BOOKS: The book that shook JOHN ALLAN

BOOKS: The book that shook JOHN ALLAN - 'I'd choose The Collision of Two Civilisations: The British Expedition to China in 1792-4. In it Alain Peyrefitte, a French diplomat and politician, tells the story of an ill-fated mission. From the British point of

by JOHN ALLAN, CEO of Exel

'I'd choose The Collision of Two Civilisations: The British Expedition to China in 1792-4. In it Alain Peyrefitte, a French diplomat and politician, tells the story of an ill-fated mission. From the British point of view, its purpose was to make an alliance with China against France. However, the Chinese regarded the visit as an embassy from a remote part of the Chinese empire, coming to pay tribute to the emperor. There was complete mutual incomprehension between the Chinese and the British, and the British depended on a French Jesuit priest acting as interpreter. When it dawned on the British that they'd have to pay tribute to the emperor, they withdrew.

Peyrefitte had full access to the Chinese imperial archives as well as British records and so was able to compare the two sides' views of events day by day.

Important lessons can be learned from the book - such as not having a purely Anglocentric view of the universe, not assuming the other party has the same values and attitudes as you and, finally, taking the trouble to understand the other parties' needs in a business relationship.'

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