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Jack Beldon, the U.S. Embassy's best Chinese history and language expert, is unexpectedly assigned the secret task of preparing a dossier on the East Shandong Islands for the State Department in order to better understand the 100 year old Shandong Question. Steeped in ancient myth and history, a point of refuge as well as a strategic vantage point, the Shandong Islands loom large on the geo-political stage. Above all, this is the place where foreign powers seized the tail of the Chinese Dragon and peremptorily dismembered it. This is history the Chinese will never forget.
Colonel Roscoe, chief of staff to the American ambassador to China in Beijing, directs Jack to travel to the islands posing as a tourist -- visiting restaurants and observing the locals, making notes about the industry and the agriculture, watching TV broadcasts, reading newspapers, and learning about the islands' compelling history. Jack is to stay in plain sight and do nothing to arouse interest, especially from the local police. The Colonel wants Jack to become an eavesdropper, a sponge -- an agent of soft espionage.
As Jack embraces the role of a tourist, he is drawn into the narrow hutongs, the ancient back alleys of Yantai, where he succumbs to temptation. It's all part of being a tourist, right? To break a few rules? Not, it seems, when his transgression means he becomes a wanted man in the People's Republic of China — a man wanted for murder.
Alive with authenticity and insights into the politics of the era, The Shandong Question leads the reader through the back streets of China where the clamor of Mandarin, the bustle of taxis and busloads of tourists, the aroma of noodles and ginger, the taste of local beers, and the clicking of the cicadas, accompany every footstep.