Book Review: High Tech and Hot Pot by Stephan Orth

October 22, 2020

High Tech and Hot Pot: Revealing Encounters Inside the Real China by Stephan Orth is a memoir of the author’s trip couch surfing in China. Mr. Orth is a German writer who have written several books about his travels.

  • 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771645628
  • Publisher : Greystone Books
  • Language: : English


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Knowing full well that writing this book would, most likely, getting him banned from entering China ever again, the author went ahead anyway and managed to travel throughout China while disappearing from the official tourist tracking mechanisms. After getting a visa, the author traveled through China using the couch surfing app, meeting a variety of colorful locals the usual tour group usually forgo in favor of the official Chinese tourism agenda.

There are not Earth shattering revelations in High Tech and Hot Pot: Revealing Encounters Inside the Real China by Stephan Orth. Most everything in the book can be found on news websites, or forums. This is still a worthwhile read though, mostly because of the author’s unique experience couch surfing and meeting Chinese people who are a bit more adventurous than the average citizen.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is when the author confronts his hosts about living in China’s police state type of society, where you’re always watched (and told about it), publicly shamed for jaywalking, and are use an app for social scoring. The answers his hosts, and others, give shed some light on these issues and how they are tolerated. Sadly, I can see how many of my fellow Americans might agree with such extreme measures.

Mr. Orth does go into certain detail about how he has managed to stay off the Chinese grid of the Chinese surveillance state, even though that is impossible in public places. While it makes the populace feel safe, it also makes them annoyed at the system and applaud at the lack of privacy.

The book manages to weave personal experiences with insightful observations to create a cohesive narrative throughout. About half way through the book, I suddenly realized that the author is being asked about Germany a lot, and even to talk and write in German. I totally forgot that this book was translated, and I must give kudos to Jamie McIntosh for a very smooth and flowing translation.

This is by no means an encompassing book about China, nor is it a travel book. The books is a collection of the author’s personal experiences, introducing the reader to parts of the country many of them will never be able to undergo. From looking at Mr. Orth’s bibliography I have concluded that he is not a “travel writer”, but a “writer who travels”, and this book, I believe, matches my assessment.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free
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