RAS Book Club

RAS Library


Discussion Leader: John van Fleet

An engrossing, insider’s account of how a teacher built one of the world’s most valuable companies—rivaling Walmart & Amazon—and forever reshaped the global economy.

In just a decade and half Jack Ma, a man from modest beginnings who started out as an English teacher, founded and built Alibaba into one of the world’s largest companies, an e-commerce empire on which hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers depend. Alibaba’s $25 billion IPO in 2014 was the largest global IPO ever. A Rockefeller of his age who is courted by CEOs and presidents around the world, Jack is an icon for China’s booming private sector and the gatekeeper to hundreds of millions of middle class consumers.

Duncan Clark first met Jack in 1999 in the small apartment where Jack founded Alibaba. Granted unprecedented access to a wealth of new material including exclusive interviews, Clark draws on his own experience as an early advisor to Alibaba and two decades in China chronicling the Internet’s impact on the country to create an authoritative, compelling narrative account of Alibaba’s rise.

How did Jack overcome his humble origins and early failures to achieve massive success with Alibaba? How did he outsmart rival entrepreneurs from China and Silicon Valley? Can Alibaba maintain its 80% market share? As it forges ahead into finance and entertainment, are there limits to Alibaba’s ambitions?  How does the Chinese government view its rise?  Will Alibaba expand further overseas, including in the U.S.?

Clark tells Alibaba’s tale in the context of China’s momentous economic and social changes, illuminating an unlikely corporate titan as never before.

Duncan Clark is Chairman of BDA China, a consultancy he founded in Beijing in 1994 after four years as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley in London and Hong Kong. Over the past 19 years, Duncan has guided BDA to become the leading investment advisory firm in China specialized in China’s technology, internet and e-commerce sectors. A UK citizen, Duncan was raised in England, the United States and France. He graduated from the London School of Economics & Political Science. and is a senior advisor to the ‘China 2.0′ initiative at the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where he was a visiting scholar in 2010 and 2011.

John Van Fleet’s Asia career spans ten years in Japan (1991-2000) and seventeen in China (to present). He has extensive experience throughout the region in education, business development, operations and marketing. He currently serves as Director, Corporate Globalization, and adjunct faculty, Antai College of Economics & Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, a campus where he’s been based since 2003. A regular reviewer for the Asian Review of Books, Van Fleet speaks and writes often about business, education and society in China and East Asia. He is fluent in Japanese and afloat in Mandarin, and holds both undergraduate and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California. His book Tales of Old Tokyo, a romp through the city’s history from 1853 to 1964, was published in 2015, while his second book,Squabbling Siblings: China and Japan from Antiquity to 2020, will be published in 2018.

*Please note that this is a book discussion, not a talk. The author will not be present.*

RSVP: bookevents@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn