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From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy-or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don't see is how both powerful and ordinary people are remaking their lives as their country dramatically changes. As the Beijing correspo From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy-or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don't see is how both powerful and ordinary people are remaking their lives as their country dramatically changes. As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party's struggle to retain control. He asks probing questions: Why does a government with more success lifting people from poverty than any civilization in history choose to put strict restraints on freedom of expression? Why do millions of young Chinese professionals-fluent in English and devoted to Western pop culture-consider themselves "angry youth," dedicated to resisting the West's influence? How are Chinese from all strata finding meaning after two decades of the relentless pursuit of wealth? Writing with great narrative verve and a keen sense of irony, Osnos follows the moving stories of everyday people and reveals life in the new China to be a battleground between aspiration and authoritarianism, in which only one can prevail.


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From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy-or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don't see is how both powerful and ordinary people are remaking their lives as their country dramatically changes. As the Beijing correspo From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy-or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don't see is how both powerful and ordinary people are remaking their lives as their country dramatically changes. As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party's struggle to retain control. He asks probing questions: Why does a government with more success lifting people from poverty than any civilization in history choose to put strict restraints on freedom of expression? Why do millions of young Chinese professionals-fluent in English and devoted to Western pop culture-consider themselves "angry youth," dedicated to resisting the West's influence? How are Chinese from all strata finding meaning after two decades of the relentless pursuit of wealth? Writing with great narrative verve and a keen sense of irony, Osnos follows the moving stories of everyday people and reveals life in the new China to be a battleground between aspiration and authoritarianism, in which only one can prevail.

30 review for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark Hiew

    This book, more so than any other I've read on China, best captures the country's current situation, challenges and contradictions. Osnos did a good job of weaving together the characters and themes that he explores--built around the triad of fortune, truth and faith--capturing the way that prosperity and development co-exist with political dissent and spiritual exploration. I lived in China from 2007 to 2011 and, like many aspiring Western 'half-pats' in China, learned a great deal about my surr This book, more so than any other I've read on China, best captures the country's current situation, challenges and contradictions. Osnos did a good job of weaving together the characters and themes that he explores--built around the triad of fortune, truth and faith--capturing the way that prosperity and development co-exist with political dissent and spiritual exploration. I lived in China from 2007 to 2011 and, like many aspiring Western 'half-pats' in China, learned a great deal about my surrounds from reading the reportage and books of Evan Osnos, Peter Hessler (his predecessor as the New Yorker's Beijing correspondent) and others. Many of us were partly inspired to visit China because of Peter Hessler's “River Town”, and a 'Hessler versus Osnos' debate made for common conversation. For those fellow Hessler enthusiasts, you'll find Osnos by comparison in book length to be similar to his longform journalism: more macro-inclined, focused on bigger issues and mover-shaker types, less personal and comical. While I loved reading Hessler on China for all the adventure and insights into the working class he provides, Osnos excels at analyzing the grand themes and intellectual debates that China observers engage in. For those who haven't read Hessler and want a more personal, street-level insight into contemporary China, I suggest the entire trilogy, preferably in chronological order. Osnos does an above-average job of balancing between the biases of various sides: the domestic and Western media, Chinese liberals and conservatives, etc. While his own politics appear clear--he comes across as a pragmatic liberal--he presents competing beliefs, at least beyond the official Party line, in an insightful, unobstructed manner. I would love to hear what more Chinese readers think of the book - I'm sure that translations are/will make their way to the curious.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Missy J

