Arriving in Beijing in 1998 along with other Americans searching for the riches of the new China, Ethan Gutmann rapidly made his way into the expatriate community of American entrepreneurs. For them, Beijing was an Open City inside a controlled world. Entering this well-catered equivalent of a corporate boot camp, Gutmann was indoctrinated in the creed that China’s growing strength presented untapped opportunities for profit and expansion. American entrepreneurs might say—and even believe—that they were bringing freedom to China, but they were actually engaged in what Gutmann calls “climbing the Gold Mountain.” Over the next three years, as Gutmann worked his way into comfortable positions at a Chinese television documentary company and a public affairs firm conducting U.S. politicians on carefully choreographed tours of the New China, he became an insider.
Losing the New China is a trip log of an unexpected personal journey. But above all, this book is a carefully documented report on a commercial world without moral landmarks or boundaries, where actions have unintended consequences. Writing from the ground zero of his daily experience, Gutmann shows how massive American investment generated prosperity—but also a feverish new nationalism which surged into China’s universities, the dot.coms, and the entrepreneurial centers. Beginning with the riots over the 1999 Belgrade embassy bombing, he witnessed an eruption of anti-Americanism and a spurning of democracy even as U.S. technology and communication companies executed wholesale transfer of America’s most sophisticated technologies to the Chinese market. With the full cooperation of companies such as Cisco, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo!, Chinese authorities used American technology to monitor, sanitize, and ultimately isolate the Chinese web, creating the world’s greatest Big Brother Internet.
After three feverish years, Ethan Gutmann returned to the U.S. hardened by what he had experienced in the New China. But he brought something of value with him—an intimate insider’s story of American business in 21st-century Beijing. Filled with character and event, Losing the New China tells a fascinating story of strangers in a strange land. Readers will come away from this book understanding how and why U.S. corporations helped to replace the Goddess of Democracy that once stood in Tiananmen Square with the Gods of Mammon and Mars that dominate China today.