There's an old saying about peasants being so frugal they use every part of the pig except the squeal. But Chinese industrialists seem even more efficient when it comes to squeezing economic utility out of a Western automaker.
Case in point: The recently deceased MG Rover.
You didn't need to read it in a fortune cookie to figure out that Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. would go ahead with plans to produce a car based on the Rover 75 sedan.
SAIC, one of the old-line Chinese automakers, had a partnership of sorts with MG Rover that fell apart when SAIC backed out of a financing deal and the English carmaker tumbled into bankruptcy.
Even before the body was cold, SAIC started claiming it bought rights to the Rover 75, another car and several engines as an offshoot of the proposed joint venture.
Now several former MG Rover engineers looking for work have thrown in with SAIC, which wants to get the car on the road next year.
But here's where it gets interesting.
The latest buzz is that Geely Motors, one of China's so-called young tigers, has been sniffing around the MG Rover carcass, perhaps with an eye on resuscitating one or more of the brands and reopening the factory.
That would be incredibly good news in the Midlands, where 5,000 workers lost their jobs.
It also could result in some interesting wrangling between SAIC and Geely.
But where would they slug it out? In England, where the body is buried? In China, where some critics insist there is no legal concept for intellectual property rights? Or perhaps in Malaysia, where Geely is setting up its export expeditionary force?
If there is a courtroom squabble in the future, I know execs who would pay to see it. But even if the whole thing blows over or is settled in some backroom by a bureaucrat, it will be an important lesson in emerging capitalism.
For that reason alone, you've got to love it.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at