Correction to This Article
The Special Interests column on the April 20 Federal Page incorrectly identified the news service that was the source of a report on China's lobbying. It should have credited Bloomberg News.

'Mandarin Club': Hoping Life Won't Imitate It

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Timing can be everything in lobbying and literature.

"The Mandarin Club," a spy novel by lobbyist Gerald F. Warburg is about a group of Stanford University China scholars who've moved into positions of power in Washington's lobbying, congressional, intelligence and journalism arenas at a time of increasingly contentious relations between the mainland and Taiwan. Author Peter Maass blurbed it as "Le Carre crossed with 'The Big Chill.' ''

Its publication release is set for May 10, just a few weeks after Chinese President Hu Jintao concludes his U.S. visit -- to Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks and the White House -- during a time, yes, of increasingly contentious relations with Taiwan

One can hope that Hu's trip won't be as exciting as events in "The Mandarin Club": The lobbyist, a woman who represents a aerospace defense contractor that does high-tech business with China, is nearly killed when her firm is bombed. One of the Stanford friends, a businessman (and client) in China, frantically tries to take his Chinese American children and a threatened Chinese patriot (another friend of the Stanford group) out of China.

Also, there's a matter of a Chinese "e-attack" on Taiwan.

While the novel is a fast-paced thriller, it's mostly about a group of idealistic friends who wanted to make a difference but made compromises through the years -- and how they responded in what Warburg called "a crucible of crisis."

"I thought it would be fascinating to see how values endured," he said.

Warbug, executive vice president for Cassidy & Associates , one of the largest lobbying operations in Washington, has lobbied for interests in Taiwan and China-- though not currently. He also was a leadership aide to the late Senate Democratic whip Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) and earned a master's in political science and international relations at Stanford.

He has friends from Stanford, Princeton and Yale who are now in high positions in government, but Warburg says, "I'd rather not out my friends."

The author stresses that while his book deals with real security issues, policy intrigues and insider politics, "The Mandarin Club" (publisher is Bancroft Press) is fiction; the characters, while they may resemble people he knows, are fiction.

Warburg said he had no intention of writing a book like "The Scorpion's Gate," by former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke, which Warburg called a thinly veiled attempt "to settle some old bureaucratic scores" with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and administration officials.

If he had an agenda with the novel, Warburg said, it was to offer a "sober warning of what could happen if we let things drift" and let Taiwan become absorbed by China.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company