Book: Guanxi

Neither sexy nor clever.
293 pages, ★

Guanxi is a drawn-out advertisement for Microsoft that’s loosely based on fiction.

Microsoft is doing terribly in China. Guanxi claims that Microsoft’s put its foot in the door of the Chinese market by flooding billboards with “Use Genuine Windows” advertisements, when the truth is that not one person in China has ever paid more than $1.50 for a pirate version of their software (even if they then claimed the full retail price on expenses). I even paid $1.50 for a pirate copy of this book from a wagon on the street.

Guanxi is full of metaphors that leave me stone cold, like “Sculley” and “Darth Vader”. And when geeky metaphors aren’t used, the language is as bland as Western tofu. Take this conversation for example,

“People realized that those guys in Beijing could really do something”.
“That was the moment that people thought, ‘Okay, from now on, we mean business’.”

Unfortunately, that drab conversation sits at one of the climaxes of the story.

As a foreigner in China, I can testify that a large part of Microsoft’s popularity is a direct result of its popularity in the West. In light of China’s obsessive “West is sexy” mentality, copying a business model from the US to China (and achieving almost zero) is no cause for celebration.

Microsoft did nothing special in China, let alone anything worthy of a book. Apple, on the other hand, reinvented itself from a rebel to a white-elephant for the super-rich, and can’t build stores in China fast enough. If only because he studied calligraphy and supported the liberal arts, read Steve Jobs’ biography instead. 

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