    Shenzhen landslide, December 2015 Tianjin explosion, August 2015 Oriental Star Cruise Ship Disaster, June 2015 There are a lot of China books out there. As China is a constantly changing country, I'm sometimes frustrated by how quickly outdated books become. However, if I had to recommend one book to a person, who is interested to learn about contemporary China, I think Osnos' Age of Ambition is the perfect recommendation. He hits the nail about the Party and the stories he collected from the pe Shenzhen landslide, December 2015 Tianjin explosion, August 2015 Oriental Star Cruise Ship Disaster, June 2015 There are a lot of China books out there. As China is a constantly changing country, I'm sometimes frustrated by how quickly outdated books become. However, if I had to recommend one book to a person, who is interested to learn about contemporary China, I think Osnos' Age of Ambition is the perfect recommendation. He hits the nail about the Party and the stories he collected from the people he interviewed are a realistic reflection of what is happening in China right now. He did a wonderful job weaving the stories together and I thought it was brilliant how he managed to divide the book into three themes; fortune, truth and faith. I'm not going to write more about the characters he interviewed, do yourself a favor and read about them yourselves! Favorite quotes: The longer I lived in China, the more it seemed that people had come to see the economic boom as a train with a limited number of seats. For those who found a seat - because they arrived early, they had the right family, they paid the right bribe - progress was beyond their imagination. Everyone else could run as far and fast as their legs would carry them, but they would only be able to watch the caboose shrink into the distance. In its abuses and deceptions, the Chinese government was failing to make a persuasive argument for what it meant to be Chinese in the modern world. The Party had rested its legitimacy on prosperity, stability, and a pantheon of hollow heroes. In doing so, it had disarmed itself in the battle for the soul, and it sent Chinese individuals out to wander the market of ideas in search of icons of their own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wei Liu

    Disappointed. Except the chapter of the writer's riding along with a group of Chinese for a guided tour in Europe (which is fresh and insightful), the rest stories are either unoriginal or plainly wrong (like the story about Han Han). In comparison, Peter Hessler's River Town and Oracle Bones are much more fun to read and amazingly insightful about China and Chinese, even for native Chinese like me. Disappointed. Except the chapter of the writer's riding along with a group of Chinese for a guided tour in Europe (which is fresh and insightful), the rest stories are either unoriginal or plainly wrong (like the story about Han Han). In comparison, Peter Hessler's River Town and Oracle Bones are much more fun to read and amazingly insightful about China and Chinese, even for native Chinese like me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    I don’t think anyone could argue that Evan Osnos wasn’t ambitious in this, his National Book Award-winning compendium of current Chinese political culture. Subtitled Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, this book extends and expands essays he’d already published in The New Yorker magazine and gives outsiders a glimpse into the confusion and mad, exciting reality that is China today. Osnos covers a lot of ground and at the risk of appearing to be a ping-pong ball in the hands of a gi I don’t think anyone could argue that Evan Osnos wasn’t ambitious in this, his National Book Award-winning compendium of current Chinese political culture. Subtitled Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, this book extends and expands essays he’d already published in The New Yorker magazine and gives outsiders a glimpse into the confusion and mad, exciting reality that is China today. Osnos covers a lot of ground and at the risk of appearing to be a ping-pong ball in the hands of a giant, he patiently and persistently over a period of years pursues big questions about what China culture is and is becoming. We can extrapolate from his work to consider what change in China means to us around the world. I admit to exhaustion when contemplating China’s development because of its overwhelmingly big, populous, and uncontrollable aspects. But one thing is sure: ordinary Chinese people have a kind of “get ahead” entrepreneurial mentality that swamps the vitality of ordinary American life. The distance from their basic living starting point and ours is so great that their desperate energy is going to be the propulsion for societies around the globe. We can’t keep pace but we can gain in their slipstream. Osnos makes reporting in China look easy even when it clearly is not, even now. The state has loosened its grip a little but there is still the possibility of community or state backlash on individuals that speak to him openly. Those people are courageous souls. Osnos managed to corral the size and