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China Fortunes: A Tale of Business in the New World

ISBN: 978-0-470-92804-2
592 pages
January 2011
China Fortunes: A Tale of Business in the New World (0470928042) cover image


A thoroughly modern global business story

In the spirit of James Clavell, China Fortunes is a vast and sweeping story that addresses one of the hottest topics of the day, Chinese business.

From a chaotic start in China to an embezzling Chinese company president on the run in Manilla, this book follows the monetary ups and downs of Jack Davis, an American financier drawn to the great Asian nation by the wealth of opportunities that accompanied the opening of the country to outsiders.

  • Traces the beginnings of China's entry into the industrial age, as it hesitantly embraced capitalism while enthusiastically chased foreign dollars
  • Takes readers through the bond trading floors of Wall Street to the opaque world of investment boutiques, market crashes and business failures, IPOs, failing marriages, and multi-national hydro electric deals
  • Written by a leading China businessman with deep connections in China and beyond

Drawing on the experiences of one of the first western investment bankers to do business in China, this exciting tale brings you up close to the rising fortunes and risky business of the Middle Kingdom.

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Table of Contents


Book 1: The High Life.

Chapter 1 Chinatown on the Rio Bravo.

Chapter 2 Born to Run.

Chapter 3 Fortune Cookie.

Chapter 4 Squeeze Play.

Chapter 5 Mistakes Were Made.

Chapter 6 The Right Man for the Job.

Chapter 7 Token Poet.

Chapter 8 Token Poet's IPO.

Chapter 9 Chinese Walls.

Chapter 10 The Year of Living Dangerously.

Chapter 11 Easier Said Than Done.

Book Two: The Crevice.

Chapter 12 A Leopard and His Spots.

Chapter 13 Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk.

Chapter 14 The New World Power.

Chapter 15 A Date with A Monkey.

Chapter 16 Once Burned, Twice Stupid.

Chapter 17 Tell Me Something I Don't Know.

Chapter 18 False Starts.

Chapter 19 The Worst of Times.

Chapter 20 Seven Year Itch.

Book Three: Hainan Jack.

Chapter 21 Rather Be Lucky than Good.

Chapter 22 Monkey on His Back.

Chapter 23 Hearts and Bones.

Chapter 24 China Fortunes.

Chapter 25 Killing Two Birds With One Stone.

Chapter 26 the Man to See.

Chapter 27 Original Sin.

Chapter 28 Living Large.

Chapter 29 Jack, It's Chinatown.

Chapter 30 What Happens in China Stays in China.

Chapter 31 Finders, Keepers.

Chapter 32 The Future of China.

Chapter 33 Chinese Coverage.

Chapter 34 The Fish Will Die.

Chapter 35 As Little as Possible.

Book Four: Hydro King.

Chapter 36 Sand Pebbles.

Chapter 37 Chinese Water Torture.

Chapter 38 Soldier of Fortune.

Chapter 39 Hydro King.

Chapter 40 Timing is Everything.

Chapter 41 Who Knows Where the Time Goes.

Chapter 42 You Learn Something New Every Day.

Chapter 43 The Place to Be.

Chapter 44 Bulls in the China Shop.

Chapter 45 Gum on Your Shoe.

Chapter 46 There and Back Again.

Chapter 47 Close but No Cigar.

Chapter 48 Penny Wise, Pound Foolish.

Book Five: China Hand.

Chapter 49 Men and Women.

Chapter 50 Catch and Release.

Chapter 51 China Hand.

Chapter 52 Chinese Handcuffs.

Chapter 53 Midnight Train to Baoding.

Chapter 54 Chinese Checkers.

Chapter 55 Chinese Fire Drill.

Chapter 56 A Walk on the Wild Side

Chapter 57 One Rainy Night in Lijiang.

Chapter 58 Tea and Oranges from China.

Chapter 59 Knock on Wood.

Chapter 60 Fortune Fish.

Chapter 61 It's Enough to Make a Man Religious.

Chapter 62 A Chinaman's Chance.

Chapter 63 Be Careful What You Wish For.

Book Six: The Long Walk Home.

Chapter 64 Trial and Error.

Chapter 65 Third Time's the Charm.

Chapter 66 Two Out of Three Ain't Bad.

Chapter 67 Easy Come, Easy Go.

Chapter 68 High Water Mark.

Chapter 69 The Long Walk Home.

About the Author.

