Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America

Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America

by Weijian Shan


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Foreword by Janet Yellen

Weijian Shan's Out of the Gobi is a powerful memoir and commentary that will be one of the most important books on China of our time, one with the potential to re-shape how Americans view China, and how the Chinese view life in America.

Shan, a former hard laborer who is now one of Asia's best-known financiers, is thoughtful, observant, eloquent, and brutally honest, making him well-positioned to tell the story of a life that is a microcosm of modern China, and of how, improbably, that life became intertwined with America. Out of the Gobi draws a vivid picture of the raw human energy and the will to succeed against all odds.

Shan only finished elementary school when Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution tore his country apart. He was a witness to the brutality and absurdity of Mao’s policies during one of the most tumultuous eras in China’s history. Exiled to the Gobi Desert at age 15 and denied schooling for 10 years, he endured untold hardships without ever giving up his dream for an education. Shan’s improbable journey, from the Gobi to the “People’s Republic of Berkeley” and far beyond, is a uniquely American success story – told with a splash of humor, deep insight and rich and engaging detail.

This powerful and personal perspective on China and America will inform Americans' view of China, humanizing the country, while providing a rare view of America from the prism of a keen foreign observer who lived the American dream.

Says former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen: “Shan’s life provides a demonstration of what is possible when China and the United States come together, even by happenstance. It is not only Shan’s personal history that makes this book so interesting but also how the stories of China and America merge in just one moment in time to create an inspired individual so unique and driven, and so representative of the true sprits of both countries.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119529491
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 01/17/2019
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 128,378
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

WEIJIAN SHAN is chairman and CEO of PAG, a private equity firm. Prior to PAG, he was a partner at TPG, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, and co-managing partner at TPG Asia (formerly known as Newbridge Capital). He led a number of landmark transactions, including the acquisitions of Korea First Bank and China's Shenzhen Development Bank, both of which made his investors billions of dollars in profits and were made into case studies by Harvard Business School. Previously, Shan was a managing director at JP Morgan, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a farm laborer in China's Gobi Desert. He holds an MA and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA from the University of San Francisco. He studied English at Beijing Institute of Foreign Trade (now University of International Business and Economics), where he also taught as a faculty member. He received no formal secondary education.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Acknowledgments xi

Author’s Note xiii

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 Man-Made Famine 5

Chapter 2 School Cut Short 21

Chapter 3 Storm of Revolution 35

Chapter 4 Turmoil Under Heaven 53

Chapter 5 Exiled to the Gobi 77

Chapter 6 Digging for Potatoes 93

Chapter 7 War Is Coming 109

Chapter 8 Repairing the Earth 123

Chapter 9 Battling Frozen Lake 137

Chapter 10 The Longest Night 159

Chapter 11 Unforgettable Movie Night 173

Chapter 12 Barefoot Doctor 185

Chapter 13 Brickmaking the Ancient Way 213

Chapter 14 Petition to Mao 237

Chapter 15 Pigs Don’t Fly 249

Chapter 16 Half the Sky 267

Chapter 17 Desert Dreams of College 281

Chapter 18 Last Convulsions of the Revolution 305

Chapter 19 Roads to Rome 331

Chapter 20 Old Gold Mountain 345

Chapter 21 The People’s Republic of Berkeley 379

Chapter 22 Ivy League Professor 403

Epilogue 437

Index 445

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A personal history of China in its Mao and post-Mao periods written by one of China’s brightest people. Worth reading and, more importantly, understanding the ‘great leap forward’!”
—Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator for California

"This is no ordinary memoir. It is the engrossing, vivid personal story of someone buffeted by the tides of China's tumultuous emergence from poverty to power in the space of a few decades. Weijian Shan's journey from rural exile in the Gobi Desert to the heights of international finance is a metaphor for China itself."
—James Kynge, Global China Editor, Financial Times

“This is more than a memoir, it’s an epic. Shan’s improbable journey from his teenage exile in a bleak Gobi Desert work camp to becoming a renowned leader of international finance could be the stuff of fiction. Out of the Gobi is a must-read for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of modern China, and a window from which to view our nation as well.”
—Jeffrey Katzenberg, founder, WndrCo, former chairman, Walt Disney Studios, and co-founder and CEO, DreamWorks Animation

"Out of the Gobi is a fascinating, inspiring book. It told me what I hadn't known about China through its modern struggles and successes, and about how the United States looks from the world's perspective, and about human ingenuity, courage, and humor that have no national limitations."
—James Fallows, The Atlantic

“To help us appreciate the story, Shan has provided a historical backdrop chapter by chapter, so that we can fully appreciate his personal journey. How Shan lived through a series of misadventures, wound up as an investment banker in the United States, and later became one of Asia’s shrewdest investors is a tale worth reading. You will emerge with a better understanding of what China is and how it got there.”
—David Bonderman, co-founder and chairman of TPG Capital

“Weijian Shan’s astonishing story is a modern Chinese odyssey, an epic of personal and political drama, defined, above all, by sheer grit and resilience. Before he made it to Berkeley, Wharton, and the upper
ranks of global finance, Shan made it out of the Gobi Desert by telling himself, ‘I will never give up.’ Indeed, he never did.”
—Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition, winner of the 2014 National Book Award

“Weijian Shan’s remarkable journey paints a picture of grit, determination, and a gift for learning. Well-written, and filled with passionate and poignant insights, Out of the Gobi is a compelling read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the character and determination of the people who will ultimately render history’s verdict on China.”
—Stephen Roach, Senior Fellow, Yale University, former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, and author of Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China

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Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is a story in the vein of Unbroken, Man’s Search for Meaning, and the Long Walk — a story of one man’s struggle for survival after being separated from his family as a teenager during China’s Cultural Revolution. Sent to the Gobi desert to a hard labor camp, Shan details the stark realities of his experience in vivid color: the rampant starvation, 18 hour days in -40 degree weather, drinking mosquito larvae infested puddle water, digging holes in the ground to sleep in... and that’s just the start of it. To endure and survive such trauma and go on to the life that he has led is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Fascinating read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Out of the Gobi" brings you with vivid memories of many instances of hilarious account for a period of history that is otherwise serious and heavyhearted. Living through a series of political deceptions, futile struggles, unimaginable miseries, and perpetual hopelessness, Weijian Shan's penchant for education, curiosity for truth, pursuit for happiness, and unyielding belief for human integrity have never ceased. "Out of the Gobi" is not just a personal recounts of Mao's Cultural Revolution, it is a story of humanity and dignity, a great testimony of how a life of seemingly insignificance in an overwhelming tumult was able to defy all odds to ultimately take the highest stage of financial world. Enjoyable and hardly put down when started, "Out of the Gobi" deserves its place among the great books. Highly recommended!