The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: Martin Booth’s ‘The Dragon Syndicates’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Sep• 23•10

If, like those of us here at WoWasis, you’re a veteran traveler in SE Asia, you’ve done business with the Triads, the underworld syndicates that have their hands in businesses ranging from noodle shops, to food carts, to politics. That goes for some Western cities too, including London, New York, and cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Martin Booth has done a wonderful job of laying it all out in The Dragon Syndicates: The Global Phenomenon of the Triads (1999, ISBN 0-7867-0735-6).   

Here, he provides a history of the Triads from ancient times, and discusses their rituals and important figures, such as Big-eared Du and Pockmarked Huang. Noted political figures such as Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek have been intimately involved with the Triads. The movement crosses continents, doing business in virtually every corner of the globe with a significant Chinese population, focusing on legitimate businesses as well as those proscribed by law. 

Some of the most fascinating elements of the book detail a plethora of business frauds perpetrated by the Triads, including phony luxury goods (and some not so phony, being made in the same factories as the “originals”) and substituting salt for sand in construction projects using concrete. 

This book is especially critical for Westerners doing business in Asia, as it explains the machinations behind the scenes that often control pricing and distribution elements, politics, and human business connections. In the West, it’s an old adage that “you can’t fight city hall.” To a very great extent, as Booth suggests, that would apply when dealing with the Triads as well. Buy it now from the WoWasis eStore.

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  1. […] traditionally operated. Two books we here at WoWasis have reported on before are Martin Booth’s The Dragon Syndicates: The Global Phenomenon of the Triads, and Vichai Suwanban’s classic, Big Business in Thailand. To […]

  2. roclafamilia says:

    Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

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