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Slideshow from China Travels, New York to Yantai, May-June 2015

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Today in Guangdong

Berkshire, or Bao Ku Shan 宝库山, signs a publishing agreement with Guangdong People’s Publishing Group at BookExpo America, June 2015.

I’ll be spending the day with our partners in Guangzhou, the Guangdong People’s Publishing Group, and found this article from the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China an excellent overview of the region. If you don’t know Guangdong, or that Guangzhou is the current name for the city formerly called Canton, this will get you up to speed.

Guǎng dōng 广东 Province is one of China’s most important economic and cultural areas. About the size of Syria, it is China’s most populous and wealthiest province with a gross domestic product (GDP) of 3.07 trillion yuan (US$422 billion). Its location on the southeastern coast of China gives it direct access to the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Macao and Southeast Asia.

The role of Guangdong Province in China is paradoxical. Guangdong has always been a somewhat different and marginal place. Yet this marginal position has been why the province has often played a central role in Chinese history. In recent years Guangdong’s connections with foreign Continue reading Today in Guangdong

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Berkshire in Beijing

Internet restrictions in China make it hard to do ordinary, innocuous things – check the New York Times headlines, post a garden photo to Facebook – but I’m hoping to be able to post updates via my blogs. The sky is blue in Beijing and I’m thrilled to be here again, with many people to see about publishing projects, and a food and wine conference to attend.

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Guanxi is the key to doing business in China

That’s what all the books said, and I was intrigued by the idea that guanxi – relationships – is the absolutely fundamental thing, the starting point, for anyone who planned to do business in China. I didn’t really understand how this was different from doing business in the West, and I didn’t have any special advantages in doing business in China. I did not speak the language. I’m female. And I have a small publishing company, not a glamorous clothing brand or a big engineering operation. But my interest in relationships, networking, and community made me more attuned than most to the concept of guanxi. I also thought that relationships might give me an advantage – an advantage I would need, competing with much larger firms.

I did something very simple: I went to China whenever I could, spend time talking to people, asked a lot of questions, and stayed in touch over the years.

Now, as we sign new agreements and start another phase of Berkshire’s China-focused publishing, I am looking forward to learning about the growth in Chinese direct investment in the United States. Tomorrow, May 20th, the National Committee on US-China Relations will be releasing a report on FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) by US congressional district. Chinese investment is a possibility for Berkshire Publishing, just as it is for many other companies, and I plan to be at the forefront, exploring how we can work together and learn from one another – and, naturally, increase our guanxi.

Here’s information about the public program in New York: https://www.ncuscr.org/content/2015-annual-members-program.

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Au revoir to a global point of reference

Temple of Heaven, March 2007Berkshire Publishing’s tagline is about to change, but before we make the switch I’d like to explain why we have been, for ten years, “A global point of reference.”

This was partly a play on two meanings of the word reference. In early days, we were known for our encyclopedias – reference books that lived in the reference section of libraries. And a “point of reference” means a benchmark or landmark or guiding beacon, which we aimed to be. In fact, our Spanish tagline was explicit: Un faro [lighthouse] mundial en la información.

But what about the reality, given that Berkshire Publishing was located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a small town known for mountain scenery, picturesque farms, and a few excellent restaurants? How global could such a company really be? Continue reading Au revoir to a global point of reference

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Our global team at work

I woke up in Massachusetts and responded to an email from Mar Kaiser, our Germany-based editor, who said she’d just heard from Kara Lozier, who is currently working from Uzbekistan. I sent a WeChat to Tom in Beijing, and then it was time to pour my first cup of tea. There are emails from our production team in India at all hours of day and night, and with BEA (BookExpo) in New York next week, I’ve been on WeChat with people at four or five Chinese companies. I’ve had plenty of emails from Europe saying “You aren’t really awake now, are you?” and at the moment there are plenty of sign-offs “I’m going to bed now” or “Sleep well” – with the appropriate emoticons, of course!

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Climate Change: Moral Challenge

2015 is a crucial year for progress on global cooperation and Pope Francis knows it, making climate change the focus of his first “encyclical,” a kind of proclamation. He will speak on the subject at the UN General Assembly in September, all this to lend a sense of urgency to the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December 2015.

Pope Francis’s clear statement that climate change is the moral issue of our time, with far-ranging consequences for vulnerable people and societies as well as the natural world, has reinforced our idea, at Berkshire Publishing, that thinking about a sustainable future begins with understanding our beliefs and values. We launched the 10-volume Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability in 2012 with a volume called The Spirit of Sustainability, and are about to release a condensed paperback book derived from it, designed for classroom use.

Editor Willis Jenkins writes, “We inhabit many moral worlds; can we learn to inhabit one shared planet? . . . Not only must we know how religious and spiritual traditions think about their environments, or how nature provokes spirituality, but how we can meet the integrative, comprehensive challenges of sustainability with the civic and moral resources available to us.”

The Berkshire Essential Religion and Sustainability can be ordered now and will be available for shipping April 2015. If you are considering classroom adoption, contact us now for a digital review copy.

The Spirit of Sustainability can be ordered as a standalone print or ebook, and the entire set of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability is available to libraries, by purchase order, at a 20% discount until the end of May.

More information on the Paris Conference: http://www.un.org/climatechange/.

