Review: Little Rice — Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

Posted in Reading, Technology

I’ve read my share of books and articles on the current economic and political phenomenon that is China. I’m interested in part because of my own ethnicity and complex relationship with the country, and in part because its dynamics are in such contrast to what we’re used to in general, in the United States and western civilization at large.

Little Rice starts out by telling the story of how the startup Xiao Mi came into existence, and the unique conditions in China that enabled it to thrive in that market as well as how it’s trying to expand globally. At the same time, the book is also about seeing China — the country — through the lenses of enterprise and entrepreneurship. The smartphone revolution serves as a modern technological backdrop to the main plot, but there’s also plenty of embellishment into history and the cultural touchstones that have led to the political and economic environment today.

The book was an easy read: well-written, not overly long, and put together in a way that reminds me of long-form feature stories in newspapers and magazines. There isn’t any deep thesis presented or any kind of revelations on the future of China or Xiaomi, but more of a recounting of the past and present, and a tentative look ahead at the challenges for both entities as they try to integrate themselves more globally. If the implication is to present Xiaomi as a microcosm of China itself, the supporting evidence is mixed at best.