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The Dragon Syndicates: The Global Phenomenon on the Triads Hardcover – August 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers; First American Edition edition (August 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786707356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786707355
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #783,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an indisputably important and extravagantly detailed account, Booth (author of the lauded Opium: A History and Booker-nominated author of the novel The Industry of Souls) examines the history of the notorious international crime groups known as the Chinese Triads, whose roots lie in ancient secret societies with traditions of religious and political dissentAparticularly in the Hung Society of the 18th century. As Chinese emigrants spread around the world, so did the societies, metamorphosing into today's international terrorist networks. The Triads have an oddly checkered history of both criminal activity and patriotism (they supported Chiang Kai-shek and assisted the U.S. during the Vietnam War). Booth's narrative details the dizzying array of their criminal actionsAincluding kidnapping, credit-card fraud, software piracy, international prostitution, illegal immigrant smuggling and Internet pornographyAas it explores the lives and crooked partnerships of such legendary Triad power brokers as the Green Gang's far-rightist Big-eared Du, and the 14K, which maximized the mid-century heroin market. Booth also documents the Triads' infiltration of the business and social mainstream and their current exploitation of the Hong Kong film industry. He deserves commendation for addressing this risky subject (these groups are not above murdering journalists) and for shredding the Triads' centuries-strong web of ritual and patriotism. 16 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This colorful popular history of Chinese secret criminal societies, which the author (Opium: A History) collectively labels the Triads, cuts a broad swath through Chinese history from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to the present and from the China mainland to the far-flung communities of the Chinese diaspora. The best chapters of the book focus on Hong Kong, where a network of criminal syndicates, held together by blood oaths, patronage, and avarice, has long dominated vice, gambling, and prostitution and engages in extortion, racketeering, kidnapping, counterfeiting, and smuggling. The historical chapters are less convincing. Booth sweeps a large variety of secret societies into his catchall category of the Triads and reduces modern Chinese history to a vast and convoluted criminal conspiracy. Nevertheless, the cast of bizarre characters, the often-gory details of Triad crimes, and the intersection of the criminal and political worlds make for fascinating reading. For larger public and academic libraries.DSteven I. Levine, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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The book is a valuable and insightful read.
Joseph D. Douglass
He makes a strong case for the strength of Chinese organized crime and makes a persuasive argument for it being a truly global problem.
albert wang
The characters are fleshed out enough that we can actually imagine them.
Lemas Mitchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As an outsider attempting to study, then explain the history of Chinese secret societies and organized crime, Mr. Booth obviously conducted extensive research. For this he should be commended.
Yet, as a native-speaking Chinese , I was confused by the translations, which were inconsistent throughout the book. More importantly, it appeared that major crimes were also reported, simply to include them but totally missing their true origin, motive and intent.
For a better understanding of Asian organized crime and its impact on our communities, readers are encouraged to pick up "Chinese Playground" by Bill Lee, "Fires of the Dragon" by David Kaplan, and "The Dream Shattered" by Du Phuoc Long.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ian L. Sitren on July 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The "Dragon Syndicates" is well written, compelling reading and detailed without being ponderous. Mr. Booth writes not only about the Chinese Triads and the many crimes that support their membership around the world, but also of the history of these secret societies.
From two thousand years ago, the author describes the beginnings of the Triads, the relationship they have had in the history of China as well as the rest of the world. I was amazed to learn of the significance of the Triads in the major political events throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
My practice as a Private Investigator in the upper levels of corporate issues and litigation has brought me into a familiarity of dealings with such issues as organized crime around the world. Many of the matters that corporations are faced with today must be viewed in the light of dealing with these crime syndicates.
I have also traveled in Hong Kong and Macau which are locations discussed in many aspects of this history of the Triads. And as such found it especially interesting to relate the places I have visited with their discussion in the book.
I very much recommend this book to anyone with an interest in global affairs, global crime or the history of China.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr Vess on July 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have been an avid reader of books on true crime for quite a time. However, as far as books on organized crime went, until recently I concentrated on those dealing with the Mafia. I found this book almost by accident and thought for a long while. Certainly, I knew of the Triads, but was their full story worth reading? Eventually, I decided to buy Martin Booth's book. Dear heavens, what a good choice I made! The book proved to be a thrilling and captivating account of an underworld empire of whose actions and dealings we often hear, usually not realizing the existence of the powers behind them. It is truly fascinating - and once you read it, you will see a lot of things and events in today's world differently. Not only that; you will also have to take a different look at world's history, since the book - in a particularly fascinating and captivating part - shows the involvement of the Triads in major historical events, and the way they literally shaped a considerable part of the world. Thrilling and highly recommended, just for everyone, not only for those interested in true crime. And for the latter - a must read.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ian Vance on August 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
Despite the cosmetic and cultural differences that separate the varied multitudes of this earth, some basic precepts hold at the core of nearly all modern civilizations: a distribution system of goods and services, a military, a ruling elite. The presence of secret societies can also be considered among these standards: the banding of individuals to provide support and strength against the competitive wiles of foreigners and mutual enemies. The names of these secret societies--Freemasons, Illuminati, Mafia, Yakuza--are enough to inspire envy and respect and fear and hatred and lust among those not included in their exclusive ranks, thus the popularity of fringe-writers and conspiracy theorists. The Chinese Triads are perhaps the least documented and possess the greatest potential threat of all these myriad societies, for while the others concern themselves with the manipulation of economy and politics, the Triads have of late become steeped in all manners of vice, including the supply of that most insidious and destructive of painkillers, herion.
The Triads originally began as political resistance to the upstart Manchu Q'ing dynasty, then altered their goals in the 20th century to undermine/suppress the spread of the Communist agenda. In the last fifty years these patriotic intentions have been almost totally corrupted by the drive for monetary gain via extortion, kidnapping, graft, prostitution, gambling, drag trafficking, ect. The influence of the Triads is worldwide and they are now branching out into the lucrative possibilities of the Internet's dark underbelly, including child pornography and technologies fraud.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lemas Mitchell on March 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One problem from the outset: There are these wonderful things that have been in use for a while called Chinese characters. The author's spellings were so inconsistent (Pinyin/ Wade Giles/ Yale Romanization for Cantonese), that it was just really hard to be clear sometimes. (I can understand Mandarin, as many of the people who likely read this book can. And even for those who couldn't understand, the characters would have made for some nice decoration. At the minimum, they would have not made me guess what was being written.)

He was also a bit liberal with the use of a.......... not-so-nice way to say "prostitute" and a......... not-so-nice way to say "defecate." If he had cleaned up the language of the book, it would not have dimished it in any way.

The rest of the book was great.

1. It shed a lot of light on that dirtbag, Chiang-Kai Shek. A lot of people imagine that he was some good guy that happened to lose control of China because of some financing by the Russians (this was the thesis of Jon Halliday and Jung Chang), but it turns out that he had quite a hand in his own problems, too. He was also not a very nice man. It seemed that the only real problem that the KMT had with the CCP was that they might have gotten in the way of opium profits. He also demonstrated some of the good things that the CCP has done-- and why they are so willing to execute people that violate drug laws. (The first generation of leadership was there when drugs were allowed to run loose.)

2. Wow! I didn't know that 35 million died in the Taiping Rebellion. That was more than either the Great Leap Forward OR The Cultural Revolution.

3. The book read like a cross between a Sidney Sheldon novel and a history book.
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