scope of his story to a manageable level and yet was able to give us an idea of the great energy being unleashed among the populace and the Chinese government’s pride and fear. I am currently reading about the North Korean regime in Pyongyang (A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power by Paul Fischer) and so the Chinese government looks far less effective and controlling by comparison. But the richness of Osnos’s life in China comes through. I especially liked the reportage in the Epilogue that shows from several long term studies over two decades "no evidence that the Chinese people are, on average, any happier. If anything, they are less satisfied than in 1990, and the burden of decreasing satisfaction has fallen hardest on the bottom third of the population in wealth. Satisfaction among Chinese in even the upper third has risen only moderately." Overall, they found, "economic growth is not enough; job security and a social safety net are also crtitical to people's happiness." Ah. Well, both Chinese and American officials could learn something from this. This book won the 2014 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Age of Ambition won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2014, and no wonder. Nothing I’ve read about the rise of China for many years has immersed me so deeply into the texture of life in that country or more memorably portrayed its yawning contradictions. Twenty years ago, the extraordinary husband-and-wife reporting team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn published China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power. Based on five years of work in China — they won the Pulitzer for Age of Ambition won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2014, and no wonder. Nothing I’ve read about the rise of China for many years has immersed me so deeply into the texture of life in that country or more memorably portrayed its yawning contradictions. Twenty years ago, the extraordinary husband-and-wife reporting team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn published China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power. Based on five years of work in China — they won the Pulitzer for their reporting on the Tiananmen Square massacre — China Wakes introduced American readers to the dynamism and the clashing contradictions unleashed a decade and a half earlier by the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Now, two decades further on, Evan Osnos ably updates the story with Age of Ambition. Osnos brings to bear the insight that comes only with extended experience and facility with the language in an alien culture, the sort of understanding that no reader can glean from the daily news, no matter how deeply reported. “The Party had always prided itself on articulating the ‘central melody’ of Chinese life,” Osnos writes, in a perfect example of this insight, “but as the years passed, the Party’s rendition of that melody seemed increasingly out of tune with the cacophony and improvisation striking up all around it. It was impossible to know what ‘most Chinese’ believed because the state media and the political system were designed not to amplify public opinion but to impose a shape on it. Nationalism, like any other note in the melody, might surge to the surface at one moment and fade into the background at another, but was it the mainstream view? The nationalists didn’t think so.” Osnos focuses his penetrating repertorial eye on ten or a dozen central figures whose stories resume from time to time through the pages of this brilliant survey of contemporary China. A heroic young captain in the Taiwanese Army who defects to the Mainland and later — much later — becomes one of the country’s most celebrated economists, garnering the job of chief economist at the World Bank. A self-promoting English teacher who builds a nationwide adult education empire based on urging his students to shout English at the top of their lungs. A Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at a leading university who spearheads an ultranationalist campaign online. The sad story of the driven railroad man who rises to preside over one of the most corrupt ministries in a country of legendary corruption, building China’s network of high-speed trains along the way — and is nearly executed for his achievements. These and so many other fascinating characters bring the reality of present-day China to life in ways that episodic journalistic reports so rarely can. Evan Osnos knows his subjects, and he follows them for years. Read Age of Ambition, and you’ll get to know them, too. Still shy of 40, Evan Osnos reported from China for The New Yorker from 2008 to 2013. Earlier, as a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Age of Ambition is his first book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mario the lone bookwolf

