Half a world away from the calm beauty of Puget Sound, there's a lab where Bill Gates's software dreams come true. . . . So begins Guanxi, the compelling on-the-scenes tale of the allure of China today -- and of a unique partnership between the world's most famous capitalist and the world's largest communist nation that showcases what it takes to compete in the age of global innovation.
Guanxi (gwan-shee), the Chinese term for mutually beneficial relationships essential to success in the Middle Kingdom, tells the story of the juggernaut research lab that underpins Microsoft's relationship building in China. Unfurled through a gripping narrative that moves between Beijing and Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, it follows the lab's emergence as a mecca for Chinese computer-science talent -- a place where 10,000 résumés arrive in a month, written exams are farmed out to eleven cities to screen applicants, and interns sleep on cots next to their cubicles. So far, the company has invested well over $100 million and hired more than 400 of China's best and brightest to turn the outpost into an important window on the future of computing and a training ground to uplift the state of Chinese computer science -- creating dramatic payoffs for both Microsoft and its host country that are helping the company overcome many of the challenges of China.
Guanxi traces the arc of the lab's stunning success from a memo by erstwhile Microsoft visionary Nathan Myhrvold to its early days under maverick speech recognition guru Kai-Fu Lee (since plucked away by Google for some $10 million), and to its more recent tutelage under former child prodigies Ya-Qin Zhang and Harry Shum. The two China-born stars, who both attended college in their native country by the age of thirteen, have orchestrated the Beijing lab's recent emergence as an epicenter of Microsoft's intensifying battles against Google in the search wars, Nokia in the wireless arena, and Sony in graphics and entertainment.
As pundits rail about the "China threat" to U.S. competitiveness and offer often-hackneyed arguments against outsourcing, Guanxi explores the true ramifications of China's high-tech buildup -- and the means by which it can be turned to competitive advantage, in part by "insourcing" the untapped talent in the country's top universities. Sprinkled with telling observations, compelling characters, and lively anecdotes about the brilliant successes and sometimes painful stumbles of the world's most powerful software company, Guanxi is essential reading for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and technologists around the globe.
Robert Buderi, a Fellow in MIT's Center for International Studies, is the author of two acclaimed books, Engines of Tomorrow, about corporate innovation, and The Invention That Changed the World, about a secret lab at MIT in World War II. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Gregory T. Huang is a features editor at New Scientist and holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. His writing has appeared in Nature, Wired, Technology Review, and other publications. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"Guanxi is a riveting story of Microsoft's efforts to do research and development in China. It gives you a front row seat on the global war for scientific talent, the future of innovation, and the growing linkages between the U.S. and China...Essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand where the world is headed." -- Jeffrey E. Garten, Juan Trippe Professor of International Trade and Finance, Yale School of Management
"Offers valuable insights into how some of the world's mightiest corporations twist themselves into knots to gain footholds in China... The story has all the elements for a corporate drama." -- Bloomberg.com
"The authors argue persuasively that Microsoft's Beijing Center has played a central role in developing products and served as a model for the company as it expands...Guanxi does show the importance that China has for American high-tech companies." -- Bruce Einhorn, BusinessWeek
"The authors have a terrific command of the subject...Fascinating story." -- San Francisco Chronicle