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Book Review: Who is being transformed? Part I
Losing the New China: a Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal
Stephen Gregory, The Epoch Times
9/26/2004



 Related Articles
Book Review: Who is being transformed? Part III
Book Review: Who is being transformed? Part II
 
Losing the New China: a Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal- Ethan Gutmann (Encounter Books) 253 pp. $25.95

Losing the New China: a Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal is at once Ethan Gutmann’s personal odyssey a story of idealism, temptation, possible corruption, and redemption, and his report from the front on the dangerous turn taking place in our relations with China.

This book calls into question the current wisdom about China, and reveals how the U.S., in particular U.S. business, is playing a far different role in China than we have all assumed.

From Christmas Day 1998 to August 2001 Gutmann had a ring-side seat on what is happening in Beijing today. He worked first as a film producer for a Chinese company that eventually turned to the making of propaganda, and then as the employee of a firm that helps American businesses handle the challenges of doing business in China.

That firm offers a full range of services, but its essential service is to reinterpret “the concept of success.” It helps companies not making money in China make the case for continuing to do business there. Not to put too fine a point on it, Gutmann helped the representatives of top American companies make fools of their CEOs, visiting American Congressmen, and their staffs, by spinning likely stories about business opportunity in China, and about China itself.

Gutmann, then, was in a privileged position to understand the assumptions that Americans bring to doing business in China, and, to a lesser degree, the assumptions the government of China has about the U.S.

In eight chapters, each of which provides one facet of the bigger picture, Gutmann explains how and why the Chinese Communist Party instigated the riots following the U.S.’ accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and how following the riots American business in effect supported the Party, in the process fatefully emboldening Communist hawks. He tells how even idealistic Chinese today find themselves selling out, as the once dissident film-maker Gutmann worked for in Beijing did in order assure her professional survival.

The book reveals how American businessmen in China work to manipulate the view the U.S. has of China. It also tells how Americans have built for themselves a fantasy, an “El Dorado,” that takes the place for them of the real China. Gutmann tells how American companies routinely fail in China, but nevertheless keep pouring good money after bad.

He does a case study of Cisco Systems, one of the exceptions to American business failure, which has made a fortune by giving the tyrants of Beijing the tools to censor the internet. Gutmann also tells of other exceptions, once-failing American companies that have saved themselves by now providing the Chinese military with sophisticated 4th generation weapons technology.

Finally, Gutmann describes the sexual revolution going on in China today, in which Americans are featured players, by turns naïve, adventurous, sleazy, and cynical.

Gutmann’s approach is personal, beginning from what he saw, heard and experienced in Beijing, writing with a novelist’s eye and ear for detail, anecdote and dialogue. But the matter of these chapters goes far beyond the personal. Gutmann often breaks new ground in our knowledge of American business and China, and his treatments of the internet and of technology transfers to China are particularly sobering. While each chapter works very well as an essay, each treats a subject matter that could profit from book-length treatment. I hope we will see Gutmann return to these subjects in the future.

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