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Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  145 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Inside the Red Mansion is a suspenseful, slyly entertaining journey into the heart of the new China. Due to a mix-up on a routine reporting assignment, Oliver August stumbles onto the hunt for China’s most wanted man, Lai Changxing, an illiterate tycoon on the run from corruption charges. Sensing something emblematic in this outsized tale of Lai's rise and fall, August set ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 18th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published February 1st 2007)
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Aug 08, 2007 rated it liked it
a very readable and fascinating account of present-day china through the eyes of a british journalist (former bureau chief of the times) as he investigates the spectacular rags-to-riches rise and fall of lai changxing, a former farmer who made billions smuggling various goods like cars into mainland china. supposedly lai was able to smuggle so much into the country (and build large skyscrapers and his own folly of an exact replica of the forbidden city) because the gov't allowed him to (via a ma ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
Inspired by Mr August's journalism style, I've been planning to write a book about Barack Obama. I'm going to wander around Chicago, catch a game at Wrigley field, eat some deep dish pizza, see if I can get into a taping of Oprah, and then suddenly realize Obama has gone to Washington D.C. I'll spend the final chapter comparing the pizza in DC to the pizza in Chicago, wondering how Obama is possibly going to govern a country with two such different interpretations of this classic Italian dish. I ...more
May 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: china-shelf
A shitty journalist with little knowledge of China writes a shitty book ostensibly about China, but he has a tendency to talk more about himself than his subject.

This book checks all the boxes of the bad China reporter. He tells us how he randomly wound up in China. He talks about how of a struggle it was learning Chinese. He tells us about each of his teachers of Chinese, sprinkling some of the Chinese he learned.

He has this tendency, like most bad China reporters who spend a couple of years
Horace Derwent
Aug 11, 2022 marked it as to-read
Nov 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
I picked this book up after reading an article by Oliver August in this month's Inside the Red Mansion is more a story about China's rocky political transformation than it is about Lai, the fugitive the book is framed around. This book gives a vivid sense of living in the seedy underworld of China. ...more
Dec 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you're a journalist heading to China, I'd highly recommend this. Like the back says, the book is very detailed and gives you the same feelings the author had. It did take me longer to read it. The first few chapters were a bit slow but the story picked up and was easy to read. Gives a lot of history and background on Chinese culture. ...more
Feroz Hameed
Jun 21, 2018 rated it liked it
the rise of Xiamen a sleepy town to metropolis of today is clearly captured in this investigative trail of Chinas most wanted man. A gooodread.
Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Unabridged and read by author. This may be construed as an example of over-writing by some but I find the digressions interesting and August's voice entirely easy on the ear. The court case in Vancouver put China on trial as much as Lai.

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 b
Oct 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Whole title:
“Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man”

I enjoy non-fiction about China today, usually travelogues of some sort like the ones by Peter Hessler or Rob Gifford’s China Road. They’re not great books but since I’ve been to China they’re just kind of interesting to me. - Like so this is how those people I saw all around live and think.

Inside the Red Mansion is a bit different (well - they’re all a bit different). August decided to investigate the notorious crimin
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2012
A story of one of the self-made millionaire - Lai Changxing - was part of shaping the New China in the end of the 90s, who in attempt to escape prosecution in China, fled to Canada. Sadly, what could be a truly fascinating and thrilling story, became nothing more than just a record of events, people, history lessons snippets - all of these intertwined in a dry, journalistic and perfunctory way. Another distracting feature - the book that I "consumed" in audio format - was narrated by a person wh ...more
Jul 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
I admit to huge bias concerning China and suffered enormous trepidation at reading this book. I was pleasantly surprised when, upon cracking it open, I found that the author had not drunk the China kool-aid. This book is less about the corrupt fugitive himself and more about what he represents in the context of Chinese history, the crazy way politics and business blend into a mad mish mash of culture and society that makes for very amusing and bizarre anecdotes.

It's light reading for those who a
May 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book deserves kudos for being the only English book (that I can tell) about Lai Changxing--an interesting subject to be sure! Unfortunately, there is just way too much filler and almost nothing about Lai until halfway through the book. If you're not familiar with China, you might find the author's impressions of the country interesting. If you've spent any amount of time there yourself, you'll likely find it a little boring. ...more
May 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Interesting, and for someone who know nothing about China it provided a good lesson on how China works , its current business climate (or at least current 10 years ago when the book was written) and the relationship between entrepreneurship and a state controlled economy. But try as I might I was unable to get excited about the author's search for Lia or why he had the obsession. ...more
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's not the most exciting premise, but while the author is on the trail of the "most wanted man," he examines the lives of ordinary Chinese and how they are dealing with a new capitalist system. And he has a lesbian sidekick! ...more
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: finished
Interesting to learn more about daily life/biz in China but this story didnt need a whole book.
Jul 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pengejaran berita tentang koruptor no.1 di Cina yang tiada henti dari penulis.
Edelhart Kempeneers
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Het viel mee. Maar China Road en Lost on Planet China waren veel beter.
Rob Koch
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it
I guess the book was interesting but could have been half the length. He didnt make any new points after about 100 pages. If you are interested in China it might be worth skimming.
Mar 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
Pre-read. My local library blows.

Post-read. Some sense of China's geography would have helped but consider all the corruption in the country, I'm not sure why anyone would find this appealing.
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James Hsu
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Anne Hoag
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Walter Hutchens
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Jul 20, 2015
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