Red Roulette: An Insider’s Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today’s China

Scribner. Sept. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781982156152. $30. MEMOIR
Shum’s debut memoir deals with the September 2017 disappearance of his ex-wife, Whitney (Zong) Duan, a successful, politically connected Chinese entrepreneur, who has not been seen since. Key to the narrative are the couple’s business ventures, their generational wealth, and the rise and fall of the private sector in China. Shum had a modest upbringing in Shanghai and later Hong Kong, with schoolteacher parents descended from the landlord class penalized during the Cultural Revolution; he went on to study business in Wisconsin, then bounced between Hong Kong and Beijing as an investment banker. In 2003 he married Duan, whose family’s political connections enabled the couple to invest in Chinese infrastructure projects, including a huge air cargo facility in Beijing. The couple became billionaires, but their fortunes began to change in 2006, when the cargo facility’s manager disappeared and was subsequently arrested and executed. Shum believes that Duan’s 2017 disappearance also had to do with the cargo facility—most likely she was imprisoned as part of president Xi Jinping’s massive anti-corruption campaign—but he’s never gotten a concrete answer.
VERDICT Students of Chinese politics and business will appreciate Shum’s personal narrative of China’s turbulent economic rise; this book deserves a wide audience.
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