The gangsters who were really officials and the officials who were really gangsters

Andrew Nathan

  • Spymaster: Dai Li and the Chinese Secret Service by Frederic Wakeman Jr.
    California, 650 pp, £49.95, May 2003, ISBN 0 520 23407 3

Frederic Wakeman has long been fascinated with the police and criminals of pre-Communist Shanghai, who were as often each other’s allies as opponents. His first book on the subject, Policing Shanghai 1927-37 (1995), described the self-subverting involvement of the new Kuomintang government’s municipal police bureau in both the opium trade and the civil war against the Communists. The Shanghai Badlands: Wartime Terrorism and Urban Crime 1937-41 (1996) carried the story into the period of the Sino-Japanese War, when Shanghai became a battleground between the Japanese army, French and British police in the foreign settlements, Chinese collaborators with Japan, KMT secret police and the Communist underground.

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