Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Riding a Tiger Paperback – April 1, 2003
Garth Brooks: The Anthology Part 1 | Limited Edition
A great gift for country music fans, The Anthology Part 1 includes CDs containing the music of Garth's first five years, and behind-the-scenes photographs and stories never before made public. Learn more
"A lively, upbeat and humorous look at Beijing life through the eyes of an unabashed westerner." -South China Morning Post
About the Author
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The story is told through the device of a confession to the Chinese Communist police - similar to the story of "The Last Emperor" which oddly was being film at about the same time as his story was being told. He tells of how he became embroiled with some "wholesale" capitalist ventures - bring Water Melon into Beijing. Things go wrong and things get improvised and from the story we get the much of the feel of what Beijing was like under the surface at in the months leading up to the Spring of 1989.
The characters feel very true. The story is partially about the underground economy in a transitory Capitalist/Communist State - aka China at that time - as said above it was a unique time. The novel illustrates the debilitating features of Communism better than an openly critical story. The main character, Arnold was sympathetic to a kind of socialism as he was obviously a lukewarm American leftist, so he respected the forms of Communist justice..
`Riding a Tiger ...' also tells the how the everyday people of China coped with the burden of Communism during that time. Retail business was springing up everywhere but the wholesale supply? Where did it come from? As was well known, wholesale business was a very slimy union of Corrupt government officials and criminal gangs. But how did the hardworking people putting up retail shops get the goods? Bringing Arnold into the venture as a front man was a very practical and very Chinese solution to a clear business problem. Arnold 'goes with the flow..' and that is what landed him in trouble.
How the Chinese in the book reacted to the decades of propaganda and squared their patriotism with the economic facts of life was another brilliantly illustrated point of the book. `Riding a Tiger ...' illustrates the effect that the idealism created from years of exposure to Lei Feng (A heroic Self-sacrificing Communist Soldier) type stories had on the characters in the story. This idealism combined with their fearlessness, made the story real and gave a hint of the actions we would see on the streets of Beijing in 1989.
The story takes place in the fall of 1988. How does it presage what is to come in the Spring? It does in laying out how the logistics of the revolt could have come together - the trucks, the underground communication network, the second government in the hutongs that seems to co-exist with the real one, all of that lays the groundwork
for what happened later.
There are dead bodies the book as well -so the stakes of the story are serious. And the point of his interviews with the Beijing public safety authorities is to get him to confess his involvement in the actions that lead to these deaths.
In other books - Jonathon's Spence's 'Treason by the Book' and a Ming dynasty Detective story "The Celebrated Cases of Dee Goong An" (translated by Robert Van Gulik) and it is clear that unlike the Western justice system - China's has historically been about confession. How the confession is obtained is immaterial. Confession not necessarily a sign of cooperation either, not in the way the West views it. It is just necessary. The whole point from both the 'defense' and the prosecutor is to get the facts out in the most direct way possible.
As the West and the Chinese continue on their appointed path together in the future, this will be one of the biggest hurtles, as more Arnolds get embroiled in the affairs of China. We (English-Americans) take 'innocent until proven guilty' as a Divinely inspired concept, but the Chinese are much more practical. If 80% of the people the police bring in are probably guilty why not start from that premise? If a few people get screwed on the way, well, society is still better off - it is cheaper more efficient - China doesn't have the plague of lawyers we do either... Yes the rights of the 'individual' are trampled, but when society breaks down who give cares about that anyway. That is not my view but if you have taught, liberal, opened minded students in China as I have, you will find it is more often than not their view.
So in that sense, the book is instructional - a slice of time, a unique time, (Like when the Mongols controlled the overland routes allowing Marco a peek ...) It was a transitory world in the 80s. Half Commie - half Capitalist but really neither. Before the real threat of Students and workers uniting emerged there was a pretty easy going attitude toward foreigners riding around, buying train tickets,meeting people randomly with no one 'minding you' as occurred in the 70s or in the East block. Arnold had to go pretty far to attract the attention of the authorities and I think that was a sign of the times as well.
But when he got in trouble, the real Chinese justice was revealed. I think that 'Riding a Tiger ...' gets behind the stories we hear about a dissident being jailed and his family not knowing where he is and then he reappears , seemingly ok, but not so eager to talk about it ... it gets at the psychological aspects of the Chinese system method of discovering how a crime takes place.
Good Fiction is generally more instructional than `non-fiction' and this book is good fiction. It should be read.