My review of The End of Copycat China

Shaun Rein, the founder and managing director of China Market Research Group, is an engaging and eloquent speaker. We were speakers at quite a few events together. I’ve been to his talks and was always impressed by his confidence – obviously he knows his stuff. Armed with a master degree from Harvard University and flawless Chinese, Rein is one of the world’s recognized thought leaders on strategy consulting.

Rein writes in the same engaging and confident manner. I found his latest bookThe End of Copycat China: The Rise of Creativity, Innovation, and Individualism in Asia, a sequel to his The End of Cheap China, a better read.

Is China an innovation powerhouse yet? This has been a hot topic lately. China may not be quite an innovation powerhouse yet but Rein argues in his book that China has been shifting away from simple coping of successful business models from the west. True, China used to pick the low-hanging fruit in the investment-driven economy. With China’s economic restructure, intensified competition, higher labor costs and changing consumer tastes, Chinese companies have been forced to move up the chain value.

Rein uses the success stories of Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi to make his point. And he knows the CEOs of those companies or interviewed them.

I learnt a lot from the book.

Some chapters are well-crafted, for example the first part of chapter 7 China’s Expanding Consumer Class, set in new mother Vanessa Zhu’s flat. It reads like a well-written feature piece, with full-fledged scene, interesting dialogue, vivid description of the people and atmosphere. “The lingering scent of spicy Sichuan food hung in the air.” Such descriptions help the western readers, who have little idea what a Chinese home is like, to build a mental picture and make the book a pleasure to read.

Personally my least favorite are the Q and As. Dry in parts, it demands readers’ patience. They can also do with a bit of trimming.

Overall, I think the book can serve as a valuable guide to any businessmen lured by China’s vast market and potential or a good educational source to anyone interested in China. I also hope will help to break the stereotype of China image.


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