December 6, 2021


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These two books will help you understand China

These two books will help you understand China

Chinese flag

Desmond Shum paints a picture of a “red aristocracy” unabashedly enriching itself in the boom.

(Photo: Reuters)

Düsseldorf Anyone who wants to understand present-day China cannot ignore this book. It provides a glimpse into the mechanisms of strength. It is also interesting to read. It is a book on the inside. Desmond Shum tells of his career, which reads like a novel in itself: From Nowhere to Millionaire.

Shum works his way up tirelessly, first as a swimmer who nearly made it to the Hong Kong Olympic team. Later as an analyst for an American private equity firm expanding into capitalist China.

His breakthrough came in Beijing with Whitney Duan. He married an ambitious businesswoman who was closely related to the top of the Communist Party of China. They were so good friends with Premier Wen Jiabao’s wife that they called her “Aunt Zhang”.

They are expanding Beijing Airport with an international cargo terminal and building a Bulgari hotel in the city with a shopping center and offices. Shum is the businessman while his wife takes care of the finances.

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Around the same time, Shum talks about the intertwining of politics and business. You even met Xi Jinping. Shum paints a picture of a “red aristocracy” unabashedly enriching herself in the boom. The businessman shows a feudal China in which the families of the political elite want to secure their position in power for generations at any cost.

Desmond Shum: Red Roulette.
Simon + Schuster UK
London 2021
310 pages
15,16 euros

Shum a reliable witness. He openly admits mistakes and talks casually about corruption and the profession. Because the Chinese only want one thing: to earn money and be successful.

But the purges under Xi were portentous. In 2015 Shum’s wife, possibly in prison or under house arrest, disappeared without charge. Shum, who lives in England with her now 12-year-old son, said that was the impetus for the book. He wanted to tell him about his mother, from whom they had received no sign of life for four years.

Shortly before the book was published, she was allowed to contact him. Posting should be stopped. “How would you feel if something happened to our son?” she said. “And what would happen to our son if something happened to me?”

While Shum traces the authoritarian path of state and party leader Xi within the country, journalist Joanna Chiu analyzes Beijing’s global influence. After years of working as a reporter in China, she has traveled the world describing Beijing’s global expansion.

Joanna Chiu: China Unbound: A New World Turmoil.
Anansi Press
Toronto 2021
304 pages
1722 EUR

In her native Canada, she sees her citizens become political hostages in Beijing. In Italy and Greece, she researches infrastructure projects on the New Silk Road and how it boosts its dependence on Beijing and visits Muslim Uyghurs in Turkey who have left the People’s Republic for fear of arrests. Qiu diagnoses the growing confrontational trajectory from Beijing and calls for a confident response.

more: Showing Strength: Three Books Explaining China.

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