to prove she did have her period. Difficult to imagine all that today.

I admire or rather cannot comprehend how she can remember so many small details of her daily life, from decades ago. I feel depressed as I am a total failure in this respect.

A view on some of my paper mountains to clean up

I am now trying to dig up documents in my office trying to remember stuff that happened. Or going back to old pictures, where I often have no idea who is who. Well, not motivating for me… I feel I cannot remember well the details of the stories I want to write about. Giving a seminar about it, public talking is one thing but putting it on paper…

I strongly recommend the book. Well written, many interesting historical facts. I was only disappointed by the ending: I wanted to know what happened later… Because she married, had children and separated from her husband, but I am not clear about all that. Just plain curious.

Chasing the Dragon

Chasing the Dragon – Living on the Edge

A book by Rainer Thomm. I had the pleasure to meet the author on 7 July 2017 who kindly signed his book. Since then Rainer has moved to Shunde in Guangdong Province and we are in contact again.

I could not find a link to buy Chasing the Dragon; nothing on Amazon and nothing either about the Publisher (China Wallaby News). Price as marked on the cover: AUD 60 and CNY 360. Read down below the reason!

Rainer introduces his book:
These are the stories told to me by Lester Gattini, an Australian mate of mine, about his experiences over many years in China. Son of Italian immigrants, Les is a genius at spinning a yarn and he certainly knows how to hold his grog. Over the years Les and I have had more all-night sessions than either of us can remember and downed more booze than might have killed most other men. His story in many ways reads like my own. Like me, Les has both survived the lows and tasted the heights of joy in making his way in the Land of the Dragon.

No, no, not about drugs

According to Wikipedia:

“Chasing the dragon” is a slang phrase of Cantonese origin from Hong Kong referring to inhaling the vapor from a heated solution of morphine, heroin, oxycodone, opium, or ya ba (a pill containing caffeine and methamphetamine). The “chasing” occurs as the user gingerly keeps the liquid moving in order to keep it from overheating and burning up too quickly, on a heat conducting material such as aluminium foil. The moving smoke is chased after with a tube through which the user inhales.

My book report

The protagonist (Les) gives an honest and unpretentious view on his China (mis)adventures, showing aspects of China most books ignore. He talks about his discouraging experience working for a foreign company that ignores the reality of China’s harsh business environment, about how the Chinese side is basically cheating as much as possible, the foreign head office remaining blind till it all goes under. A pretty familiar story to me. So many foreign investors simply lose their pants here and disappear in silence.

After the life of a pampered expat with car and expensive dinners he starts his own business. Then his mode of living and dealing with housing is pretty disastrous, exposing the dark side of reality for foreigners living here on a cheap budget. An example not to follow. He does not explain why he always makes the wrong choice, is it because of his small budget? One really has to be careful dealing with rentals. He always ends up with a unpleasant experience of trying to stay somewhere “local”. His story of going through a complicated surgery is also pretty interesting.

Some pretty colorful anecdotes about his travels around Beijing and in the provinces. He certainly had a lot of courage…
His love life is also pretty messed up and he makes many mistakes. At the end of the book however it seems he found love in a new relationship.

In conclusion an interesting book if one wants to know how life can be for a foreigner far away from the golden expat life and confirming one lesson: beware of all the cheating and harassment by many Chinese while there are also nice and reliable friends to be made.

How to get his books

There is no reference to Chasing the Dragon on the Internet. It was a private publication, and Rainer says he would not write it like that again. He is working on a rewrite called “Dancing with the Dragon”.
He has a stack of copies in storage in Beijing and I will get some copies, those interested can contact me.

More about his other books in a future post. Yeah I discovered I have his other book, “China Mission Impossible”. I have to read it again! My library has several other “forgotten” books I need to read.

From Mundaneum to Apple Books

Acceleration of technology

From Mundaneum to Apple Books we see an dazzling evolution in technology in the world of books and publishing. With the progress of e-book readers, even the Kindle reader seems outdated as one can read the e-books on a mobile or iPad. One can wonder what the future holds. But books in print are not gone yet.


A Belgian was way ahead of his time. Few have heard of Paul Otlet, a visionary Belgian who sought to put all human knowledge on 3-by-5-inch library cards in a temple of learning that he called the Mundaneum.
Yet, as a new museum in Mons shows, Otlet’s century-old concept preconfigured the Internet.

Rescued from neglect, the Mundaneum has found a permanent home here in a converted 1930s department store and annexes for research and storage. Boxes crammed with the tons of documents and publications collected by Otlet and his followers fill about 6 kilometers of shelf space, awaiting classification. Vast iconographic resources, including hundreds of thousands of posters, postcards and glass photographs, remain largely unexplored.

“It will take us more than 100 years just to sort out and scan the newspapers into computers,” said Daniel Lefebvre, an archivist.

Read the full story here:
27 June 1998 – World of Learning and a Virtual Library

For those who cannot access the article: 980627 Mundaneum

Apple Books and PC

Previously PC users could not access the Apple Books to upload their manuscripts. That is now changed. See:
Apple Books For Authors – Now With PC Access Publishing Resources
Posted by David Gaughran – May 2020

David wrote:
Apple Books For Authors has launched and the all-new site now provides help with every stage in the publishing process. And here’s the biggest news of all: PC users can now publish direct with Apple Books. That’s right!
Before now, anyone using a PC device could not easily publish direct with Apple Books and many had to use a distributor to reach all of Apple’s customers. Now that has changed, and the new Apple Books publishing portal is accessible by web browser, and on a PC too.

Visit his website for the full story.
The Apple location:

China street libraries and used books

Changing market

Book reading in China is always changing. China street libraries and used books are newcomers.
Near Sanlitun in Beijing I discovered this “street library” where one can get books from a vending machine, called “Chaoyang District Library”, obviously with the usual QR-code approach.

The Sanlitun former “dirty bar street” now counts two new modern book libraries where people can read some books while sipping a drink. The Page One book shop in Taikooli is still in business.

Sadly our beloved The Bookworm is gone and no similar venue exists as for now. As a result the choice of foreign books is dramatically reduced.

Used books

A new trend is the growing interest in used books.
See this interesting article, only available in French:

30 janvier 2019 – “Les livres d’occasion : à échanger sans modération”
Source: La Chine au présent

or see here: 190130livres_occasion

Some highlights, see the full article for details.
There are some major platforms to exchange used books:

  • Yushu set up by Shang Xiaohu on 15 June 2017, platform for the sales of used books.
  • Set up on 17 August 2017, Xiongmaogezi platform for the sale of used books on WeChat.
  • Set up in May 2017, Duozhuayu is another platform using WeChat.
  • Set up in May 2018 in Chengdu: Manyoujing.
  • Others: idleFish (Alibaba Group) et Kongfuzi Jiushuwang.