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Author Information

JOHN D. KUHNS is a financier and industrialist who has been doing business in China for over twenty-five years. In 1984, as the founder and CEO of Catalyst Energy Corporation, Mr. Kuhns was the first American to acquire commercial hydroelectric generating equipment from China, powering much of the profitability behind the company's successful IPO and listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Having closed IPOs for five companies including some of the world's leading alternative energy businesses, Mr. Kuhns's most recent transaction was the January 2010 IPO for China Hydroelectric Corporation, China's largest owner of small hydroelectric projects, where he currently serves as Chairman and CEO. Kuhns Brothers, Mr. Kuhns's investment bank, raises financing for Chinese companies, and his private equity organization, the China Hand Fund, makes investments in Chinese companies.

Mr. Kuhns graduated from Georgetown University, received a master of fine arts from the University of Chicago, and an MBA degree from the Harvard Business School. He lives with his family in Connecticut, where he fly fishes religiously.

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Must-Reads on China

China Fortunes by John Kuhns -- A novel by a veteran American investment banker with years of experience wheeling and dealing in China, the book is loosely based on the author's personal story. It is a highly entertaining yet informative book for anyone interested in how fortunes can be made or lost almost overnight in the world's fastest growing economy. This was just published this year, and I couldn't put the book down after I started reading it.
Robert Hsu, Editor, China Strategy

“John D. Kuhns, the first American to acquire commercial hyrdro-electric generating equipment from China, and one of the first western businessmen to do business there after the economic reforms of the late 1970s, draws on his experience in the novel China Fortunes: A Tale of Business in the New World (Wiley, hardback, 2011). The fictional tale follows Jack Davis, a character modeled very much after Kuhns himself, as he begins to conduct business and chase potential wealth in 1980s China, delving into many of the issues that awaited foreigners in the early days of China’s “reform and opening-up” period.

Eschewing the traditional format of the often self-aggrandizing, increasingly tiresome “pioneering businessman” or “how to make it in China” genres, China Fortunes vividly illustrates the opportunities and obstacles experienced by foreign businesspeople in the early days of China’s sometimes uncomfortable embrace of capitalism. Reading much like other recent China books such as Lawrence Allen’s business memoir Chocolate Fortunes or Lisa Brackmann’s novel Rock Paper Tiger, China Fortunes manages to tread the fine line between entertainment and education, never losing sight of the adventure and mind-expanding aspects of living and working in China as a foreigner.”
Jing Daily

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Press Release

January 07, 2011
China Fortunes

“China Fortunes is a smart and stylish take on what business really is in modern China. Kuhns knows both cold, and most important, he can tell a great story. . .ironic, fast moving and sharply observed. It will lock you in.”  Terry McDonell, editor, Sports Illustrated Group

John D. Kuhns, Chairman & CEO of China Hydroelectric Corporation, China's largest owner of small hydroelectric projects; of Kuhns Brothers, an investment bank raising money for Chinese companies; and of the China Hand Fund, a private equity fund investing in Chinese companies, is announcing the launch of his new novel, "China Fortunes:  A Tale of Business in the New World" published by Wiley (Wiley; Hardcover; January 2011; $34.95; 978-0-470-92804-2).

A modern but timeless global business story in the spirit of James Clavell, China Fortunes is a vast and sweeping tale addressing one of today's hottest topics--doing business in China.

Taking readers on the ground from China's early opening up to current times, the book traces the changes of fortune and cultural edification of Jack Davis, an American financier lured by the spectacular promise of the confusing land, from early success and a meteoric IPO that seems too easy, to treachery and loss, and triumphant financial and emotional renewal.

  • Describes the difficulties and ambivalence awaiting those foreigners brave or foolish enough to try to do business in a land that has only hesitantly embraced capitalism while gleefully gobbling up a majority of the world's direct investment
  • Follows the money in glittering multi-national deals, from the bond trading floors of Wall Street to the opaque world of investment boutiques, IPOs, market crashes and business failures
  • Stops along the way in the PRC's capitals--Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, or 'Fake China'--and visits the feudal but enchanting reality of the country's back roads
  • Portrays the human dimensions--the greed and venality, as well as the tenderness and beauty--that have both cautioned and beguiled those interested in China and its culture forever

Drawing on the experiences of one of the first western entrepreneurs and investment bankers to do business in China, this exciting tale makes you hold your breath, hoping for fortune but risking it all, taking the same gamble facing every business person visiting the Middle Kingdom since Marco Polo. “Reality is disappointing, Jack," the book explains. "China is better.”

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