(27. - 1052.) Foresight by Ian Hamilton - After reading Fate, the first in the “Uncle” Chow Tung trilogy I was anxious to read the second. I found it in Saskatoon a week ago. I enjoyed it just as much as Fate.
Foresight moves 12 years into the future from Fate. It is 1981 and the Fanling triads, led by Uncle, are seeking new means to make money. The Hong Kong Jockey Club has undercut the lucrative off-track betting shops of the triads by opening their own shops. Decreasing income has meant a cut in income for the triads. With rumours of discontent Uncle knows he must come up with a way for the organization to restore income and stay strong.
The core of the gang is utterly loyal as they know Uncle is devoted to making decisions that are best for all of them. He has none of the opulent trappings of a gang overlord. He continues to live simply in a one bedroom apartment sparsely furnished. His lone indulgence continues to be betting on the horse races. Where most of the world is drifting away race tracks, Hong Kong residents flock to the races.
He is resolute in refusing to sell drugs. It is not so much a matter of morality as he does not want the complications, especially of police pressure, that go with trafficking. More important, it would end his special arrangement with Inspector Zhang Delun of the Hong Kong police. Useful discreet exchanges of information and favours would cease if the Fanling triads were selling drugs.
In a discussion of the Fanling Triad executive Fong mentions their Mainland manufacturer of knockoff Lacoste shirts, Ming, is looking for investment to expand his business. Uncle also learns of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ’s) as the Chinese Communist Party seeks to expand the economy.
Normally a man who takes abundant time to make a decision, Uncle immediately goes to see Ming just across the border in Shenzen which is one of the first SEZ’s..
Uncle instantly sees China is changing and there are unique opportunities for those who are investing early in the new China.
At Ming’s factory Uncle can see an expansion would bring enormous profits for the Fanling triads. With their own night market in Fanling and access to markets throughout Hong Kong they can move a lot of product.
It was disconcerting how casually the Chinese businessmen pirate brand names. They have no reluctance to rip off the Western companies who own the brands.
Uncle is adept at dealing with those who make decisions and quickly reaches an accommodation with Peng, an administrator, who can make approvals of business applications succeed or fail.
Uncle is vague about their backgrounds. Triads have been hounded out of mainland China. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would move instantly and violently against Uncle and his executive working on the Mainland if they knew they were triads.
While business is lucrative, problems are inevitable. Uncle’s thoughtful approach and pragmatism serves him well. I appreciated that problems were not solved by constant violence. I consider it a better thriller when killing is used sparingly to resolve issues.
Yet even the most thoughtful of men cannot see all the political machinations within China.
Uncle’s principles are severely tested. Uncle is a man who prizes loyalty. Yet will he keep his word and remain loyal even if it means his death?
Foresight is an excellent portrayal of the start of great economic change in China. Risks are great. Rewards are greater. It took me 2 days to read Fate. I needed but 3 days for Foresight. I look forward to Fortune, the concluding book in the trilogy.
Hamilton, Ian - (2012) - The Water Rat of Wanchai; (2013) - The Disciple of Las Vegas; (2014) - The Wild Beasts of Wuhan; (2014) - The Red Pole of Macau; (2016) - The Scottish Banker of Surabaya; (2018) - The Two Sisters of Borneo; (2019) - The King of Shanghai; (2020) - The Princeling of Nanjing; (2020) - Fate