“My McGill profs challenged us to question common assumptions about China, to think critically, to get closer to reality,” says Shaun Rein BA’00.
The Shanghai-based founder of the China Market Research Group has turned those skills into an international career as a leading media commentator, business writer and consultant for companies doing business with Hong Kong and the Mainland.
Rein left his birthplace of New Hampshire for Montreal in 1996 to enroll in East Asian Studies at McGill.
An undergraduate exchange program with Nankai University in Tianjin sparked his interest to return to China and work there.
“‘Pursue your passion,’ I was taught at McGill,” he says. “So when I finished all my studies, I moved to Shanghai in 2003. The business optimism there was electric and I started my own company two years later.”
“It’s not always easy to do business in China, but I was also taught to be entrepreneurial and I thrive on the challenge.”
Rein’s engaging, informative and accessible analyses of the rapid changes in China at all levels have made him a go-to commentator for Forbes, The Economist, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and CNN among others.
“I try to correct some of the media’s fear mongering, misinformation and hysteria about China’s rise,” he says.
And here, the lesson of getting ‘closer to reality’ is put into practice. Rein not only draws on hard economic data and personal experiences, he talks to everyone from Chinese billionaires and senior government officials to migrant workers and sex workers.
He recently turned that information into a well-received book called The End of Cheap China. The Amazon best-seller is described by a leading reviewer as “a practical, must read for anyone dealing with China, doing business there, or simply trying to understand what is going on.”
Rein’s book argues that China’s economic transformation, rising salaries and higher expectations spell the end of cheap consumption for North Americans. He advises western companies to take advantage of the change or “face extinction.”
“In particular, many people underestimate the purchasing power of Chinese women,” he says. “They now account for 50 per cent of household income.”
“Another big change in China is one we’ve also seen at McGill and elsewhere in North America: women outnumber men in the universities.”
You could say Rein is doing his bit to redress the imbalance.
“I see Tom, my five-year-old son as my greatest personal success in China. He speaks Mandarin, English and definitely has the makings of a future McGill student.”
The End of Cheap China: Economic and Cultural Trends that will Disrupt the World is available on Amazon.
- By Richard Andrews