The ultimate goal of one’s life is to be happy. If one could gain happiness from the daily routine life, then he/she is said to be happy. The golden time of the 24 hours per day is the 8 hours spent in office, with other time being spent on sleeping, eating, walking, or other trivial stuffs. Therefore, in order to be happy everyday, it is essential to ensure that the 8 hours in office are “happy hours.”
As demonstrating our unique business culture, the chairman of the group, Mr. Hu Yebi, and the chief advisor, Mr. Xiao Hongchi co-authored the voluminous finance novel . For the first time, it reveals the mystery mask of an investment banker’s colorful life.
Mr. Hu Yebi, with the name of “the King of Chinese B Share’s Market,” co-authoring with his colleague, Mr. Xiao Hongchi, published the voluminous finance novel in year 2005. This is another surprising movement since his resignation from DBS Bank and running his own enterprise, Partners Capital International Limited, in year 2002. The novel has been very popular in Chinese novel market and was one of the top ten most popular novels in year 2005.
China Sex and Stocks
By Xiao Hong-Chi and Hu Ye-Bi
This is the first Chinese novel to portray the life of the investment banker and reveal the inner workings of the securities industries in China and Hong Kong, and it is also a tale of a voyage and a struggle between body and soul. The protagonist takes the form of a wanderer, rebel and thinker who possesses an adventurous spirit, a romantic flavor and boundless energy. His body and soul engage ceaselessly in conversation, action and conflict.
Though born in a remote mountainous region and raised during the turbulent Cultural Revolution, Wang Xiao-Ye dreams with all his heart of the day when he will wander beyond the borders of China. After university graduation, he serves as a teacher in a country village, meanders about the Tibetan Plateau, studies overseas in the United States, becomes an investment banker on Wall Street, and is then dispatched from New York to do battle in Hong Kong, where he specializes in the business of “packaging” China firms for listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The landscape of his desires is fully delineated through amorous entanglements with various women, and games played with officials and businesspeople. His adventurous and romantic mentality, and his spiritual and animal sides are all given free rein, thanks to his unique career as an investment banker.
Prior to Hong Kong’s reversion to China in 1997, a dozen or so banks are competing to win the rights to underwrite the initial public offering of two firms based in Boda City, China, on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Those in charge of the projects on the China sideDeputy Mayor Chen Bang-Hua, and top executives at the two firms, Sun Shu-He and Jin Jian-Guoeach has his own favored choice of underwriter, so Wang Xiao-Ye has no advantage whatsoever. But by means of “guanxi,” money, pretty women and subterfuge, he and his competitors work their magic to win the projects.
Wang Xiao-Ye is a contradictory being: As a vegetarian, his material desires are simple, but in terms of his sexual and spiritual desires, he is a gourmand; he chases fame and fortune, yet seeks enlightenment from all kinds of religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism and even Christianity; his soul is like the wind, always in flux. He refuses to play by the rules, and continuously takes risks. He seduces women for the sake of the projects, and strives to win the projects for women. Even cooperating with members of the underworld is not beyond him.
Zhu Yi-Yun, Executive Secretary of the Board of Directors at Boda Machinery, and her business partner Shen Qing-Qing, are both a feast for the eyes. Shen Qing-Qing is also a close friend of Wang Xiao-Ye’s wife. In the battle to win this project, these two women and Wang Xiao-Ye come together to form a different, passion-driven story-line; their bodies and souls rise and fall drastically in the midst of temptation. In the end, the two women not only end up in Wang’s embrace, they are both transformed from proper ladies into lustful beauties. In her own way each discovers herself, and a long suppressed joie de vivre gushes forth.
Deputy Mayor Chen Bang-Hua and General Managers Sun and Jin are all snared in Wang’s carefully laid traps. But just as victory is in sight for Wang, good fortune begets its inverse: one general manager is arrested, another dies, and Deputy Mayor Chen Bang-Hua is placed under house arrest. Wang realizes he has himself fallen into a familiar trap, and the person who has set this trap is none other than his classmate, friend and partner, Chen Rong. Caught in a dead-end, Wang has little choice but to escape into Mainland China and live under an assumed name.
The wheel of fate continues to turn: With a wave of the hand Wang becomes a provincial official responsible for the public listing of local firms, while Deputy Mayor Chen becomes a big-time investor in the stock markets, a reversal of their roles in earlier times. Out of self-interest, they work hand-in-glove on the China stock markets, staging one grandiose tragedy after another, cruelly victimizing tens of millions of small investors. Meanwhile, Wang plots to have Chen Rong put in jail. In face of the unpredictability of life and worldly love versus hatreds, Wang and Chen Rong strike a secret deal in prison.
