An exhilarating journey into modern China in search of China's public enemy number one.
In 1999, shortly after arriving in Beijing as The Times's China correspondent, Oliver August set out on the trail of China s most wanted man, Lai Changxing. An illiterate peasant from the coastal city of Xiamen, Lai created his own shipping empire from nothing before vanishing abruptly when the Communist Party accused him of corruption and fraud. Once the richest man in the country, Lai was now public enemy number one because his immense wealth became a threat to Beijing's power.
Fascinated by Lai's story, the author visits the town where he was born, travels on the boat used by his smuggling racket and stays in the hotel where government investigators interrogated and tortured his helpers. The book investigates the tycoon's meteoric rise, his catastrophic demise and the mystery that surrounds his disappearance. After two decades of capitalist reforms, the New China seems to have more cliches than people. Both free and oppressive, anarchic and authoritarian, totally chaotic yet highly regulated, China is changing completely whilst seeming to stay itself.
'August s hunt for Lai is a ripping yarn But even better than the narrative are his observations of how life works in the New China it is desperate, fast, entertaining and dangerous' - Misha Glenny, The Sunday Times
'The tales he tells of life in the most dynamic, upwardly mobile society on earth are engaging and his gallery of friends are a fetching crew Hugely entertaining' - George Walden, Sunday Telegraph
'August s journey through Lai s world has produced a lively, highly readable book that goes into areas rarely dealt with by foreign reporters The author s enthusiasm, application and observation in following the trail of Lai brings alive for Western readers a slice of Chinese life other foreign readers have not reached' - Jonathan Fenby, The Times
'This must-read, can't-put-it down tale shows the China only hinted at on the evening news - a place of outsized egos, over-the top commercial development and shadowy, tradition-bound authoritarian rule' - Publishers Weekly, starred review
'A vivid picture of New China and its underbelly' - Publishing News
'Come along for the ride on Oliver August's fun and illuminating romp through China's smarmy underbelly. This book will challenge your preconceptions about China and stick with you for years. A great introduction to the People's Republic of Sleaze' - John Pomfret, author of Chinese Lessons and former Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post
'Oliver August uncovers the story of one of China's biggest and most flamboyant criminals, and in doing so offers a highly enjoyable yet often chilling insight into the underworld gangs that inhabit the dark side of the Chinese economic boom' - James Kynge, author of CHINA SHAKES THE WORLD
'Oliver August has found an excellent and unusual window through to which to view China, not only in the life and deeds of the super-rogue Lai Changxing but also as a memoir of August's own second life in Xiamen while he was pursuing his first as a reporter in Beijing. It is a compelling read, rich with fascinating details that convey the raw realities of China' - Bill Emmott, editor of The Economist 1993-2006, author of 20:21 VISION
Oliver August was born in 1971 and grew up in Germany. After studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford, he joined The Times and became its youngest-ever New York correspondent. Since 1999, he has been the paper's Beijing bureau chief, living in a traditional Chinese courtyard home near the Forbidden City.