Following the wrong China trail

I met a China scholar at a dinner recently, and mentioned I’d reviewed China’s Silent Army: The Pioneers, Traders, Fixers and Workers Who Are Remaking the World in Beijing’s Image.

“They didn’t go,” the scholar asserted.

“Excuse me,” I replied. “You mean, you don’t think they went to all those places in Africa, the Burmese hills, the Russian forests, the Andes, the Turkmen desert…”

“No way.”

My wife agreed. “They’re so focused on telling us about all the hardships they went through to get to these places that it’s hard to believe they really did it.”

For the record, I take the authors, Spanish China business journalists Juan Pablo Cardenal and Heriberto Araujo, at their word. But those dissenting views point up a major problem with China’s Silent Army. The book (read my review) aims to address key questions about how Chinese government and business are cooperating to achieve China’s strategic interests in far-flung corners of the world. But, as I wrote in Asia Times, it veers off into a travelogue where there authors doth protest much about the hardships they suffer in pursuit of the story,

When I mentioned disappointment over the book’s failure to deliver the definitive word on how China Inc is trying to conquer the world, the China scholar responded with a roll of her eyes. “I’d like to see them to publish that book.”

So would I. So would I.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.