    Without permanent technology leadership, the West will have to leave the top podium Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested. Astonishing is the monopoly position of China in the discipline to kick back as a world power for a second time on the international stage within millennials. A hitherto unique event in history from which the Chinese have learned. Thus, it is unlikely that the entire container ship fleet will be sunk, all boa Without permanent technology leadership, the West will have to leave the top podium Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested. Astonishing is the monopoly position of China in the discipline to kick back as a world power for a second time on the international stage within millennials. A hitherto unique event in history from which the Chinese have learned. Thus, it is unlikely that the entire container ship fleet will be sunk, all boatbuilders killed and the building plans burned. Because the wife of a high party official drowned. Not once again. Especially in cooperation with India, it reveals a coverage of all activities related to both production and service. Thanks to their unbeatable prices, these cannot be provided by any other international union. In addition to the Chinese workbench of the world, on which increasingly entire industries are being piled up, and the entire production process is going through, a knowledge society of unimaginable proportions is growing in India. Also, genetic engineering, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research, has no chains as in Europe and even fewer barriers than in America are allocated. Thus, the studies can be carried out in dimensions that have no equal from the budget or the research results. Asia will maintain and expand its supremacy in the artificial modification, development, and optimization of animals, plants, and humans. Whether there is still much-uncontaminated life left between Monsanto in the west, and Chinese genetic engineering companies in the east is questionable. Whether the selective breeding of humans and genetic manipulation outweigh the irreversible change in the entire biosphere is at the discretion and subjective perception of the individual. In keeping with the polite, Asian mentality, the Chinese not only conceal their economic growth and exchange rates with subtle means. But practice in a permanent appeasement policy, which is to suggest a long-lasting march to catch up with the West. Nor do they appear with American directness and handshake mentality, but in the role of mediator and covenant smith in the Asian and Eurasian space. The creation of neutral free trade alliances, state communities and interest groups from willing vassal states aims for a slow but long-term shift in the balance of power. Apparently, states are more easily won over by diplomacy and alliance politics than by military occupation and plundering. From the point of view of the US wanting to repress China's influence, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars can be viewed in entirely new ways. Less war on extremists than much more a desperate attempt to assert itself in as many states as possible under an implausible pretext. And to control them to build a protective barrier. Whereby it is not just about raw materials, but also about the control of transport routes. Away from the military spectrum, managers focused on short-term profit like to sign any clause that concerns them. And if one agrees on technology transfers, reveals trade secrets, explains key technologies down to the last detail and even brings ones own training staff, it does not bother anyone. If that's the price, there's virtually no Western company that does not agree to take that step. And willingly gives the only competitive advantage to the at some point superior economic power. The still existing, but steadily dwindling technological lead, which will develop into a tie and, ultimately, the secondary rank of the West. As if brain drain and the shift of science, research and innovation centers to Asia are not already alarming enough for the West. Besides, the outrageous economic policy of the industrialized countries leads straight into a European and American de-industrialization. If the entire production process is outsourced, the domestic economy and the welfare state are destroyed, and only a pile of remaining bureaucrats and employees in the local corporate headquarters will be left, a bitter awakening is likely to follow. And the realization that one has outsourced the entire technology, industry and economic performance. Suitable for short-term profit but a miserable long-term perspective. Unless unexpected disasters such as wars, pandemics or extreme environmental events put a damper on, or the West gains ground through revolutionary new technologies and reforms, the decline of the former US-European hegemony empire is likely to be sealed. It is only to be hoped that the US and the EU will not receive the same treatment from the new rulers that they gave to the rest of the world for centuries. At that time, when they ruled unrestrictedly with colonialism, slave trade and opium wars. Ohne die permanente Technologieführerschaft wird der Westen das oberste Podest verlassen müssen Erstaunlich ist die Monopolstellung Chinas in der Disziplin, als Weltmacht ein zweites Mal zurück auf die internationale Bühne zu treten. Ein bisher einmaliges Ereignis