Imagine living through the breakthrough moments of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the other icons of today's new economy. The kind of technological revolution that they led in Silicon Valley is now sweeping through China, but with much more dramatic implications. The dynamic entrepreneurs who are using technology to radically transform business and cultural life in China are fighting not only outdated business models and a tumultuous economy but also an unpredictable government that has a love-hate relationship with the Net, at once pushing its expansion at a feverish pace and censoring it. As Duncan Clark, cofounder of BDA, an Internet consulting company in Beijing, told author David Sheff, "This environment -- the regulations, the competition, the political uncertainties -- makes these the fastest, most courageous, nimblest-thinking people globally. To deal with this level of risk and still sleep is no small accomplishment. But they're hooked on it like some Chinese are becoming hooked on Starbucks cappuccino."
In this irresistible, groundbreaking book, Sheff takes us into the trenches of the Chinese technology revolution, introducing the major and minor players who are leading China into the twenty-first century. Players like Bo Feng, the charismatic former sushi chef who is now one of the leading venture capitalists in China. And Edward Tian, a national hero who has been described as China's Steve Jobs and Bill Gates combined, who left his own start-up on the eve of its IPO in order to lead the government's attempt to bring broadband to the entire nation, in the process leapfrogging the United States, Europe, and the rest of Asia with the longest and fastest network in the world.
As the U.S. technological revolution wanes, business leaders will be looking to the billion-plus potential customers in China for new growth. In addition, the world's newest member of the World Trade Organization will no longer be a bystander in the global economy; it will be a fierce competitor. And when hundreds of million Chinese have access to unprecedented information and communication, China itself will be profoundly altered. Jay Chang, an analyst who covers China for Credit Suisse First Boston, sums the seismic nature of the changes: "What happens when China successfully transforms from a mainly agrarian/industrial nation into one that has significant input from the information technology industry? What happens when eighty percent of the state-owned enterprises in China are able to link economically to the global Internet on fast pipes? What happens when China's engineering talent pool is able to gain access to high-end computing resources and exchange ideas and information easily with their global peers? What happens when fifty percent of the Chinese population gets wired in ten years -- six hundred million people, the largest number of Internet users in the world?" With its compelling, character-driven story, researched over the course of three years, China Dawn will be the definitive book on the subject.
The Internet poses an acute dilemma for China's leadership: it's necessary for economic growth, but a threat to traditional power structures. Journalist Sheff (Game Over)chronicles the successes and failures of a loose coalition of Chinese-American technology entrepreneurs from California, academic scientists on the Mainland and progressive Chinese government officials who are battling to modernize China's communications network. In particular, the book follows Bo Feng, one of China's premier venture capitalists, and Edward Tian, the founder of AsiaInfo, China's first Internet infrastructure company, as they try to raise capital in the U.S. and persuade government officials in China to support them. Sheff smartly juxtaposes their story with detailed descriptions of the effect of the Internet on Mainland life, including its pivotal role in shaping Chinese public opinion about the U.S. Although outsiders assume the Chinese government orchestrates public reactions, Sheff convincingly argues that the populace, thanks to the Internet, now leads its leaders, despite government censorship and direct harassment of Internet users. In one recent dramatic case, online discussions forced the government into an unprecedented apology and admission of cover-up in an elementary school explosion that killed 42 children and teachers. Sheff's fast-paced narrative provides an inside view of a potent factor in China's political evolution, one that is underestimated and misunderstood by many.