"FIRES OF THE DRAGON: Politics, Murder, and the Kuomintang" by David E. Kaplan

"FIRES OF THE DRAGON: Politics, Murder, and the Kuomintang"

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A stranger-than-fiction thriller that puts the bitter conflict between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan into clear, human perspective. Kaplan (coauthor, Yakuza, 1986) uses the opportunistic life and violent death of Henry Liu to trace how the PRC and so-called Nationalists have fought for the allegiance of 20 million overseas Chinese. Born in 1932, Liu fled to Taiwan--where Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) had set up shop--after Mao's forces had overrun the mainland. Trained in the KMT's elite Political Warfare Academy, Liu wangled his way into a journalism career, mastered English, and made it to the US in 1967, settling in Washington, D.C., where he eked out a living as a translator and correspondent for publications in Hong Kong as well as Taipei. Eventually gaining American citizenship, Liu moved to northern California, where he and his wife ran a successful gift shop in San Francisco. A respected man of letters in both Chinas, Liu played both ends against the middle, accepting expense-paid trips to the PRC, serving as an FBI informant, and taking payoffs from the KMT. Dismayed by Liu's lack of devotion to their cause, high-ranking Nationalist intelligence agents recruited hit men from Taiwan's underworld, who assassinated the writer in 1984. Dogged work by local police, who unearthed a taped confession left by one of the killers, led to the solution of the murder. Kaplan does a fine job of explaining and recounting the savagery with which the KMT suppressed dissent throughout the world as well as on its island fortress. He also addresses (without dwelling on) the comparative ease with which the repressive regimes of presumptive American allies like Chile, Iran (under the Shah), the Philippines, and South Korea as well as Taiwan have been able to wage undeclared wars against their ÉmigrÉ enemies in the US. A brilliantly reported, if occasionally repetitive, account of geopolitical rivalry as a blood sport.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Atheneum