in der Geschichte, aus der die Chinesen gelernt haben. Somit ist es unwahrscheinlich, dass wieder die gesamte Containerschiffflotte versenkt, alle Bootsbauer getötet und die Baupläne verbrannt werden. Weil die Frau eines hohen Parteifunktionärs ertrunken ist. Vor allem in Zusammenarbeit mit Indien offenbart sich eine Abdeckung sämtlicher sowohl produktions- als auch dienstleistungsspezifischer Aktivitäten. Diese können in dieser Masse und Wettbewerbsfähigkeit dank unschlagbarer Preise von keinem anderen Staatenbündnis erbracht werden. Neben der chinesischen Werkbank der Welt, auf der zusehends komplette Industrien aus dem Boden gestampft und der gesamte Produktionsprozess durchlaufen wird, wächst in Indien eine Wissensgesellschaft ungeahnten Ausmaßes. Auch werden Gentechnik, Klonen und embryonaler Stammzellenforschung keine Ketten wie in Europa und noch weniger Hemmnisse als in Amerika umgelegt. Somit kann in Dimensionen geforscht werden kann, die weder vom Etat noch von den Forschungsergebnissen her ihresgleichen haben. Asien wird die Vormachtstellung in der künstlichen Modifikation, Entwicklung und Optimierung von Tieren, Pflanzen und auch Menschen halten und weiter ausbauen. Ob zwischen Monsanto im Westen und den chinesischen Gentechnikkonzernen im Osten noch viel unkontaminiertes Leben wird übrigbleiben können, ist fraglich. Etwa angesichts der bisherigen Entwicklungen in den USA wie beim Genraps. Ob die selektive Züchtung von Menschen und Manipulation am Erbgut schlimmer wiegt als die irreversible Veränderung der gesamten Biosphäre, liegt im Ermessen und der subjektiven Wahrnehmung des Einzelnen. Ganz der höflichen, asiatischen Mentalität entsprechend kaschieren die Chinesen nicht nur ihr Wirtschaftswachstum und Währungskurse mit subtilen Mitteln. Sondern üben sich in einer permanenten Beschwichtigungspolitik, die einen noch lange andauernden Marsch bis zum Aufholen auf den Westen suggerieren soll. Auch treten sie nicht mit amerikanischer Direktheit und Handschlagmentalität, sondern in der Rolle des Mediators und Bündnisschmieds im asiatischen und eurasischen Raum auf. Eine Schaffung von neutralen Freihandelsbündnissen, Staatsgemeinschaften und Interessensvertretungen aus williger Vasallenstaaten zielt auf eine langsame, aber langfristige Verschiebung der Machtverhältnisse hin. Scheinbar lassen sich Staaten leichter durch Diplomatie und Bündnispolitik für sich gewinnen als durch militärische Okkupation und Ausplünderung. Unter dem Gesichtspunkt, dass die USA den chinesischen Einfluss speziell in Zentralasien und im Nahen Osten zurückdrängen wollen, lassen sich Afghanistan- und Irakkrieg unter gänzlich neuen Aspekten betrachten. Weniger Krieg gegen Extremisten als viel mehr ein verzweifelter Versuch, sich unter einem unglaubwürdigen Vorwand in möglichst vielen Staaten festzusetzen. Und sie zu kontrollieren, um einen Schutzwall errichten zu können. Wobei es nicht nur um Rohstoffe, sondern auch um die Kontrolle der Transportwege geht. Abseits des militärischen Spektrums unterschreiben auf kurzfristigen Gewinn fokussierte Manager gern jede noch so bedenkliche Klausel. Und wenn man auch Technologietransfers zustimmen, Betriebsgeheimnisse preisgeben, Schlüsseltechnologien bis ins Detail erklären und zu allem auch noch eigenes Schulungspersonal stellen muss, stört es trotzdem nicht. Wenn das der Preis ist, gibt es quasi kein westliches Unternehmen, das sich nicht zu diesem Schritt bereit erklärt. Und damit einer irgendwann überlegenen Wirtschaftsmacht den einzigen Wettbewerbsvorteil bereitwillig schenkt. Den noch vorhandenen, aber stetig schwindenden technologischen Vorsprung, der sich zu einem Gleichstand und schließlich Zweitrangstellung des Westens entwickeln wird. Als ob Braindrain und die Verschiebung von Wissenschaft, Forschung und Innovationszentren nach Asien nicht schon bedenklich genug für den Westen wären. Zusätzlich führt die hanebüchene Wirtschaftspolitik der Industriestaaten geradewegs in eine europäische und amerikanische Deindustrialisierung. Wenn der gesamte Produktionsprozess ausgelagert, die heimische Wirtschaft und der Sozialstaat zugrunde gerichtet und nur mehr ein Häufchen an verbliebenen Bürokraten und Angestellten in den einheimischen Konzernzentralen übrig sein werden, dürfte ein bitteres Erwachen folgen. Und die Erkenntnis, dass man seine gesamte Technologie, Industrie und Wirtschaftsleistung ausgelagert hat. Gut für kurzfristigen Gewinn aber mit einer miserablen Langzeitperspektive behaftet. Sofern nicht unerwartete Katastrophen wie Kriege, Pandemien oder extreme Umweltereignisse einen Dämpfer erteilen oder der Westen durch revolutionäre neue Technologien und Reformen mehr an Boden gewinnt, dürfte der Niedergang des einstigen amerikanisch-europäischen Hegemonialreichs besiegelt sein. Es steht nur zu hoffen, dass die USA und die EU von den neuen Herrschern nicht dieselbe Behandlung erfahren, die sie dem Rest der Welt Jahrhunderte lang angedeihen ließen. Damals, als sie uneingeschränkt herrschten.