• Red Roulette

  • An Insider's Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today's China
  • By: Desmond Shum
  • Narrated by: Tim Chiou
  • Length: 9 hrs and 21 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (856 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“THE BOOK CHINA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ.” —CNN​

SELECTED AS A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by THE ECONOMIST and FINANCIAL TIMES

This “powerful and disturbing” (Bill Browder, author of Red Notice) New York Times bestseller is narrated by a man who, with his wife, Whitney Duan, rose to the top levels of power and wealth—and then fell out of favor. Whitney had been disappeared four years before, but this book led to her dramatic reemergence.

As Desmond Shum was growing up impoverished in China, he vowed his life would be different. Through hard work and sheer tenacity he earned an American college degree and returned to his native country to establish himself in business. There, he met his future wife, the highly intelligent and equally ambitious Whitney Duan who was determined to make her mark within China’s male-dominated society. Whitney and Desmond formed an effective team and, aided by relationships they formed with top members of China’s Communist Party, the so-called red aristocracy, he vaulted into China’s billionaire class. Soon they were developing the massive air cargo facility at Beijing International Airport, and they followed that feat with the creation of one of Beijing’s premier hotels. They were dazzlingly successful, traveling in private jets, funding multi-million-dollar buildings and endowments, and purchasing expensive homes, vehicles, and art.

But in 2017, their fates diverged irrevocably when Desmond, while residing overseas with his son, learned that his now ex-wife Whitney had vanished along with three coworkers.

This vivid, explosive memoir shows “how the Chinese government keeps business in line—and what happens when businesspeople overstep” (The New York Times) and is a “singular, highly readable insider account of the most secretive of global powers” (The Spectator).

©2021 Desmond Shum. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Overall
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Desmond Shum is not a rube! He knows about wine, ok?

Kept man Desmond Shum desperately wants you to know he’s not a rube. You see, he’s not like all those other dead eyed nouveau riche Chinese, he reads ancient philosophy and is personal friends with one of the Rothschilds. Please understand, he didn’t want a Ferrari—he’s too much the intellectual to engage in that kind of conspicuous consumption—he just wanted to know what buying a Ferrari would feel like. I’m not kidding, he actually says that. This guy is a weapons grade mug.

In fact, this isn’t a book about the corrupt inner workings of the CCP, it’s really the pathetic attempt of a morally bankrupt, deeply insecure man trying to exonerate himself and get out from beneath his wife’s shadow. Almost every page contains some rationalization for Desmond’s corrupt dealings, usually while simultaneously slagging off others for doing the exact same thing.

This hypocritical, fraction of a man happily did the bidding of the CCP while it lined his pockets. For instance, in one particularly revolting passage, Desmond rationalizes participating in anti-democratic, pro CCP protests in Hong Kong at the bequest of the Mainland govt. That’s right, our self professed enlightened liberal marched against democracy in the very territory that welcomed his family as immigrants. What a hero. Only after the CCP’s money spigot was turned off did ol Desmond discover his deeply held commitment to liberalism.

I don’t know Desmond Shum, but in a way we all know Desmond Shum. Desmond Shum is the arrogant guy at the office who can never be wrong about anything. He’s the boss that takes credit for his employees’ hard work but blames everyone else when something goes wrong. He’s the show-boat, one-upping guest at the dinner party who lacks the self awareness to realize everyone else is rolling their eyes at him. You’re not a hero Desmond, you’re a delusional, insecure little man.

Desmond lives safely in the UK nowadays. I hope the authorities there are keeping an eye on him because he’s the guy that’ll start dumping chemicals in the water supply as soon as there’s a nickel in it.

13 people found this helpful

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Part expose, part mean culpa

Rips the mask off China's governing hypocrisy, from one who benefited from and enabled the system.

7 people found this helpful

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Must read: China + Business

Brilliant, objective, and brave recount of a novel-like rise to wealth in China by a credible and skilled businessman and communicator. Grateful to Desmond for his heroism in publishing this irreplaceable look behind China’s closed curtains.

Reminds me of a fiction novel: How To Get Rich In Rising China.

4 people found this helpful

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Best book for China for a long time

As someone grown up in china,I really enjoy the story of real China. Nowadays, so many authors in newspapee and social media bought/influenced by money.

3 people found this helpful

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Fascinating story

A rare peak into the inner workings of the Chinese government. I only wish that the narrator were a native mandarin speaker as it was at times hard to follow the names of people and places referenced.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent In-depth analysis

This book gives a comprehensive and personal look at one mans experience within the Chinese capitalistic society. It shows the changing attitude of the Chinese Communist Party initially supporting aggressive capitalism, turning repressive ultimately using their legal system to jail those they feel threatened by.

2 people found this helpful

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Insightful & provocative

If you’re depending on what you read in the mainstream media you are clueless as to the inter workings of the communist party of China. This story shines a light into all the fabrications projected by the Chinese aristocratic system. Will this system turn in on itself? Listen to this audio to make your own judgment.

1 person found this helpful

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Clear insight on China

invaluable insight on the how the CCP and business interact in modern China. A very important read for the 21st century

1 person found this helpful

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Very important book

The trajectory of China as an inevitable world dominating juggernaut seems to be the overriding narrative. Obviously they will be a huge power but this inside look reveals rotten underbelly the cultural conventions of guan xi. The Chinese Communist Party has more in common with the Cosa Nostra than a highly functioning government. The epidemic of prominent Chinese who have disappeared is a testament to that. Read this book!

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Can’t put it down!!

If you have any interest in China and learning more about its systems this is an absolutely fascinating book. I read a lot of books about China but this is one of the best and most compelling and I highly recommend it. i

1 person found this helpful