China Hands: Nine Decades of Adventure, Espionage, and Diplomacy in Asia

The Asian Review of Books review James Lilley’s swashbuckling tale of intrigue, parachuting spies into communist Manchuria, and hanging out in Beijing in 1989. Amazon calls it a “must-read for students of Asia and intelligence work, while Asian Review of Books thinks it’s “noticeably lacking in sensation and scandal.”

The young China hand is recruited into the CIA at the outbreak of the Korean War, one of a remarkable one hundred members of the Yale Class of ’51 to answer the call. Two years later he is posted to Hong Kong, where the rookie agent poses as a HKU literature student while trying not to run afoul of “the landlord” (Hong Kong Special Branch). Here he also just barely resists the siren calls of the “lovely and mysterious Miss Lee.” She pops up conveniently during a second Hong Kong tour while Lilley is “reading the tea leaves” of the Cultural Revolution, and a third time as he transits the city en route to Beijing in 1973. Perhaps there’s something to that Enslaved Beauties are the Bait! reputation after all.

— Asian Review of Books

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