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    An interesting look at contemporary China by a journalist who has spent over a decade living there. Documents the cultural changes of a country in great flux, and tells the story of national changes through individual narratives. I was especially taken with the stories of educated young Chinese nationalists, reviving traditional Eastern thought and insisting on a unique place for China in the world aloof from blind Westernization. This was interesting in the suggestion that "Third Worldism" is s An interesting look at contemporary China by a journalist who has spent over a decade living there. Documents the cultural changes of a country in great flux, and tells the story of national changes through individual narratives. I was especially taken with the stories of educated young Chinese nationalists, reviving traditional Eastern thought and insisting on a unique place for China in the world aloof from blind Westernization. This was interesting in the suggestion that "Third Worldism" is still an animating force for many Chinese behind the market-driven consumerism projected to the outside world. One of my favourite subjects is the upheaval of China's Cultural Revolution during Mao's time, and while this is very much a book about the present moment those events still reverberate. Chinese history and culture was mostly wiped clean, and people are only beginning to try and rediscover it. Moreover they are being forced to develop a new morality to cope with their present moment, and to fill the "spiritual void" created by the national ideology of production and consumption mixed with (obviously discredited) paeans to socialism. Well-written, even humorous at times, offers a good window into the hopes and aspirations of contemporary Chinese people - especially young strivers who are wholly a product of this age.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan McGrady

    This is the best book I've read so far on China. It helps you understand the odd dichotomy of big government and free market capitalism that exists there. Something that the vast majority of westerns including myself fail to really understand. That is not a simple topic to summarize but the author presented it - not as a rigid historical background - but as a mix of stories, biographies, of real fascinating people in China. Combining many of the articles the author has written for the New Yorker This is the best book I've read so far on China. It helps you understand the odd dichotomy of big government and free market capitalism that exists there. Something that the vast majority of westerns including myself fail to really understand. That is not a simple topic to summarize but the author presented it - not as a rigid historical background - but as a mix of stories, biographies, of real fascinating people in China. Combining many of the articles the author has written for the New Yorker on China. It explains not only how the government got to it's current state but also why it's not going away anytime soon. The book demonstrated that a surprising amount of people in China are still embracing it; seeing it as necessary and helpful to their advancement in the world. And are critical and resistant to the flawed western democracies they see on TV. The author expertly avoided bias from his presentation of the situation and I should note it is hardly a defense or criticism of the Party or its supporters. One unexpected result of reading this book was how it gave me a greater critical eye just not at China - but of our western countries due to the outside perspective provided by the young and old Chinese people he interviewed. Through the book you discover how common a perspective it is among the Chinese that even though Americans are highly critical of China's government, anyone with a critical eye can see that the American government is extremely similar to China's over-bearing state in many ways. One example is how the US gov touches every market and industry, not just at home but globally and loves over-policing and militarization. So ultimately you must credit China for having at least one thing going for it: their government is honest about their oppression. They just may not be as good at obscuring it as other countries. I can't stop talking about this book among my friends. Highly recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This book was so well written and very interesting. I did not all that much about modern China--Osnos has a gift for exploring some of the tensions in the culture. His access to some of the people he profiles is remarkable. This is well worth the read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Raghu