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An April Fool’s Day Retrospective

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open.php?u=f02106ebaeb66b1fb28bf4adf&id=45aa9654d4&e=4e63ffc35bThe poet T. S. Eliot was a practical joker, and his second wife, the much younger Valerie, liked to loosen the tops of salt shakers and even bottles of Worcestershire sauce at restaurants. I never saw that side of her – she was a grande dame by the time I worked for her in the late 1980s – but I think of her now in a different way after reading about her riotous behavior with her supposedly somber and elderly husband.

I think of her today because it is April 1st, a day for playing tricks of all kinds in the countries where we celebrate – or tolerate, when it comes to salt shakers – an informal holiday known as April Fool’s Day.

5805084d-59ce-475b-ae5f-1488308a32cb.jpgFor the last few years, I’ve written April Fool’s stories about technology or China, two subjects about which many people will believe just about anything. I managed to use T. S. Eliot’s love of cheese in one story. In another, I claimed that Continue reading An April Fool’s Day Retrospective

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“Amazon is the Reader’s Friend” debate tonight

Is book publishing an oligopoly, a dinosaur in need of disruption? Is Amazon, which accounts for 41% of all new book and 67% of all e-book sales, a monopoly? Who is doing right by readers and the future of books? I agreed to post the livestream here so our friends and readers can hear different sides of the debate. Read more about it Intelligence Squared. My articles: “Amazon update: when will the justice department step in?” and “How Amazon.com is hurting readers, authors, and publishers.”

AGAINST FOR
Franklin Foer, Former Editor, The New Republic Joe Konrath, Author & Self-Publishing Pioneer
Scott Turow, Attorney & Author Matthew Yglesias, Executive Editor, Vox
MODERATOR
John Donvan, Author & Correspondent for ABC News

 

I just wish there was a female voice in this male line-up!

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Berkshire Author Talks Climate Change and China

NCUSCRLogoThe National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSCR) often offers its members a chance to hear directly from experts after major world events. Last week’s members-only teleconference about the historic US-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change featured Alex Wang, professor at UCLA School of Law, and Joanna Lewis, professor at Georgetown University and one of Berkshire’s authors. I want to share what I learned with other Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability contributors and Berkshire friends and colleagues.

The US-China Climate Change announcement on 11 November took many people by surprise. It showed the two nations in unexpectedly close alignment. On this issue, the US and China have “far more in common than not,” said Lewis. Moderator Stephen A. Orlins, president of the NCUSCR, focused the discussion on what the agreement told us about the US-China relationship. I realized how important it is, in any complicated relationship, to find things on which we can align ourselves. In this case, China and the US have a common understanding of their impact on the globe. China is not showing anxiety about being held back or kept down, and the US isn’t playing the exceptionalism card. This is something to keep in mind as our nations try to work out other agreements.

Here are a few of the things I learned from the teleconference (audio now available by clicking here):

  • This agreement is not the end of wrangling over cumulative emissions, an issue we’ll hear about at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The emerging nations feel as though they got to the party when the kegs were almost empty but they are still expected to spend the next morning cleaning up with everyone else. Their argument is, simply, that developed nations have grown rich and powerful through unrestricted energy use for decades, and that imposing tough CO2 standards on them isn’t fair. They say, quite reasonably, that rich nations, while more efficient today, have much greater overall responsibility for climate change because of the cumulative amount of CO2 emissions they have produced. On the other hand, we need all nations to take action now.
  • Reducing car ownership is not likely to be a part of what the Chinese government does to combat climate change, and both Wang and Lewis saw car sales continuing to grow. I was sorry to hear this because cars have major social as well as environmental consequences, changing the built environment in ways that diminish civic and community life. Already, Beijing sidewalks are disappearing beneath endless rows of Audis and BMWs. I’d love to see a publicity effort in China that would get young people to jump straight to the kind of thinking about car ownership that young Americans are demonstrating. Americans aged 16 to 34 drove 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than they did in 2001, and far fewer own a car, or want to own one, than in past decades. Such a leap in China would be similar to the leap directly to mobile phones, skipping over landlines.
  • With this new agreement, big changes lie ahead in science and technology policy in China, with prospects for a new orientation in research funding. Chinese progress in several fields, including solar technology, as well as the ongoing process of replacing outdated coal-fired power plants with modern plants are critical in meeting the goals of the agreement.
  • In China, perhaps even more dramatically than in other countries, there is sometimes a conflict between the need to clean up the air and the requirements of climate-change reduction. Both speakers were adamant that “coal-to-gas” – creating liquid fuel from coal as a way to reduce air pollution in Chinese cities – is not the right way forward.

Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability Vol. 1-10With the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability soon to be published in China, by Shanghai Jiaotong University Press, we’ll be looking for ways to expand our publishing program to support and enrich Chinese research and teaching.

Lewis’s article “Climate Change Mitigation Initiatives in China” from Volume 7 of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability, titled China, India, and East and Southeast Asia: Assessing Sustainability is available for free download until 12 December 2014.

By 2012, China had become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. At the core of the climate change challenge is China’s energy sector. Despite a reliance on coal-based energy to fuel its rapidly growing economy, China has made major achievements in promoting energy efficiency and low carbon energy technologies. Many new mitigation efforts are underway, including China’s first ever carbon target and carbon emissions trading programs.