Little Rice

Little Rice
Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

Can the world’s biggest economy actually innovate? Clay Shirky explores China at a crossroads.

Smartphones have to be made someplace, and that place is China. In just five years, a company named Xiaomi (which means “little rice” in Mandarin) has grown into the most valuable startup ever, becoming the third largest vendor of smartphones, behind only Samsung and Apple. China is now both the world’s largest producer and consumer of a little device that brings the entire globe to its user’s fingertips. How has this changed the Chinese people? How did Xiaomi conquer the world’s biggest market? Can the rise of Xiaomi help realize the Chinese Dream, China’s bid to link personal success with national greatness?

Clay Shirky, one of the most influential and original thinkers on the internet’s effects on society, spends a year in Shanghai chronicling China’s attempt to become a tech originator—and what it means for the future course of globalization.

Little Rice
  • ISBN: 9780990976325
  • Price: $12.99
  • E-book ISBN: 9780990976332
  • On Sale: October 13, 2015
  • Pages: 134


A Fareed Zakaria GPS Book of the Week

“An engaging new book.... Shirky looks inside China’s weird world of retail ... a perfect primer for anyone looking to do business in China.” Fortune

“I will read anything Clay writes, but when he's writing about the intersection of Chinese manufacturing and the Western Internet, man, is that ever in my zone.” —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“A bite-size but substantive case study.” Publishers Weekly

“A compact, accessible, and intelligently delivered update on China’s evolving economic and political front via one particularly accomplished electronics venture.” Kirkus Reviews

“Shirky accomplishes more in 128 pages than most books would in 1000. Little Rice is a company profile, industry narrative, country history lesson, political dissection (sometimes bordering on polemic), a review of the current state of globalization, and discussion of its future.” Porchlight

“Shirky investigates the rise of the Xiaomi start-up culture.... Recommended for those who enjoy reading about how mobile technology works and particularly in exploring its impact on global business.” Library Journal

“Although the author’s technical competence is evident throughout this interesting book, his ideas are expressed in simple, clear language that should appeal to anyone with an interest in China, and not just those with a special interest in technology.” —Lanxin Xiang, Survival: Global Politics and Strategy journal


China’s Xiaomi’s is changing the U.S. too — CNN

Clay Shirky and Emily Parker on Xiaomi, technology and information flows in China — The Financial Times

Chinese phone maker Xiaomi rode viral marketing to the top — Yahoo Finance

Clay Shirky explains how Xiaomi became China’s Apple overnight — Quartz

Limits And Growth In China’s Knowledge Economy — On Point

China’s design culture is kicking off — Global Times

China and the Biggest Startup You’ve Probably Never Heard of — HBR IdeaCast

In the Eye of a Tornado: Views on Innovation from China — a16z podcast

Little Rice — Xiaomi, Smartphones & The Chinese Dream With Clay Shirky — analyseasia podcast

About the author

Clay Shirky
© Barbara Alper

Clay Shirky is associate professor at NYU Shanghai. He is the author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (2010), Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008), and Voices from the Net (1994). His writings appear frequently in The New York Times, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review, and his TED Talks have been viewed by millions. He currently lives in Shanghai.  @cshirky