    I look at China’s meteoric rise in the past four decades with contradictory emotions. I admire the way they execute massive infrastructural projects like highways, bridges and high-speed rail at a rapid pace. I admire the way they have risen to the No.2 position in the world in just four decades. I have always wondered how they produce goods at such low prices that even poorer Asian countries cannot compete with them. On the other hand, I fear their military build-up and attempts to hegemonize i I look at China’s meteoric rise in the past four decades with contradictory emotions. I admire the way they execute massive infrastructural projects like highways, bridges and high-speed rail at a rapid pace. I admire the way they have risen to the No.2 position in the world in just four decades. I have always wondered how they produce goods at such low prices that even poorer Asian countries cannot compete with them. On the other hand, I fear their military build-up and attempts to hegemonize in the Indo-Pacific region. I feel skepticism at their GDP growth numbers and antagonism at the denial of democracy to their citizens. I am intrigued and skeptical about how advanced China is in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, and self-driving cars. I am doubtful whether they have overcome the pitfalls inherent in the long-term continuity of authoritarian regimes. Over the years, I have read several books by Western academics, other China-watchers and journalists to get a grasp of what the composite picture concerning China is. I have had satisfying answers to questions like the ‘low price’ at which China manufactures goods. This book by Evan Osnos is an essential contribution in advancing our knowledge of contemporary China. Osnos lived for eight years between 2005 and 2013 in China as a journalist and China-watcher. He contributed many essays during that time to ‘the New Yorker’ on China. He speaks Mandarin and is a dispassionate observer of China, being neither starry-eyed about it nor a trenchantly hostile critic. I found some more answers to many of my questions in this book. Western academics talk much about the wisdom of the Chinese leadership in history. They point out how it has taken a long-range view of various questions regarding its security, development, and relationships with its neighborhood and the world. The approach is said to be one of Confucian sagacity and working on a timeline that is proportionate to China’s long history. In other words, the Chinese are unhurried and always bide their time and strike when the time is ripe. Other writers project a picture of an integrated China, where the Party and the people are moving together towards the country’s vision of becoming the pre-eminent power that China once was in history. The BRI (Belt and Road initiative) and the Maritime Silk Road are notable examples of this vision. Unlike the USSR, the Communist Party of China is believed to have successfully diluted the demand for freedom from its citizens and established total control over them through the fruits of material advancement. Authors like Niall Ferguson and Kishore Mehbubani believe that China is ‘the future.’ Osnos’ book stands in contrast to the views mentioned above. He presents his analysis in three sections, titled Fortune, Truth, and Faith. In ‘Fortune,’ we get to learn about the ambitions and anxieties that drive the Chinese in the era of economic transformation. In ‘Truth,’ we learn in an Orwellian fashion, how lies about the objective Chinese reality and constraints on freedom proliferate in every walk of life and how the Chinese navigate them in the era of the internet. Finally, in ‘Faith,’ we learn about how the Chinese people are skeptical and dismissive of the Party’s propaganda. They are on a quest to believe in something other than what the Party dishes out to them as reality. The book explores all these aspects through a collection of anecdotal accounts of various people whom Osnos meets and keeps in touch over the eight years he lived in China. We meet a broad cross-section of people. There is Lin YiFu, who was a Taiwanese military officer in 1979. He chose to swim the Taiwan straits to defect to China because that is where he saw the future to be. He becomes the chief economist in the World Bank and remains a firm believer in the Chinese model of capitalism under the leadership of the Party. Then we have the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, the human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, and the Nobel Laureate / dissident literary critic Liu Xiaobo. The politically influential journalist cum publisher Hu Shuli and the blogger Han Han are others who make their presence. We meet Tang Jie, a Chinese nationalist, who argues that the Chinese have a good life without freedom. So, why should they fight the state for democracy and spoil it? I wouldn’t go into the details of these interactions and experiences. Instead, I would like to paraphrase the conclusions Osnos arrives at as a result of these exchanges. In the section on ‘Fortune,’ Osnos says that there is a desperate rush among the Chinese to get wealthy. The average Chinese feel that one has to elbow one’s way on to everything; otherwise one will miss out. Since people do not have enough information on the strengths and weaknesses of the politics and the economy, there is the anxiety to capitalize on the good times before the bad times make their entry. The author feels that China today is comparable to the US during the Gilded Age. Just like it was in the US in the late 19th century, corruption, lack of the rule of law and weakness in the face of corporate monopolies are pervasive. Strikes and Demonstrations raged across the US in the 1870s and 80s, and the state met them