Eventually Wang returns to Hong Kong. He greets Zheng Xiongthe triad member who once tried to kill himwith a smile, and forms a new investment bank with him, and thus continues to package China-based firms for initial public offerings overseas.
Against the backdrop of a Bach cello and piano duet, Wang’s body and soul re-commence their voyage.
2. Unique Aspects
(1). Mainstream “Haigui”
From Sun Yat-Sen to Chiang Kai-Shek, Deng Xiao-Ping to Jiang Ze-Min and Li Peng, China’s modern history is chock full of tales of those who have returned from study abroadso-called “haigui,” a pun on the word for “returnee from overseas” and “sea tortoise”to play key roles in commerce and politics. In contrast to earlier works which focused on the struggles of Chinese overseas students in the margins of the societies where they were studying, this novel’s protagonist is active in the commercial and political circles of Hong Kong, Mainland China, Europe and the USA, weaving back and forth between their radically different cultures and economic systems, taking risks and experiencing an adventurous life.
(2). Legendary Aspects of the Story
The protagonist’s spiritual and carnal adventures are conveyed through his narrow escapes, philosophic meditations and bewilderment in pursuit of big bucks, beautiful women and the ultimate meaning of life. As he lives, works and wanders in Hong Kong, New York, Beijing, Tibet and China’s impoverished countryside, his adventures are permeated by a sense of modern-day folklore, laying bare the anguish and confusion of an entire generation of Chinese confronting their fates. Wang Xiao-Ye’s personality is complex, earthy yet spiritually unrestrained, full of contradictions and prone to inner struggle.
(3). The “Mysterious” Investment Banker
The investment banker’s average income ranks highest among all lines of business, and it is indeed a profession shrouded in mystery. The average person only knows how to trade stocks; he doesn’t know how a stock is listed or the inside story behind how a listed stock is manipulated to enhance its attractiveness to the public. From choosing an underwriter to asset reconstruction, stock pricing, private placement, allocation of initial shares and running a “road show,” each step has heavy implications. This novel reveals the inside story behind China’s stock markets via compelling, warts-and-all portraits of thosethe investment bankers, government officials, entrepreneurs, fund managers and punditswho play the game.
(4). “Investing in China”: The Textbook
Many of the chapter headings in this novel are named after a specific business activity of an investment banker, giving the Page of Contents somewhat of a “textbook” look. But the actual content of these chapters serves to lift the mysterious veil which normally obscures China’s politics, culture, economic system and guanxi. As the number of foreign companies and organizations coming to invest in, trade and interact with China increases on a daily basis, the novel’s portrait of the national “mindset” offers a valuable reference to foreign investors and those keen on understanding the country.
3. Performance in China Market
A total of five China publishers sought to publish this novel, including two of China’s largest publishing houses. But the publishing process in China requires that a book be “vetted” three times, and in each instance, the novel did not pass for similar reasons: “incorrect” political thinking, “excessive” revelations of systemic corruption, and too strong a “flavor” of things sexual and religious.
Publication would have required a huge amount of cutting, and this was opposed by the authors. In the end China Tuanjie Publishing proposed cutting somewhat less than the other publishers, and we compromised so that the novel could finally be published.
Over 100,000 copies of the novel have been sold in major cities of China, according to a sales survey by China Tuanjie Publishing. Sales have been strongest in airport bookstores frequented by white-collar readers, and the book ranks within the Top 3 in sales of novels at airport bookstores in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, about 10,000 copies of the overseas edition (in traditional Chinese) have been sold.
(3) Media Coverage
The novel has been serialized by five daily newspapers with circulation over one million: Beijing Evening News, Shenyang Evening News, Sichuan Evening News, Hangzhou City Express, and Changde Evening News.
