对于许多美国人来说，这可能有些陈词滥调的感觉。愤世嫉俗的人会说，“得了吧，说得轻巧。沃伦•巴菲特是你老爸，你当然可以想干什么就干什么。”但大多数中国听众的反应却截然不同，他们听得目瞪口呆。原因完全可以理解。外界将中国看成一个崛起中的经济大国，一个似乎有着不可逆转的经济发展势头的国家，这一点可能是正确的。可是，尽管经济数据极为华丽，中国内部同样也是一个经济压力锅。希望考上大学的孩子们每天花14到18个小时学习，竭尽全力希望进入顶尖大学深造。一旦进了大学，他们就得早早地选定专业。他们身处一个向上行进的自动扶梯，身不由己。当然，这肯定比爬不上这扶梯要好。就算大学毕业后找到了一份不错的工作，薪水通常也不怎么样，还得经常加班。更严重的是，当今的年轻工薪一族中，许多人都是计划生育政策的产物，是家里的独生子女。这意味着父母亲退休后，他们将独自承担赡养老人的重担。奥美公司（Ogilvy & Mather）在上海的一位高管爱德华•贝尔曾对中国二十几岁的年轻人作了深度调研，他的描述言简意赅：“这代人必须不断奔跑，否则不进则退。我称他们为压力一代。”
彼得•巴菲特所触及的正是这种焦虑。正因如此，田林峰（音译）与许多其他年轻的中国专业人士一样，对他在中国大受欢迎并不特别惊讶。他主修金融专业，一年前毕业于北京一所商学院，目前在中国交通银行（the Bank of Communications in China）——一家大型国有银行工作。他非常崇拜彼得的父亲 “我想我读过所有关于他的书。”今年春季，田林峰去听了彼得•巴菲特的演讲，事先并不知道他会讲些什么。“我深受触动，”他说，“特别是当他讲到离开斯坦福大学，追求音乐事业的时候，”他摇着头补充说，“那么著名的学校。”
Audiences everywhere are, inevitably, curious as to how exactly that came to be. But in China, the curiosity is off the charts. One of the things Buffett likes to remind audiences of is that when he was growing up -- long before Dad became America's economic oracle, adviser to Presidents and writer of op-eds reassuring a depressed nation that all is not lost -- his father was a supremely successful but largely anonymous investor. He was a regular guy who was known and revered only by the kind of folks who go to sleep with a copy of Graham and Dodd under their pillow. And he's basically the same guy now.
The curiosity in China is fed by the fact that when Peter's father announced he was giving away his considerable wealth to a foundation run by another supremely rich guy, Bill Gates, a lot of folks there had a single thought: "Why would he do that to his kids?" Mostly lost in translation was the fact that the elder Buffett was acting in accordance with his long-articulated position that he would give his kids "enough money so that they would feel they could do anything -- but not so much that they could do nothing."
But curiosity alone wouldn't have resulted in the sale of 320,000 books. Something about Buffett's message "is definitely resonating with many young Chinese," says Zhang, his editor. That message is inextricable from Peter's biography. He tells audiences that from the time he can remember he always loved music. "My mother said I sang before I spoke," he told an interviewer for CCTV last spring. (His dad has been known to play a little ukulele.) A good student, he got into Stanford University, but was not particularly career-focused or interested in Graham and Dodd. For the first year and a half of college, he says, "I took everything that ended in 101 or -ology."
Then -- and here is where a young Chinese audience leans in, not quite believing what they are hearing -- he dropped out. He decided that he wanted to pursue a career in music. "It was right in front of my nose my whole life," he says. So he took a "small inheritance from my grandfather, bought an apartment in San Francisco, and tried to make a go of it." And his parents, he tells mostly stunned audiences, were fine with it. "They were encouraging but also made it clear that if you blow it -- well, good luck," says Buffett. Within two years he was confident he'd made the right choice: "By then I knew I could make a living in music."
The point, Buffett repeats in all his appearances in China, is that by quitting Stanford and trying to make a go of it in music, he was doing the same thing his father did. "My father knew early on what he loved to do, and he did it, and he's doing it to this day," he says. "So I tell audiences [in China] that my father and I do, in fact, do the same thing for a living. We both do what we love."
To American ears, this can sound trite. The cynic says, "Okay, c'mon, it's a lot easier to do whatever it is you want to do if Warren Buffett is your dad." But that's not how most Chinese audiences react. Most audiences in China are gobsmacked -- and for reasons that are perfectly understandable. The outside world sees China as a rising economic power, a nation with seemingly irreversible economic momentum. That may be true enough. But for all its gaudy economic statistics, on the inside the country is also an economic pressure cooker. Children with aspirations for college put in 14 to 18 hours a day studying, desperate to get accepted to a good university. If they get in, they have to pick a major early. They're on an up escalator -- which, true enough, is better than not being on one -- and they can't get off. If a student graduates and lands a desirable job, he or she often doesn't get paid particularly well and has to put in long hours. To top it off, many of today's younger workers are children of China's one-child policy, which means that they alone are responsible for taking care of their parents when they retire. In short, says, Edward Bell, an executive at Ogilvy & Mather in Shanghai who has studied the twentysomething Chinese in depth, "this is a generation that has to sprint just to stay even. I call it Generation Stress."
It's precisely that angst that Peter Buffett taps into. That's why Tian Li Feng, like a lot of Chinese young professionals, isn't particularly surprised by its success. He graduated from business school a year ago in Beijing, a finance major who now works for the Bank of Communications in China, a large state-owned bank. A big fan of Peter's father -- "I think I've read all the books about him," he says -- he went to see Peter Buffett speak this past spring, not quite knowing what to expect. "I was touched," he says. "Particularly when he spoke about leaving Stanford to pursue his music." Shaking his head, he adds, "Such a prestigious school."
Buffett understands that the experiences he writes about, and the impulses that drove his career, are uniquely American. He also is self-effacing and secure enough to acknowledge that if his name were Smith or Jones, no one in China would be interested. But China novice or not, when he says that "it seems as if this place is moving at such light speed that a lot of young people don't get a chance to have a second thought," he's right.
"I don't think my parents would ever let me do [what he did]," says Tian, the banker. "But maybe someday," he adds softly, "my own child can have that choice." If so, Peter might leave as rich a legacy in China as his dad.