The Fruits of Business Anthropology in China (Book Review)
This (Business Anthropology: New Progress in China. By Chen Gang and Tian Guang. North American Business Press, 2022) is an exciting compilation of ethnographies in Western China by the authors and their colleagues. But “exciting” is probably not the first reaction that surfaces in looking only at the chapter titles – roads, food service, NGOs, and entrepreneurs are topics that seem likely to arouse little interest except to those whose research lies in these areas. Likewise female smokers, border markets, urban-rural relations, and stone pot chicken may appear to be eccentric topics at first glance. But the talented ethnographers who conducted this research and wrote these chapters are able to deftly develop their topics and to make them come alive. They then step back and allow us to contemplate the broader significance of the patterns of business and consumer behavior that they have discovered. They show how changes hailed as modernization are affecting several of China’s 55 ethnic minorities and their engagement with Han Chinese and foreigners from Vietnam, Korea, Laos, and Myanmar. In one case they are able to step even farther back and contrast Asian and African time styles and business styles and to use the chapter to comment on China’s soft power and its Belt and Road initiative in Africa.