Some 30-plus newspapers and publications in China have published interviews with the authors, excerpts of the novel or book reviews, including:
Beijing Xinbao (Star Daily ) http://www.stardaily.com.cn/view.asp?id=142613
Nanfang Daily (Guangdong) http://www.nanfangdaily.com.cn/southnews/tszk/nfdsb/ydzk/200503140188.asp
Beijing Evening News
Beijing People’s Radio Arts Department
Commercial News (Shenzhen)
Dalian Evening News
East Asia Economics and Trade News
First Financial Times (Shanghai )
Haixia City Express
Hubei Evening News
Jinling Evening News (Nanjing)
Liaoning Evening News
Nanjing Morning News
New Economic Observer
Qian Jiang Evening News (Hangzhou)
Qilu Evening News (Shandong)
Peninsular Readers (Qingdao)
Shanghai Morning News
Shanghai Xinmin Evening News
Shenjiang Herald (Shanghai)
Shenyang Evening News
Sichuan Evening News
South China Post
The Beijing News
Wuhan Evening News
Yanzhao Evening News
Youth Weekly (Beijing)
(4) Internet Presence
China’s most popular web site for on-line reading, Sina Readers Channel, has serialized the novel on an exclusive basis, and the site ranked the novel among the Top 15 Books three months running, Number 2 among all novels, and heartily recommended it to netizens via headlines in its News Center. China’s biggest literary site, Hongxiu Tian Xiang, recommended the novel for three months in a row by featuring it on its front page.
Critiques and debate about the novel have appeared in large numbers on various types of sites, generating an overall number of clicks estimated at over six million. End-users’ keenness for the novel is rooted in precisely the same reasoning which prevented its publication: incorrect political thinking, excessive revelations of systemic corruption, and too strong a “flavor” of things sexual and religious.
There are currently over 50 Chinese-language web sites which are running the novel itself or commentaries on it, such as general-interest portals, financial and banking sites, and literary sites, including:
On Wall Street
Sina Book & Review
Sina Online Interview
Tastes of Book
4. Backgrounder: The Authors
A native of Hubei Province, Xiao studied at University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, and also taught there upon graduation. He then served as a teacher in the countryside in Jiangxi Province, followed by work and travel in Tibet for a year. After earning an MBA at Thunderbird (American Graduate School of Management) in 1989, he moved to New York City and joined MAI plc, a wholesale money and securities broker listed on the London Stock Exchange, as an investment analyst. Transferred to Hong Kong where he was charged with developing local and mainland China business, Xiao integrated financial data and intelligence from key financial centers under the group worldwide, making it a major supplier of real-time, 24-hour-a-day financial news to Reuters and Bloomberg. His next project involved direct investment in China thermal power plants. Three years later, he served as Director of Business Development, North Asia, at wine and spirits purveyor Brown-Forman LLC. Listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the firm owns brands such as Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort. Xiao handled business development and investment for Brown-Forman in China and North Asia. He began his career as an investment banker and independent writer in 2002, and currently serves as Chief Advisor at Partners Capital International Ltd in Hong Kong.
Born in Hunan, Hu Ye-Bi graduated from Hunan University and earned his MBA at International Management School of the Netherlands. He joined PBI Securities Co. Ltd of Holland in 1989, and relocated to Hong Kong to take responsibility for China business in 1991. Named Managing Director at DBS Asia Capital Ltd in 1994, the China investment banking department under Development Bank of Singapore, Hu led the firm to become one of the Top Ten foreign securities brokers in China, ranking: Number 1 in the B-share stock market several years running; among the Top Ten H-share brokers; and Number 3 among Hong Kong’s small- and mid-size listed firms. Thanks to his impressive achievements in the market for B-share public offerings, Hu has been dubbed “B-share King.” In recent years Hu has been invited by Phoenix TV to appear on finance-related programs as guest host. In 2002, Hu founded Hong Kong’s first-ever investment bank employing talent primarily from mainland ChinaPartners Capital International Ltdand serves as Chairman of the Board.
5. Book Reviews
1. The Spinning Trinity of Sex, Stocks and Soul of a Chinese Banker
By Renee Y. Bai
For how long has China been in the myth, mist and mask for the West? Centuries have passed since it became a promised land with all the distant, ancient, controversial and incomprehensible elements that allures westerners with great curiosity and adventurous spirits. In recent decades, this land has emerged again under the global spot light with a brand new set of promises. Two digit GDP growth, the biggest Foreign Direct Investment receiver preceding the U.S., Chinese companies’ symbols running down on NASDAQ or NYSE’s blinking big screens, mutual fund and hedge fund powerhouses watching China with eyes and wallets wide open, Shanghai being the global In place, reminbi the global buzz worda modern China is unavoidable. To understand modern China is unavoidable.
China Sex and Stocks, a novel written by Xiao Hong-chi & Hu yebi offers just that an updated textbook that tells you how and why business works and more importantly does not work in China, a very bold exposure of China stock markets’ inside stories, an advanced and lively course in which the author shares his profound knowledge in Chinese art, opera, medicine, wine, ancient philosophies and modern mentalities, and a vivid and in-depth painting of modern Chinese men and women’s individual and mutual fermenting of their body and soul.
