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 See the intro about him on Amazon (outdated – edited):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 It was published in 2000, so today some of the practical tips are outdated, and the China business environment has changed, not always for the best.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.

Zakelijk China, scherp in beeld gebracht

Frans Vandenbosch

Frans is another Belgian author, who published his book ” Zakelijk China, scherp in beeld gebracht”.
He also published another book, “Statecraft and Society in China – China grassroots politics”. in April 2019, in English.
He kindly gave me a copy of the book on 2 December 2018 in Legend Beer.

Introduction in Dutch

Follows the official introduction of “Zakelijk China, scherp in beeld gebracht” by Frans Vandenbosch (published in 2017).

€ 24,50 Incl. BTW (ebook or print)
China, het echte China van vandaag is ondanks enige belangstelling van de media nog altijd een grote onbekende. Vlaanderen kent China niet of blijft steken in verouderde vooroordelen. Dit boek leidt de lezer door de talrijke zakelijke, politieke, culturele en andere waarden die China te bieden heeft. Het is een praktische gids voor wie China met kennis van zaken wil verkennen en voor wie als ondernemer overweegt om met Chinezen samen te werken.

China is een gastvrij en boeiend land met vele onbekende kanten; een eeuwenoude cultuur met een rijke geschiedenis. Het moderne China bruist van economische activiteit. Het wetenschappelijk onderzoek en de nieuwe technologie ontwikkelen zich in China met een verbijsterende snelheid.
China heeft een steeds grotere invloed op ons dagelijkse leven. Onze kleding, computer, smartmobieltje, huishoudtoestellen en zoveel andere dingen worden vandaag uitsluitend nog in China geproduceerd, straks ook onze elektrische auto en onze voeding. Wil de Vlaamse economie in de wereld een rol van betekenis blijven spelen, dan kan ze zich beter vandaag toeleggen op intensieve samenwerking met China.

Frans Vandenbosch heeft jarenlang in China gewerkt en gewoond. Hij spreekt Chinees en kent China van binnenuit.

My view

No comments from my side. I leave up to the readers of the book.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

A vague memory

I remember I secretly read a Dutch version of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov I found at home when I was like ten years old. It left a deep impression, pretty sensual. However, in the mist of times, I did not remember any details. I also guess it was not a complete translation and probably edited.

The original version

So I finally read the original in English.

Let me say I was somehow disappointed. I did not feel that same sensuality. Yes, it is considered a masterpiece but there is a lot of rambling, excused, because it reflects the mind of the protagonist. I missed the details of what really happened in bed. Too many vague and confusing hints. Being very open-minded I was not “shocked” by the story, or would I say I was not shocked enough.

Not that I condone the acts of the protagonist. It is definitely sick and immoral.

Somehow it reminds me of the movie “Last Tango in Paris”, a movie that also left me a deep impression, and where I do not have the same negative comments about the protagonist. I would like to watch it again with a decent translation in English. I recently saw the DVD but it was only in the original Italian version and a lot of the conversation I could not understand well and I think it is very important to hear the full version. And yes, some impressive and sensual scenes. A great movie.

For me the book Lolita had such a worldwide impact because it was ahead of its times, but yeah, I expected more. Still a recommended read.

A better review

In my Lolita hard copy I kept a book review published in the New York Times on 25 September 2005. That was to commemorate the 50 years since its publication.

I guess a much better insight than mine.
For those who cannot retrieve the original article, see here the PDF:

050925 Lolita