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Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How it Got There and Where it is Heading [Hardcover]

Jonathan Fenby
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: 20.00
Price: 14.63 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

29 Mar 2012
There have been a plethora of books on China in recent years. Authors have forecast the coming collapse of the People's Republic or looked to the day when it will rule the world. So why another book on the most heavily populated country on earth which has emerged in the last three decades to occupy a central position on the global stage? Because, despite the stream of publications, there is no single book which pulls together the whole of the China story linking its very disparate elements to present a coherent portrait that explains to the general reader what China is and why it matters so much. With its expanding economy (already the second largest in the world), its population of more than 1.3 billion, its place at the core of the G20, its $2.4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, its trade surplus, its nuclear weapons and modernising military forces, its permanent seat on the UN Security Council and its ability to dispense cash without conditions to poor countries in return for the raw materials it gobbles up, China will become steadily more important in the world. It will not collapse. It is not the great exercise in smoke and mirrors depicted by some writers or a giant Ponzi scheme as posited by hedge fund bears. But neither will it rule the world for reasons that lie in its inner complexity, and complexes. In this compelling and lucid account based on years of research and first-hand experience, rooted in on-the-ground reporting, interviews, observations, analysis of data and a viewpoint that sees the country from the inside out, Jonathan Fenby links together the myriad features of today's China. The binary approach so often applied to China - the country is either good or bad, set to reach the stars or collapse in chaos - often boils down to the prejudices of its authors. Only by seeing China as a whole and joining the dots does Jonathan Fenby arrive at a coherent picture of its nature and depict its future, both internally and in its impact on the rest of the world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK; 1st Edition edition (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847373933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847373939
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 26.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


China perplexes the outsider...Rather than history, this is a snapshot of where the nation is today and a quick-fire analysis of what's next. Any businessman heading for China will find the book a great briefing - The Sunday Times

Jonathan Fenby is an outstanding journalist who has already written a first-class modern history of the country, and his latest book provides an excellent introduction to the problems confronting its people as they embark on the transition to the fifth generation of leadership since the Communist takeover in 1949 - Lord Patten

A fine example of the way history can begin to make sense of the country for an outsider - Guardian

Timely and brilliant ... a welter of examples ... superb analysis - Observer

Says so much about the everyday life the Chinese are living at the moment ... A book that leaves Chinese journalists speechless ... Mr Fenby not only understands the complete picture of China but is also able to interpret the situation and connect the dots. A real achievement - Caixin magazine, Beijing

Compelling ... succeeds admirably as a handbook on the confusing state of contemporary China - Sunday Indian

Dizzying...delightful reading ... ringside view of events ... all the more engaging for lacking partisanship - India Today

Read this book if you are getting curious about the conundrum that is rising China. It will tell you (almost) everything you need to know - Hindustan Times

Fenby, a shrewd and experienced journalist, keeps a sober head - Mail on Sunday

A bestselling examination of modern China by an experienced and fluent commentator. Fenby takes a middle course between those who believe China will ''rule the world'' and those predicting its imminent collapse - Financial Times

Fenby's attempts to be comprehensive and balanced make his book an invaluable primer to the general reader who wants to mug up on China - Literary Review

Jonathan Fenby is a distinguished journalist who has written extensively about China. He rejects many of the simplistic attempts to analyse the modern country. In Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How it Got There and Where it is Heading, he writes for the general, interested reader. This is a one-stop account of where the fastest-growing major nation stands, and what it means for both China and the world --Total Politics

Jonathan Fenby is a distinguished journalist who has written extensively about China. He rejects many of the simplistic attempts to analyse the modern country. In Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How it Got There and Where it is Heading, he writes for the general, interested reader. This is a one-stop account of where the fastest-growing major nation stands, and what it means for both China and the world --Total Politics

'There is a risk that a book summarising such a monumental story might get bogged down in dry, statistical detail. Fenby avoids this through lively, first-person reportage and vivid vignettes … as a one-stop guide to political and economic realities in China today, Tiger Head, Snake Tails is fast-moving, informed and illuminating' --Julia Lovell, Guardian

About the Author

Jonathan Fenby is a former editor of the OBSERVER and of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. He is the author of several books including the acclaimed ON THE BRINK: THE TROUBLE WITH FRANCE and GENERALISSIMO: CHIANG KAI-SHEK AND THE CHINA HE LOST.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not a captivating read 5 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Was required to read this book as part of a course and found it very difficult to keep reading as the book is very factual and not particularly entertaining. Was like reading a well written textbook. Good if you like lots of facts and figures but not great if you want a bit of a storyline along with the culture of China
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you didn't know about China 23 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the best book on China I have come across, a wonderfully detailed but also immensely readable "one-stop shop" for anyone interested in China, past, present and future. Sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, always awesome - like its subject - it's hard to put down. If you are going to China for work, on vacation, or you're just interested in trying to make sense of this huge and complex country (which feels like a continent) and its people, this is the book for you.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on present day China that I have read 27 April 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have just started to read this book. As someone living in China it is the first book about the Middle Kingdom that I have read that resonates with my own experience. The first part of the book alone is masterful in it's sweep of the current issues that are emerging. I would recommend this highly to anyone who wants to know what is really happening in China and because of it's potential influence on the lives of everyone on this planet, that should include everyone
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good snapshot of contemporary China 8 Jun 2013
By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are supposed to be a book in three book in three parts: China as today, how it got there, and where it is going.