Based on the author’s real-life experience, the protagonist, Wang Xiao-ye (Wang), certainly appears to be a tide-rider: UC Berkley MBA, taking a “Random Walk on Wall Street” upon graduation and being promoted within two years to lead the parent company’s I-banking business in Hong Kong. The novel tells four cases in which Wang tried to bring Mainland China companies public in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Each case is full of weiji, a Chinese word that means risk and opportunity at the same time.
From getting the “going-public” quota, accounting dress-up, stock pricing, road show, profit distribution to insider trading, Wang employs his western education, eastern wisdoms and tricks with the so-called “Chinese characteristics” to battle through obstacles in China’s promising and yet chaotic business environment. In the process, Wang brings along readers on a roller-coaster ride through board rooms, conference rooms, trading floors, accountant and attorney offices, mid-night hotel rooms, sauna rooms, private restaurant chambers, and even prison cells. Amidst the dramatic ups and downs, readers are able to see some scenery of the China stock markets and Chinese society at large never before available and with such eye-dropping honesty.
However if you think this is a success story with flowers, Champaign and a cheered hero, then you are wrong. All four cases failed one way or the other. Furthermore, in this crazy money chase on a land with vacant Ultimate Concern and corrupted legal and political systems, no one can be called hero. Not even Wang. Especially not Wang. What the author wants to depict is not a cupboard hero, but a tormented modern man, real to the touch, ravaged by the opposing forces of the secular temptations of this Relative World and the ultimate calling of the Absolute World, that is, the World of God. In fact, the author says through Wang’s tongue at the very beginning of the book,
“The truth is, humans are half-divine, half-animal beingsBecause divinity and bestiality are both at work in the human body, so one’s flesh and mind both suffer the ravages of serving as a battleground. But human beings also enjoy the pains and pleasures of life, thus the phrase ˉsweet pain.’” (Pg. 1)
If not a thinker, Wang is at least a relentless seeker for enlightenment. This kind of philosophical pondering is skillfully imbedded throughout the book, leaving readers a long and refreshing aftertaste. In fact, Wang can be anybody in this modern world, such as a clerk, an official, a housewife, a CEO or a school teacher. Apostle Paul’s anguish over the things we do vs. the things we should do speaks the truth of the human race. Being an investment banker only puts Wang in the center of the whirlpool: the temptations of money, fame, power and sex are ever more available and powerful, thus the torments of soul and flesh ever more violent.
However Wang’s unique personality and uncommon life experience somehow lend him wisdom, strength and serenity in this never-ending battle. He grows up in a small Chinese village during the Cultural Revolution. The harmony of the nature versus the absurdity of the time paints two contrast basic colors of his life. In author’s words, Wang is “a wine fermented in an ancient Chinese cellar”. Life’s unpredictability comes from all the binary oppositions such as here and there, beauty and ugliness, right and wrong, good and evil, nature and culture, dream and wakefulness, as well as life and death, etc., all fermented in his barrel. And the persistent critique of such oppositions is precisely Taoism’s unique characteristic.
Graduating with a top university degree and a teaching job in Beijing doesn’t extinct his passion for adventure. After a year of volunteer work in a forgotten village school in Jiangxi province, he pleaded to work in Tibet where lama riots keep any sane people away. Accompanied by Mozart’s heavenly music, he wanders and ponders as a Buddhist pilgrim on the holy Tibet and Qinghai plateau. The surreal beauty penetrates through his eyes, nose, tongue and ears directly into the most secret corner of his soul. He senses the real and eternal ONE and all the transient and illusive others. Here and there, good and evil, even life and death are all of illusions of this Relative World. Two conjure up a delusion which, however beautiful or ugly, will eventually vanish into nothingness.
As life’s fermentation goes on, he comes from the most primitive to the most wealthy and modern. U.S. and Hong Kong soak him in cocktails of Capitalism, Christianity and Crossed Cultures at their best and worst. Bach’s hovering cello suits lullaby Wang in the sleepless cities. Being on the other shore from his mother culture finally enables Wang accelerate the distillations of the Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism as well as Christianity. His unorthodox approaches to life are a far cry from traditional Chinese standards. These approaches also reflect in the way he deals with business, government and women.
Speaking of which, Wang’s romance with three women forms another passionate story-line intertwined with the main one. Wang overturns some deep-rooted Chinese mentalities towards sex such as lust and adultery, promoting a more natural and aesthetical interchange of flesh and soul between man and woman. There are beautifully written paragraphs on passion and female fantasies which may remind readers of that of D. H. Lawrence, but with an ethereal and poetic touch of music that uniquely belongs to the authors, Xiao Hong-chi & Hu yebi.
