The Accidental Capitalist: A People's Story of the New China

Behzad Yaghmaian, Author
Behzad Yaghmaian. Pluto (Palgrave Macmillan, dist.), $29 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-7453-3230-7
Reviewed on: 04/09/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
Hardcover - 173 pages - 978-0-7453-3231-4
Hardcover - 193 pages - 978-1-84964-652-9
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Iranian-born Yaghmaian (Embracing the Infidel: Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West), professor of political economy at Ramapo College, reports on the economic and social conditions of contemporary China through the lens of internal migrant workers' lives. A modern Alexis de Tocqueville, the author lived among his subjects in Shenzen, "the heartbeat of the rising China," while scouring the metropolis for stories. Book I introduces readers to Grandpa, who fortuitously recites a political and cultural history of China, which sets the stage for further interviews. Book II follows two young women who spend six days a week at factory jobs and are grateful for the chance to practice their English with the author, and in Book III readers meet the titular "accidental capitalist," 42-year-old Zhao Gang, who struck it rich with his manufacturing company, where he regularly puts in 16-hour days. Book IV is devoted to a portrait of Gang's mentor, self-described "corporate vagabond" Yue Haitao, an extraordinarily wealthy businessman whose tense relationship with one of Yaghmaian's student interpreters reveals the psychological effects of the socioeconomic gaps that plague so many capitalist nations. Casting off polemics and opting instead to address China's development anecdotally, Yaghmaian crafts a moving portrait of the diverse individuals behind the ubiquitous label "Made in China." Photos, map, & timeline. (Apr. 1)
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