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It's still known as the "rich man's game" and considered taboo, and yet golf is booming in China - hundreds of new courses have opened in the past decade, despite it being illegal for anyone to build them. Award-winning journalist Dan Washburn follows the lives of three men intimately involved in China's bizarre golf scene. We meet Zhou, a peasant turned golf pro who sees the game as his way into China's new middle class; Wang, a lychee farmer whose life is transformed when a massive, top-secret resort springs up next door; and Martin, a Western executive maneuvering through a highly political business environment, ever watchful for Beijing's "golf police." Charting these three different paths to the new Chinese Dream, The Forbidden Game is a rich and arresting portrait of a country of contradictions.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 26 commentaires
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A real insight 23 juin 2014
Par Cory D - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
The book is ostensibly about golf, but what it really explores is China and the lives of the individuals making their way there. As a long term China-resident I found the story to be captivating and one of the best looks at the reality of post-reform PRC. This is not just a book for golfers; it is a book for anyone with an interest in the region and a highly entertaining read.
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Another Book Review from the Aleph Blog 22 juin 2014
Par David Merkel - Publié sur
Format: Broché
I'm not a golfer, but I really liked this book. The charm of the book is that it takes us through the lives of three men, and a host of lesser characters, and shows us how the growth of golf in China shaped their lives. Two of the protagonists are Chinese, and one American.

The American, Martin Moore, was a promising golf course designer who did increasingly well designing courses in the US, Thailand, and China. He learned how to get things done amid demanding bosses and ambiguous regulation. Is building a golf course forbidden or not? What if we call it a "health club?" What if many locals object to their land being expropriated?

He succeeded amid many obstacles. The next protagonist, and the one who had the most dramatic success was Zhou Xunshu, a man who went from not knowing anything about golf -- an industrial worker, a common man, to being a golf professional. His efforts were significant, and he underwent many hardships as he pursued his dream.

Then there is Wang Libo, a man who gets displaced by his home getting taken from him to build a golf course, and he takes the opportunity and builds a store/bar/restaurant near the complex to profit from the opportunity.

Three engaging characters amid the ambiguity of changing regulations, and whether it was legal to build new courses or not.

You will learn a lot about China in the process... what it is like dealing with an all-powerful Party whose machinations are secret. And yet, one where if enough people protest, you can't do anything, even if you have all of the permits in place.

You will get a behind-the scenes look at creating the world's largest golf course twice, and the ambition of those who wanted to see it done quickly.

You will also experience the Chinese Dream, as the book's subtitle suggests... the dreams and goals of those who want to live a life similar to middle-class Americans, but all the more poignant, because the path to getting there is often unclear.

To those reading me at, please Google "Aleph Blog Washburn" and you will be able to read a special Q&A with the author that I will post after writing this post.

This was an enjoyable book to read, and I think most people would learn something from it.




This is a great book. It will make a great gift to friends of yours who are golfers.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Caddyshack with Chinese Characteristics 9 novembre 2014
Par Tom Carter - Publié sur
Format: Broché
Here's a fun fact for all you expat putters in Shanghai: upon assuming power in 1949, one of Mao Zedong's first directives was to denounce golf as a "sport for millionaires" and plow all existing courses in China; Hung-Jao Golf Club became Hongqiao's Shanghai Zoo, and a nine-hole course at the city center was turned into People's Square.

The Forbidden Game, the new book by Shanghaiist founder Dan Washburn, is not another Chinese history tome, though, and in many ways it's not even a book about golf. Instead, the game is but an apt allegory for the corruption, land grabs, environmental issues and escalating economic disparity that have become hallmarks of New China. This "sport for millionaires" thus offers readers a deluxe tour of a nation that now has more millionaires than any other country but America.

But all is not soulless in today's PRC. The Forbidden Game is also an uplifting story about the underreported yet very-real Chinese Dream, and how the proletariat of a rapidly-developing society stand a greater chance than generations past of rising up in this vast field of dreams. "While many in China still rightfully believe the deck is stacked against them, it's true that more Chinese than ever before are not only able to dream, but are also in a position to expect some of their dreams may come true," writes Washburn.

In three entwined profiles, the book traces the lives of three men who unwittingly "stumbled into a sport that for most of their lives they never knew existed."

American executive Martin Moore's story of stop-and-start projects funded by eccentric Chinese tycoons with "dreams as big as their bank accounts" will resonate with foreign businessmen here. His recounting of contract negotiations, "Byzantine Chinese politics" and playing in the guanxi-gray explain how contractors have grown wealthy building courses that are technically illegal. "To get around the restrictions, savvy developers would label their projects as `resorts.' Plant some flowers and trees...maybe some people grab a club and hit a ball. That's just leisure."

Wang Libo, a farmer in rural Hainan, sees his rightful land legacy devoured by golf developers with the help of unscrupulous local officials. "The decision to sell or not to sell had already been made for them." Wang, however, realizes this might be a golden opportunity to realize his dream of a "cement home near a cement road."

Zhou Xunshu, a Guizhou peasant turned golf pro, escapes to the big city to carve out a living as a security guard on something called a golf course. In a Caddyshack-like moment, Zhou breaks club rules and, in front of disbelieving executives, knocks his first-ever ball 280 yards!

Washburn is not only a gifted writer, cleverly sketching out interconnected, character-driven portraits, but an empathetic reporter. These stories have heart, and it is clear from the first passage that the author has taken a deeply personal interest in the people he is profiling. The Forbidden Game is China writing at its most thoughtful.

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Dan Has Caught the Chinese Psychology Right in the Heart 14 janvier 2015
Par L. Chen - Publié sur
Format: Broché
I was born and raised in China until I was twenty one. I have to confess, Dan knows China much deeper than I do. I have learned a great deal about my country from him. This book is truly delightful and satisfying to read. Thank you Dan for making me laugh so hard--at some touching point I tear hard too.

Besides Dan's knowledge, intelligence and brilliant mastery of storytelling, his care, compassion, authenticity, thoughtfulness, respectfulness, and humor are the real gem to me. Dan put himself behind the scenes, presenting the complexity of his characters––that is, the complexity of China––without being judgmental; never condescending.

I can only imagine how much time and effort Dan has committed, and how much personal sacrifice he has made. In order to follow the changing mentality of his characters, he has gone through the most crowded city streets to the most forlorn mountains in different parts of China over the dramatically changing years.

Dan collected small and big information from a small village dinner table to the largest golf courses playing deadly Tai Ji with the central government. He plowed through a myriad of local dialects and customs, changing and unpredictable circumstances, different fates of villagers and citizens, trying to demystify the very essence of Chinese psychology. He has caught it right in the heart.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Uses golf to provide insight into today's China 19 juillet 2014
Par BobG - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I really enjoyed how the author uses golf as a lens that brings focus to many cultural, sociological, and political challenges facing modern day China. I have had the opportunity to do business in China and also to play golf in Kunming and I believe he is pretty spot on. There is so much more to China than meets the eye. It is a complex world and this will provide great insight into the challenges that a society with 1.3 billion people faces on many levels.
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