In the novel, the author doesn’t hesitate to exploit any chance to praise his heroines, especially the beauty of their rediscovered sexual freedom that is soul transforming. However, these female characters, relatively shallow and one-dimensional, are far from being Wang’s equal counterparts. Thus an opportunity is lost to burst out more sparkles during the gaming between man and woman, flesh and soul, which may perhaps be a big pity of the book.
The authors creates many a circumstance in which a woman's soul and inner beauty can only be passively enlightened by ultimately sexual intercourse with a man that is not (and in some sense ought not to be) her husband. While these open-ended narratives express moral ambiguity, they are governed by a movement toward the eventual identity of the Oneness, probing universal ethical issues which arise in conjunction with modern commercial life.
Fictionalized accounts of China have increasingly occupied more and more space in western bookstores, but these novels are usually filled with cliches: weeping concubines, grandmama’s bounded feet, or bloody or romanticized confessions of the Cultural Revolution. There should be updated and more in-depth pictures of this new old land of promises and modern-day legends of its people.
China Sex and Stocks can be read not only for its relevance to foreign businesspeople who are doing or plan to do business in China, but also for the revelations of its protagonist’s intrepid search of the soul. No matter in the East or the West, it is always a million-dollar question for all of us to figure out, in the 21st century with all the pros and cons of modernity and globalization, who we really are, whose we belong to and where we are going. The novel does not provide a solution under the shadow of the spinning trinity of sex, stocks and soul. But maybe Wang, this lonely soul with tragic power, “unwept, unhonored and unsung (Sir Walter Scott)”, can walk with you for a short while in your lonely journey of life, just like a Bach’s piano and cello duet?
2. A Soaring Soul -- Wang’s Landscape of Desires
By Chen Jingde
“He stands on the mountain top and smiles upon the tragedies, real or fictional, on the stage of life.” Nietzsche
Sex and Stocks begins with a metaphysical conversation between our protagonist, X Wang, an investment banker and a fair lady. From that, gradually unfolds a scroll of his life picture. This kind of conversations appears often in the novel. The most appealing part of the book is Wang’s questioning and exploration of life. The novel is not only our protagonist’s adventure story full of ups and downs, but also an explorative journey of a soul.
From the very beginning, Wang revealed two worlds: the Absolute World and the Relative World. In the former, which was the world of God, “there are no separations or differences, all is ONE, here’ is there’, this’ and that’ are identical; all desires are instantly realized. Perhaps this is what Buddhism refers to as mahaparinirvana, or the ultimate state of Buddhahood.” He thought that all humans came from the Absolute World and death led to the gate of that world. As of God, Wang thought that it did not necessarily have a “personhood”, rather it was the Tao by Lao-tse, the Oneness that was omnipresent and connected each individual with the whole world, or the so-called Buddhahood in Buddhism. Everything in the universe was part of God incarnated. Divinity was within everybody. However the tragedy came from the fact that all humans lived in the Relative World, which was “full of relative elements such as yin and yang, good and bad, love and hatred, man and woman”. In fact, the tragic part of life exists in the fact that “Humans are half-God half-animal beings. Because the divinity and the bestiality are both at work simultaneously in the human body, one’s flesh and mind both suffer the ravages of serving as a battleground. But humans also enjoy the incurred pains and pleasures of life, thus the phraseˉsweet pain’.”
There are flowers on the other shore but nobody lives there. Wang did not choose to apply the rules in the Absolute World to the relative one. On the contrary, he declared in a secular tone that relativity gave birth to temptation and that the meaning of life was to experience all kinds of temptations, such as women, wine, music, painting, freedom, wandering, and even death. The plots are thus revealed around desires and temptations.
Wang got intoxicated in temptations but hardly got lost. He constantly reminded himself that, “We are only a body of flesh. We travel to this Relative World from the Absolute World for the very purpose of experiencing temptations This world is only a tool, or a lever for us to move the universe. By means of this colorful world you look for your way home, that is, the way to the Absolute World, or God’s World. This world looks dazzling but it is no more than a dream. All will reunite with the Oneness. Since it is only a dream, we will wake up from it sooner or later.”
