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Dealing With the Dragon: A Year in the New Hong Kong Hardcover – April 11, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Introductory chapters on Hong Kong, mainland China and the dualistic political concept that now defines, however precariously, the Special Administrative Region contextualize this diary-format account of one year in postturnover Hong Kong. In the end, Fenby (France on the Brink) concludes that, while life goes on more or less prosperously, after July 1997, "[t]he spirit which could have made something exceptional out of one country, two systems... has been stifled, without the people who could have given it life being allowed to make the difference." At their strongest, the diary format and Fenby's journalistic outlook lend power and immediacy to the often dramatic events transpiring on both sides of the border within one year: the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, suppression of Falun Gong, actions by Hong Kong's Triad gangsters, major business negotiations, labor injustices suffered by Filipino servants and dangerous hurricanes. Often, however, these accounts amount to merely a journalistic salad of anecdotes that verge on the indulgent and of gratuitous statistics (e.g., China manufactures half of the world's kettles and its Communist Party membership equals the population of France). Caught in the dichotomy of "here" versus "there," Fenby seems overly concerned with a narrow idea of defiance and disappointed when the local psyche favors pragmatism. Bent on finding "superlatives" and "contradictions" in the glittering metropolis, Fenby rarely penetrates its surfaces, and his role as the English editor of the South China Morning Post often looms so large that one wonders if the quaint title isn't more applicable to his own tussles with the beasts of journalism, rather than to Hong Kong's unique negotiations with the mainland.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The formula of "one country, two systems" under which Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997 promised to preserve the capitalist economy and personal freedoms of this vibrant South China metropolis, which had long flourished under British rule. As editor of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's leading English daily, from 1995 through mid-1999, Fenby was in a unique position to gauge whether the formula was working. His kaleidoscopic insider's view of Hong Kong during the year 1999, arranged chronologically in diary form, covers numerous events, including local politics, the media, crime, China's suppression of the Fa Lun Gong, and the handover of Macau. At one level, it is fast-paced, informative, and entertaining, but it is also a deeply disquieting report. Fenby details how Beijing-appointed Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa steadily eroded the rule of law. Hong Kong's autonomy and democratic prospects were sacrificed in order to appease Beijing's authoritarian rulers and the equally imperious local business elite, who consider the city their fiefdom. The result is engaging if sobering reading. For all academic and larger public libraries. Steven I. Levine, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; Stated 1st U.s. Edition edition (April 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559705590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559705592
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,439,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Since the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese government in 1997, the former British colony seems to be slowly slipping out of the world's attention. In Mr. Fenby's look at the year 1999 as Hong Kong lived it, we see not only why we need to watch Hong Kong closely, but we realize what stakes China is playing with as it slowly comes to terms with theis quasi-democratic city and its place in the world.
Mr. Fenby writes the book as essentially a journalist's diary that spans the entire course of 1999 - the final year that Mr. Fenby was editor of the South China Morning Post, arguably the premiere English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. He details not only the key figures in Hong Kong politics and the economy - at a very personal level - but also how China deals with Hong Kong and how the events of 1999 (everything from Falun Gong to the Taliban) shaped China's responses.
I think Mr. Fenby sees 1999 as not only the year that China stopped observing Hong Kong and began acting, but also the year that many of the fundamental agreememnts laid down between China and Hong Kong got tested. He shows the slow erosion of judicial and political autonomy caused, not through outright repression, but by behind-the-scenes deal-making and a desire of the political powers-that-be in Hong Kong not to ruffle mainland feathers.
His book is eminently readable and in many parts reads more like a political thriller than a diary or a report. If there is one criticism with the book, it is that when Mr. Fenby loses his job at the South China Morning Post in July of 1999, his personal hurt comes out quite clearly in the course of the narrative and possibly influences his objectivity throughout the rest of the year. However, were it me, I think that I would be hard-pressed to maintain even Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
I read Mr Fenby's book on a plane ride from Rio to Hong Kong. It was the perfect antidote to spending hours on a plane. The first part of the book is a compendium of facts, views and background on Hong Kong particularly as they relate to the handover to China. So by the time I got to London I was an expert on the fascinating topic. I then started on the diary section where Jonathan picks out news items and events during his last year in Hong Kong. Now I was an expert on the "Handover" I could laugh at all his wonderful one-liners. (Such as his final sentence on a piece describing some particularly errant behaviour by the authorities in Hong Kong: "One country, three systems"). He also contrasts, with devastating effect, the ideological flag waving for the "love of motherland" with almost daily reports of corruption in China. A wonderful book that will educate and amuse in equal doses.
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Format: Hardcover
"Dealing with the Dragon" - what an awful title. It almost put me off reading this. I'm happy to report that the book is far better than the title suggests. I lived in Hong Kong from 1996 until 2004, and return there often. Fenby's book made me feel that I now understand Hong Kong and China a lot better. 1999 news stories I was aware of, but never felt I truly understood (Court of Final Appeal ruling, Cyberport etc) are concisely recounted here. The exploits of gangsters like Broken Tooth and Big Spender are retold, but their political significances are explained.

Fenby is a far from neutral observer. He makes no secret of his belief in democracy and press freedom. He doesn't just recount big Hong Kong and China news stories of 1999, he also tells of his run-ins with his South China Morning Post bosses. Yes, he suggests a political angle in their behavior. Some may see the bias, and sometimes personal aspects of Fenby's book as flaws. I must disagree. Knowing Hong Kong, his suggestion that Mainland interference (and fear of Mainland interference) plays a huge part in how Hong Kong conducts itself, is convincing. I also appreciate the more personal aspects, as they prevent this book from just being a detached tale of bureaucrats, legislators and communist jackboots.

Once you get past the Kung Fu theater title, and the slightly labored "city of contrasts" opening, you are in for a great primer on Hong Kong (and China). Not just for HK residents.
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