Nelson Wong Authors

Understanding China

September 04, 2023

Nelson Wong, Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Centre for RimPac and International Studies, says that reading has enriched his understanding of China and shaped his perspective on a wide range of issues

Understanding China

Born and educated in mainland China, Nelson Wong taught English on the mainland for three years before emigrating to Hong Kong in 1986. From a commercial property negotiator, Wong worked his way up and became the vice chair and global chief executive of Vigers in 1993, the then 150-year-old British firm. He established the ACN Worldwide group of companies in 1995 and still chairs this global investment and business consultancy. Wong is also an independent director and audit committee chair of two publically listed companies on Nasdaq.

Which book provides the best insight into the world at large?

A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century by L.S. Stavrianos. This is by far the most valuable history book of our world and is considered as one of the three most important works on humanity of the 20th century. Designed in its later editions for courses in World History and World Civilization, this classic exploration of world history takes an interdisciplinary global (rather than a regional or national) approach—tracing those major forces, movements, and events that have had a worldwide impact. It stresses connections between the past, present and future, emphasizing the question, “What does it mean for us today?”

What China book made a lasting impression on you?

When China Rules the World by Martin Jacques. Amidst widespread critical acclaim—and controversy, Martin Jacques renews his assault on conventional thinking about China’s ascendancy, showing how its impact will be as much political and cultural as economic, thereby transforming the world as we know it. People may not agree with the author’s conclusion or prediction, the latest edition of the book has included nearly three-hundred pages of new material backed up by statistical data that support his argument of why China will replace the United States as the world’s dominant power.

What book are you reading currently?

The Spirit of the Chinese People by Hung-Ming Ku. First published at the beginning of the 20th century, this book is the most important work written by the author for introducing the Chinese culture to the West. Growing up in a Western environment, the author later became well-known for his deep understanding of China and the culture to the extent that he earned himself the reputation of being the “must-meet” master for anyone who wanted to learn about China, making this book still relevant until this day, even for the average Chinese reader.

What China book did you read recently?

On China by Henry Kissinger. In his own words, Henry Kissinger claims to have had the good luck of being able to pursue both the American and Chinese strands of thinking simultaneously as a senior official, as a carrier of messages, and as a scholar. While the book’s target and prime readers could be the non-Chinese, it actually proves to be an interesting and worthwhile read for those Chinese who are interested in international relations, global politics, and managing business ventures worldwide. Personally, I have found this book fascinating as it provides a reasonably balanced view about China which I believe is much needed by us Chinese as well.

Which China business book do you think is the most underappreciated?

My Country and My People by Lin Yutang. The writer was considered one of China’s top scholars of the 20th century, making great academic strides and writing over 35 books in English and Chinese on a variety of topics. Having been born in China but growing up in the US, Lin had a unique perspective and My Country and My People demonstrates that. With a very unique angle and insight into Chinese culture he discussed everything about anything you may want to know about the Chinese people. The comprehensiveness of this book makes it a must-read.

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