Temptations make life full of suspensions. Wang liked to say, “Life is unpredictable.” The novel tells about four IPO and M&A cases, all of which were like a roller-coaster ride and ended tragically. Wang discovered that “humans in reality have no choice, if they do, they can only choose to which temptation to give in. If not this temptation, then that one! Otherwise they would stop hassling and depart from this world, or they would have not bothered to come into this world at all!” Thus Wang’s attitude towards life was to experience, to play, to gamble, to wander, and to try to exhaust the infinite possibilities of life. In his eyes, the unpredictable life was the real and normal life. It appeared that he was playing games with the whole world. But in fact, he was trying to transcend the reality.
Though life appears unpredictable, it somehow is destined. Wang thought that everyone’s life had a designated curve, with one end nailed by one’s birth place and time. “Since life is the game of creating, one would naturally wish it more colourful. But wherever it is colourful, it is definitely full of pains and destructions!” But Wang had always been acting actively when facing the tragedy of fate. He said that “Although fate exists, you cannot see it with your eyes. And all you can do is ˉto discover and complete your track of fate through your life-long actions.’” Being a human is to be in a game to discover this mysterious track, that is, to travel from the Absolute to the Relative World and to define with thoughts, words and actions: Who am I? Wang believed that fate was not a result, but a creation. From here we hear the joyful songs of Dionysian: to love life, to affirm life, to face the tragedy of life with laughs and smiles, to dance with “hard bones and nimble feet” upon all meanings and purposes. Wandering is Wang’s dancing!
Dancing needs wine to spice up. Wine always works as an important symbolic metaphor throughout the novel. Wang compared the unpredictability of fate with that of wine’s fermentation. “We wander in this world just as wine ferments in a barrel: everything is possible, since the result of fermentation depends on the mysterious combination of temperature, water, yeast, raw materials and all kinds of other elements. And the last but not the least, the wine maker! “ Wang acted as “a spirit fermented in an ancient Chinese cellar. He contained Yin and Yang, and acted as a ˉdouble agent’ for both God and Satan at the same time”. Since childhood, “he was encouraged to be a scientist, an artist, or a heroic PLA soldier. But he never imagined that after so many years of fermentation he ended up being an investment banker, just as red sorghum and wheat being turned into spirits. “ When another important figure Mayor Chen was under interrogation, Wang did not regard it as a suffering, but “merely a continuation of Chen’s life fermentation.” In fact from time to time he even dreamed of the new fermentation triggered by his own imprisonment.
Wang was elated in his own fermentation. He smelt the aromas from two women’s fermentation, which “were almost like the teeny tiny difference between the fruity and floral aromas in wines. This difference would be hard to differentiate even for a pro in a blind tasting.” The aromas from women would provoke Wang’s own fermentation. Here fermentation vividly symbolizes not only the tantalizing flirtation between men and women, but also the ever growing passion and imagination during their courting. In the subtle relationship with Ms. Shen, Wang thought that “no matter what, good wine needs time to ferment. Then just let it ferment! The process may be slow, but it never stops.” Women, just like wine, are another key spirit in the book. They represent a bond between men and God and an angel between God and Satan. Once again, the music of Dionysian rose up during the beautiful communications of flesh and souls between Wang and his women, and the orgasm always came along with the musical climax. The metaphysical exploration is also unfolded during Wang’s conversations with different women. There are delicate psychological descriptions on women’s fantasies.
Wine also brings up the studies of culture and socio-geology. “Given the political and economic set-up of our world today, Shaoxing Wine has not yet been widely accepted by refined persons worldwide because wine, like other cultural products, advances similarly to a country’s might; whichever country is the most powerful, that country’s culture shall dominate the global mainstream.” “While China hosts many fair places which have historically produced persons of great talent, Shaoxing in JiangnanThe land “south of the Yangtze River” in east Chinais undoubtedly the most prolific among them. As to exactly why that is so, explanations vary, but just like Scottish Whiskey’s role in ˉ
fermenting’ men of great talent in the British Empire, Shaoxing Wine has been a key element in fermenting’ talent among the people of China. Just in terms of university presidents, for instance, Shaoxing bore several men who served as head of Beijing University. Even though Shaoxing is usually considered as a Jiangnan region of soft waters and feminine scents, the local people are very heroic and unwilling to bow to the powers-that-be. Shaoxing natives Lu Xun, the famous writer in the 1930s, and Qiu Jin, a heroine who died opposing the Qing Dynasty, would be excellent examples, and they were both very similar to the Scottish in terms of temperament. “
In addition, the author has also offered some wonderful insights on the connections between China’s politics, history and the wine culture. For example, he used a wine making jargon “blending” to describe networking with officials. “Wine always boozes up the atmosphere of a banquet in China, as it accelerates the social fermentation, and thus connecting the worlds of flesh and soul.” Art and wine are connected because art is just like wine, “it stirs up the sense of pleasure and leads people to voluntarily accept and enjoy the stimulation and narcosis until they get intoxicated in their ˉsouls’ soaring’.” After all, they are just different forms of temptations.
