China economy FAQ


Almost every day now, if you check Twitter, some founder or VC or journalist will have made the trip out to Shenzhen only to come back saying “CHINA IS SO AHEAD !!11!!1”. It’s hard to judge the veracity of these statements, since China and it’s economy seem so opaque to most people living in the West. People don’t even know where to start reading about it.

After a month or so of reading books and talking to people, here’s my “getting started” guide to learning about China. My aim with this blog post is to share general pointers that guide you where to look.

History and Background
For a broad description of the main differences between ‘Western’ societies and others, try reading about WEIRD psychology, the World Values Survey or the social impact of Christianity during the middle ages. The last book is good, because it explains the development of the concept of ‘human rights’.

China was a relatively isolated society until the 19th century, that saw itself almost as a world unto itself. The system of the Chinese emperor and mandarins had been in power for thousands of years. For the pragmatic mindset and cyclical view of history that evolved in this period, try The Art of War.

For a first encounter with the British “barbarians” — missionaries, diplomats and opium traders — in the 19th century, which eventually led to the fall of the Qing dynasty, try Imperial Twilight.