Book review of Red Roulette: An Insider’s Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today’s China by Desmond Shum
At the heart of Shum’s book is the story of how he and his wife, Duan Weihong, amassed a fortune by exploiting their relationship with Zhang Beili, the spouse of then-Premier Wen Jiabao. After first meeting at a social engagement, Duan built trust and friendship with “Auntie Zhang” (as she was affectionately known to the couple), which soon translated into access to a growing number of insider-connected business deals. As their relationship with Zhang grew, it also afforded intimate contact with other political elites, including Xi. At the height of their business dealings, Shum and Duan (who went by the English name Whitney) had business and social connections with nearly all the top political players, including Sun Zhengcai, a rising party official thought to be a possible successor to Xi, and Ling Jihua, the head of the Communist Party’s General Office, which functions as the nerve center for party administration.