Although novel is a linguistic art, music and painting serve as very good backdrops and accompaniments between the words here, and have emerged very well with the plots. Wang always used music to cast out the darkness in his heart, and absorbed passion and energy from paintings. From a woman’s nude he captured the beauty of Greek sculpture and the splendor of Tchaikovsky’s No.1 Piano Concerto. Mozart’s Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro accompanied him all the way across Tibet and Qinghai plateau. In Tibet monasteries, the monks chanting led him to “a world lit up by thousands of glittering butter lamps, whose creamy smell filled all the space between heaven and earth. The butter’s odor embedded into his memory through his senses of smell, taste, vision and through every single pore, penetrating his soul.” And also music hovered in the process of every love making. The author used Wang’s tongue to comment on great musicians: Mozart’s music is always beautiful because he was a prodigy who had been practicing music since his three past lives and he easily got inspirations from women. No matter how harsh life treated him, his music always transcended human sufferings, soaring high up in the sky. On the contrary, Beethoven’s beloved women always failed him and thus he had to dig out inspirations from women bitterly. He longed and struggled in his pursuit of women and happiness, which miraculously tied his music to the earth and revealed the sufferings of mankind along with joy and hope.”
The author merged different value systems and views towards life, and he distilled the positive and optimistic parts. He thought that Buddhism and Taoism shared the same origin and told the same truth, and that all things in the universe were of the ONE. Sparkles of enlightenment frequently sprang up from the words of debating and reasoning. When the sky cleared up, Wang realized that darkness was not only the opposite of light but also the light itself! In his fleeing, he realized “Destruction is also a kind of creation! It is for a new harmony that we destroy!” Talking about stock markets, he told us that the earth was just like a stock market, and everyone on it was a stockholder. The trend of the earth ultimately relied on the joint will power of all human beings. Human wills controlled the earth and subsequently controlled their own fate.
You may get many kicks out of Chinese dark humors in the book. For example, at Singapore’s customs, the CEO of a Chinese public company made fool of himself by filling out the Sex section in the Entry Form. More entertaining are some Chinese officials’ absurd and hypocritical behaviors in foreign red light districts.
However, in general, this novel seems a tragedy. Most of Wang’s IPO and M&A cases failed, and he even had to hide his identity and flee from home. But we never sense from this tragic figure his real desperation because he was like a little spirit separated from God’s world momentarily to soar in the sky of the Relative World. He looked down upon all the beauties of this world, making full use of the power of life. He smiled at the forever transmigration of human sufferings, and went on communicating with his own soul.
C’est la vie!
3. “Sex & Stocks”: Chinese “Wall Street” Expose
By Li Jianhong
If you are involved in business in China, or if you are studying finance or studying for an MBA, then “Sex and Stocks” is the novel for you. In some respects the book reads like a textbook, full of practical business advice. In a way it’s like a Chinese version of the movie “Wall Street”. Until now all the Chinese books about the stock markets have been tales of brokers and bankers buying and selling shares in the stock markets, and how small investors are trapped in the trade. The real work of an investments banker: how to bring a company to the public, how to plan and manage the listing, how to dress up the accounts, how to price the stocks, how to allocate initial shares, has never been depicted in a Chinese work of fiction before. “Sex and Stocks” is a perfect fit for that niche in the market. Even more valuable is the fact that the book has been written by investment bankers who have experiences in the US, Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese markets, thereby giving an accurate description of inside look into the way of life normally shrouded in secrecy.
Unless they have seen the Hollywood film, “Wall Street”, Chinese people can only learn about the stock markets from textbooks. These books are by necessity theoretical. However there is nothing of greater importance to an investment banker than practical experience. This profession links with a variety of disciplines so the bankers have to have an understanding of human nature and society. The contents page reads more like that of a text book: “road show”, “fund management”, “mergers and acquisitions”, “false accounting”, “war on pricing”, “market maker” and so on; a rigidly structured textbook metamorphosed into a tale full of life, trials and tribulations. The intricacies of investment banking energise the reader’s interest as secrecy and risk are interwoven into the plot. It is not possible to portray this side of life as an investment banker in a text book; the battle for profit, the excitement of what amounts to underworld activity, open war, tragedy. “Creative” accounting practice and false contracts are endemic. The story tells of mergers and acquisitions, strategic investment, debt management and valuations from the opposite perspective to a textbook; it is a winner takes all perspective. How do the protagonists strike a balance between morals, the law and culture and their business methods? A textbook cannot answer that question.
