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Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How it Got There and Where it is Heading Hardcover – 29 Mar 2012

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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: 15.3 x 3.1 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 Jun. 2013
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Zoe Smyth on 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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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By David Attwood on 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Adrian J. Smith on 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 By Wael on 27 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback
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 conversations.

The writer, Jonathan Fenby, clearly has deep knowledge about the country from a historical, political, macro and micro-economical stand point, with floods of facts and data points that are very useful.

But my main problem is the writing, it is not organized, not by a linear timeframe or topic, it was rather a train of thought that was jumping from person to person, from 2000BC to 1400AD, etc. I had to read it with wikipedia on my side to close the loops on some of these floating trains of thought. This style i find it to be extremely distracting and exhausting to read. but I kept on reading because I was very interested in the knowledge Jonathan had to offer. If it was any other book, I would have stopped reading it immediately

In summary, it is an informative book, that delivers on making you well rounded about China in a short period, but a badly written book for my taste. could be my impression because I am a left-brain-bulletpoint-business-person!
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