I lived in Hong Kong for five years, with my move recent enough to miss the feel of the place at the most random of moments. I carry the feeling of its rough beauty (the concrete jungle of the posters is the lesser of its charms)of it in my memories. The author notices something similar on his visit and the way he expressed himself resonated with me. However, his arrival and focus on HK are at the tail end of the book, so I will talk about the rest of it first.
Over the course of my stay, I did gather bits and pieces of the history of the area, but I hoped that this book would broaden my horizons about it.
The author travels from Japan to Korea, then onwards to China and ends his trip in Taiwan. He details the events of each country in order, although he makes a connection that has him jumping to another country in the narrative but comes back in time before our attention gets too diverted. We go back in time when the regimes were more openly brutal than they are now. It is a complicated tangle, centuries in the making. For anyone even remotely interested, this makes a good starting point. There is a lot of ground covered here with the author even humorously hypothesizing the root cause for all the destabilization and revising his assessment based on new information provided to him in realtime, including the role of the west.
COVID and the year 2020 makes some of the discussion feel behind the times because of all the changes that have occurred in the countries since the book was written. The slightly off timing does not take away from the basic information about the history.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.