Ethical Corporation’s China Editor Paul French looks at what should be in any serious stocking for Christmas reading

As we get to the end of the year it seems worthwhile noting a few new books this year that might be of interest to those involved ethical and CSR issues around China.

So here’s five books that came out in 2008 that might be useful reads over the holiday season..

(1) The China Price – The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage – Alexandra Harney

Former FT South China Correspondent Harney lifts the lid on the murky and often deadly world of China’s factory economy.

In light of the recent scandals over toys and milk as well as the impact of the global recession on China’s export-oriented manufacturing base this book is even more pertinent.

Some argue that maintaining the China Price (i.e. a low cost manufacturing price) is crucial to keeping prices down and boosting consumption on the High Streets of North America and Europe; others that the China Price must rise to end the abuse in China’s factories.

Harney is also useful if you’ve wondered if your factory monitoring in China is a scam – it probably is!

(2) China Intellectual Property Challenges and Solutions – Rebecca Ordish and Alan Adcock

Ordish and Adcock are generally more bullish than many non-lawyers in China on the prospects for improving IP rights in China.

However, the book is a good guide to the current state of play, the IP regimes and agreements in place and successful defences of IP.

However, it should be noted, just about all their examples are large global players with a lot of money and clout – Disney, Nike etc.

Just how small new environmental technology or new brands are supposed to retain their IP without buckets of cash and teams of high priced lawyers is a little vague!

(3) China in Africa – Chris Alden

Reams and reams have been written on the issue of China’s economic and soft power expansion into China, particularly Darfur and Sudan, in the last year. The issue moved front and centre to an extent during the Olympics.

Alden’s book is a concise and highly readable short book about the role China is assuming in Africa – will the new relationship between the continent and the PRC be one of partnership and development or competition and a new colonialism?

(4) KFC in China – Warren Liu

It’s hard to think of a more successful foreign company in China than KFC – fried chicken to the masses from over 1,000 stores.

Liu was one of the original Taiwanese fast food guys who set up KFC on the Mainland and he tells how they did it.

Within that story are some useful pointers for controlling supply chains, ensuring staff are treated well, spotting corruption throughout the company and maintaining some sort of ethics while expanding at a rate of knots – however, this is the business of selling artery clogging junk food to the people so don’t expect too many ethics!

(5) Where am I Wearing – A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories and People That Make Our Clothes - Kelsey Timmerman

wide eyed and previously clueless (it’s actually hard to imagine anyone as clueless as Timmerman) American journalist travels around Cambodia, Honduras, China and elsewhere to find out where his clothes are made.

It’s all a bit personal rather than overly useful and, as with so much writing by younger Americans, more about the rather spoilt and self-absorbed Timmerman than anything else.

To be honest you’d be better off reading the far more well-researched, to the point and insightful Pietra Rivoli’s The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade from a couple of years back.

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