The book is far strongest on the first part - where it is today. It is a compelling and vivid snapshot of China after three decades of extraordinary social and economic change. One gets a sense of the immensity of the country's achievements in eye-popping statistics but also of the commensurate social, economic and environmental challenges. He also pours some cold water on some of the inflated claims of China's imminent and inevitable rise to global dominance. The fact China finances the US deficit for example does not give China the whip hand over the US: China needs US consumers to buy its goods. China is assuming greater equality of status vis-à-vis the United States but it does not hold all the cards. Moreover, the speed and scope of the transformation have produced immense strains and it is a moot point whether the Party can continue to manage these strains indefinitely with perpetual one party rule.

It is weaker on how it got where it is. I did not get a sense of why the CCP embarked on the process of reform three decades ago. After the excesses of Mao, the Party certainly craved stability, as the Soviet Communist Party did after the death of Stalin in 1953. But why did it decide to concoct the risky formula of one party rule and vigorous capitalist growth? Was this the only option available to the CCP at the time? I felt that more discussion of the origins of the reform process might have been made.

In addition, the author appears to hedge his bets as to where China is going. He seems reluctant (understandably so) to make any bold prognoses of where China is going.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force of the China of today 24 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
We already had one masterwork from Jonathan Fenby in his Penguin History of Modern China. With such a hard work to follow, questions were abound, at least with this reader, as to whether this volume could live up to the standard of a previous masterwork. Jonathan Fenby certainly has lived up to his reputation.
Tiger Head Snake Tails is a metaphorical title referring to the all powerful head of China, it's fast paced economic growth and potential for world dominance, the Tiger's head, contrasting with the Snake tails, the underlying faults and cracks in the mirror.
The book opens with an examination of China's startling re-emergence and all the underlying details that astonish more than the simple GDP figures, how maps in Shanghai need constantly updating, how China produces enough toxic ash every two minutes to fill an Olympic size swimming pool, how Mainland Chinese make up the bulk of foreign students in the US and UK, and how luxury goods shops in Paris are forced to limit the amount of goods Chinese shoppers can buy.
However, the more masterful part of Fenby's work is to examine the underlying faults of the Chinese system, which appear in regular western parlance as little more than phrases like social inequality, or human rights violations. Fenby puts flesh on the bones and provides the stories behind the headlines. These range from the high level of people suffering from depression, the cases of human rights lawyers who have been arrested and arbitrarily tortured without trial or charges, to cases such as the 2011 Wenzhou Rail Disaster and the attempted cover up.
Examinations of history are given, but without digressing too much into the details of the Maoist past.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars china info 15 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
this book gives an excellent overview of china today, both historical information and what the future might hold for china and the world.the author is not biased and presents objective views on china today. i recommend this book to anyone with an interest in china
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Educational
A must read for anyone travelling to China, who wants t grasp the social and historical aspect of this great, complicated coutry.
Published 3 months ago by maja
3.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, but badly written
This was a very informative read - I went from a person that was interested but had limited knowledge on China, to a well informed person comfortable to engage in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Wael
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight in modern China.
A great introduction to the phenomenom that is China and its radidly growing economy and associated changes. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Niall Corbet
4.0 out of 5 stars Great summary!
An easy read and very accessible. A good insight into the Middle Kingdom, helping readers to understand the motivation behind some of the news stories.
Published 15 months ago by Ken L
5.0 out of 5 stars china
This is not a history of China but records what China was, what China is, and most importantly what it may become by discussing political,economic,social and regional elements that... Read more
Published 19 months ago by G. I. Forbes
1.0 out of 5 stars Not as expected
Sounds good, but ends up as a read of superlatives. His book has also been overtaken by events with the arrest of Bo Xi Lai and his wife. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Attap
4.0 out of 5 stars Riding the Tiger
Having made his name with the popular "A Penguin History of China: the Rise and Fall of a Great Power", Fenby's study of China today focuses on recent social, economic and... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Antenna
3.0 out of 5 stars informative
if you want to read an up to date book which gives a very good overall background of China and how the country functions this is it. However, it can be a bit heavy going in places.
Published 21 months ago by meryon
5.0 out of 5 stars China - a fascinating insight
This book is, as the author says he intended, a one stop shop to learn about the historical and political factors which have shaped the China of today and its relationship with... Read more
Published 22 months ago by markr
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