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498 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 Brian G. Martin. The Shanghai Green Gang: Politics and Organized Crime, 1919-1937. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. x, 310 pp. Hardcover $40.00, isbn 0-520-20114-0. Researching the Shanghai Green Gang must have been a difficult task since it was such an unsavory organization, engaging as it did in a host of sordid criminal activities ranging from drug dealing to murder. But doing research on organized crime is like doing research on a disease; it is necessary to understand its origins, development, and character, ifways of eradicating it are ever to be found. In view of the rampant corruption and increasing illegal activity that is accompanying the de facto transformation of the People's Republic of China from a socialist to a capitalist economy, Brian G. Martin's thorough investigation of this nefarious organization is a timely one. It is all too easy to envision the emergence of a contemporary Green Gang in Shanghai (or some other major city along the China coast, for that matter), exploiting the working population, profiting from the political tensions both within the municipality and between Shanghai and Beijing, and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by rapid economic development . Martin's cautionary tale should be mandatory reading for the next generation of Chinese leaders. Using such diverse sources as the diplomatic correspondence of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Shanghai Municipal Police Special Branch files, and manuals issued by the Green Gang itself, Martin reconstructs the Byzantine history of this notorious criminal cartel, which resembles SPECTRE ("Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terror, Revenge, and Extortion"), the fictional criminal organization in James Bond novels and movies. The Green Gang has captured the imagination of generations of China scholars and students; the story of its involvement in Jiang Jieshi's "White Terror" (April 12, 1927), which nearly destroyed the nascent Chinese Communist movement, is a staple of modern Chinese history courses. Martin's detailed account dispels the myths surrounding this secret society, certainly contradicting the Gang's self-serving notion that its members were haoxia ("men of honor and courage") engaged in a crusade against injustice, fighting on behalf of the downtrodden. Chinese Robin Hoods they were not. If anything, they were agents of violence used by the French colonial administration , the Nanjing government, and others against the people of Shanghai. While© 1997 by University Chinese were ambivalent and anxious about the establishment of the Communist ofHawai'i Pressgovernment in 1949, they were at least in agreement that its elimination ofthe Green Gang and other criminal elements was a positive accomplishment. Reviews 499 Martin's central thesis is that the Green Gang was a relatively new "secret society " and an integral part ofmodern Shanghai rather than a feudalistic remnant, with the capability ofadapting to die social and political changes ofthe early part ofthe twentieth century. It was very much a product offin-de-siècle China and was still in the process ofmaturation on the eve of the war ofresistance against Japan. Unfortunately, Martin overreaches himselfin claiming that the Green Gang "played an intrinsic part in [the] modernization" ofShanghai. Except for investing their ill-gotten gains in certain enterprises, it is difficult to see how the Green Gang constituted a modernizing force. In other words, they were hardly investment capitalists. Like Parks M. Coble, Jr., before him, Martin wisely follows the money to trace the Green Gang's political development. It is not a pretty picture. Martin has conducted a painstaking examination ofhow the Green Gang acquired control ofvarious rackets, especially the traffic in opium, and ofits interaction with the different classes ofShanghai society. His work is, in part, a criminological case study of the Shanghai style of organized crime, which he compares, in the conclusion ofhis book, to the Italian Mafia, American organized crime, Indonesian gangsters, and the Japanese yakuza. What is more important, Martin uncovers the Green Gang's symbiotic relationship with various centers of authority such as the colonial governments of the foreign settiements, warlords, nationalists, and communists . Like the Americans in their use of the Binh Xuyen river pirates to combat the National Liberation Front infrastructure in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 498-500
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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