When correct protocols are put into real-life action they are bound to have to change. Anyone could list a company if it was as easy as simply following the rule book. Unfortunately, life is more complicated than that. The combination of the stock market and China is doubly complicated. The real challenge for an investment banker is not in the technicalities but is in his handling of the culture and personalities. The protagonists must find a peer group of similar ambition and ability in order for them to withstand the pressure of the business. The stock market and people’s lives are of course going to correspond in some ways, particularly the relationship between profit and risk. In short, success is a question of who is brave enough to fight in the markets and fight with their own lives.
The main character, Wang Xiaoye is just such a man. He is naturally rebellious, independent minded with a disdain for mainstream values and rules: “whenever he reaches an impasse, he never considers resolving the problem by making an approach to the Government or other official channels as he has little faith in the ability of officialdom. His instinct is to resolve the problem by by-passing the official channels. It is this kind of thought process that makes Wang Xiaoye notorious within the profession, but the results clearly show that his success rate outstrips the average.”
Life is the best textbook. If you cross life with theory then you give birth to this kind of emotive novel. Reading this book is just like watching a Chinese version of the movie “Wall Street”: with a similar aftertaste.
4. Life between Love and Lust
By Li Zhengrong
Most Chinese investors recognise that the stock market is a battleground and a fight for survival. What most of them don’t realise is that the market they know is already the second battle of the war. The true war begins with an earlier fight, full of intrigue and stealth that most people never get to hear about.
“Sex and Stocks” is a tale of shares and love. The writer hopes the English name “Sex and Stocks”, reminiscent of the show “Sex and the City” will appeal to a similar audience.
The majority of people have the opportunity to try out sex, but most people only get to be involved in the excitement of the stock market as observers. An expose of share dealings through the eyes of an investment banker is both novel and shocking.
It is no surprise therefore that financiers in Hong Kong say of “Sex and Stocks”: “there are many books about the stock market, but not many written by an insider, there are few books about investment banking, and even fewer written by insiders.”
It is said “insiders see the truth, outsiders see the thrill”. This book is certainly thrilling enough for most lay people. There is a wide variety of characters, the plot is complex, before the first wave has died away the second wave hits you. Although we all suspect that the financial profession is full of undercurrents, and backstabbing, having been written by an insider in the business the book gives a “reality show” exposure that makes your heart leap when you realize that we, the small shareholders are just pawns in the hands of the experts: a money-making tool for them.
In China it is at the level of share trading that the majority of people think the battle begins. What we don’t realize is that the origins of the war come much earlier. It is at this level that deceptions really begin. The book exposes the whole process, from how an investment banker goes touting for business, wins the business, begins to sell the shares, sets the price, handles the negotiations through to how the ordinary small investors are manipulated. For those readers who want to find out how the markets work it can be read as a lively text book account. For those who have little understanding of the markets, reading this book can give them an insight past the glamour into the real world where money is man’s weakness.
The characters in the book, particularly the leading male character, Wang Xiaoye, all appear to be calculating, manipulative playboys only interested in fast cars and fast women. They only travel first class, stay in five star hotels, have been educated in the west, talk in millions and if it is not the chief executive they are talking to , then it is the governor or mayor. They lead kind of lifestyle that most of us can only dream about and drool over. But when the markets collapse all these market stall traders can do is to make a quick exit, deserting even friends and family. The main character, Wang Xiaoye is an excellent example. His allegiances are not made on a whim. Calling him smart would be underestimating him. He not only has money, he also has culture, he not only studies how to crush rivals, he also studies classical music, when he is making love he’ll be discussing Tibet, during business dinners, he can talk of the most fashionable cuisine. Is he a genius or simply arrogant? Is he following the protocol or flying in the face of it. Readers are snow blinded.
The main personality resembles a James Bond character. At crucial life and death moments he’ll be rescued by a beautiful girl, be she a partner or a rival. Do real life investment bankers really lead such colourful lives? Is it a true story or is the author just playing with us? It is not important.
Perhaps the author thinks the majority of readers like to have a little extra spice in their mundane lives. Reading is a little like day-dreaming anyway. The reader can experience the thrill of life and death and living on the edge along with the lead characters. In the end the main character escapes from the edge of the abyss and becomes involved in the thrill of a rebounding market, but what about us the reader? How many of us can hold out long enough to see a stock market revival?