with force. The same is true in China today concerning any form of protest. However, Osnos makes a qualification regarding corruption. He says that the corruption in China in this era is monumental. According to him, the high-speed rail project was the single biggest financial scandal not just in China but in the whole world. Between 1990 and 2011, eighteen thousand corrupt officials have fled the country with at least $120 billion, according to the Central bank of China. Even the military is riddled with patronage. Commanders receive strings of payments from a pyramid of loyal officers below them. The ex-Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s family is said to have amassed assets worth $2.7 billion during the time he was in office. Public officials routinely take bribes to dole out jobs that they control. The section on ‘Truth’ throws much light on the Chinese view of the world outside and their aspirations and the quest for freedom. The Chinese attitude to the West is complicated. There is a fierce curiosity about the world, but it is tempered by a defensive pride of their place in it. They look at the West with a mixture of pity, envy, victimhood, and resentment. Pity for the barbarians, envy for their strength and resentment and the sense of victimhood for their incursions into China. They feel some sense of superiority due to the belief that they are lot more hard-working and goal-oriented than Westerners. At the same time, they are also filled with doubts and misgivings. Just as American mothers wonder whether they should be tiger-mothers and push their children harder, the Chinese are wondering if they should learn about being creative in their education system like the Americans. Unlike what is written in much of the Western media, China has a creative class of artists, bloggers, journalists and students who resist the conformity that is imposed on them by the Party and the State. The intersection of wealth and authoritarianism poses a problem for the new Chinese creative class. The struggles and resistance of the artist Ai Wei-Wei and the Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo are well known in the West. They spoke in a vernacular that mixed irony, imagination, and rage. They tried to see how far an individual’s power can sustain in China. As we know, the state came down firmly on them and incarcerated them. They put Liu on trial where he aesthetically declared, ‘I hope I will be the last victim in China’s long record of treating words as crimes.’ In any case, there is no doubt that the internet has stirred a hunger for a new kind of critical voice - a rebirth of irony, a search for community and the courage to complain. For example, the computer science professor, Fang Binxing is known as the architect of the Great Firewall which tramples the access of the Chinese people to the open internet. When he lectured at Wuhan University in 2011, angry students threw shoes at him in protest. When the teachers tried to detain the shoe thrower, fellow students defied them and protected the shoe-thrower. The students argued that there is no way for them to debate Fang Binxing because of the mismatch in their powers. Hence, throwing shoes was the only way out. The author says that divining how far an individual can go in Chinese creative life is akin to carving a line in the sand at low tide in the dark. The political terrain keeps shifting all the time. In the section on ‘Faith,’ Osnos makes keen observations on how the Communist Party has learned to deal with control and manipulation in the internet era. The Chinese leadership observed how the Arab Springs and the Soviet collapse originated and evolved. They drew the lesson that ‘protests which go unchecked, lead to open revolt.’ The Politburo consequently decided on the approach of Five ‘No’s - no opposition parties, no alternative principles, no separation of powers, no federal system and no full-scale privatization. Curiously, they also adopted an American model of doing propaganda. Learning from Walter Lippmann, they ‘magnify emotion while undermining critical thought.’ The idea is that good PR can create a ‘group mind’ and ‘manufacture consent’ for the ruling elite. The father of American PR, Harold Lasswell said in 1927, ”if the masses will be free of chains of iron, they must accept its chains of silver.” Unlike the USSR, communist China's propaganda gospel follows such American innovations. On the internet, the Party controls online dissent and criticism by the use of what it calls ‘ushers of public opinion.’ The Party has many ‘ushers of public opinion’ deployed on the net, masquerading as ordinary users. They do not try to extinguish debate but endeavor to steer it away harmlessly. Their task is to influence public opinion and stabilize netizens’ emotions. As an example, if people criticize the Party on rising gas prices, the ushers will lob a grenade of a post, like ‘if you are too poor to drive, then it serves you right.’ This makes the public turn the debate towards attacking the usher. The topic gradually moves from gas prices to the usher’s comments. Netizens’ emotions are diverted and stabilized. Mission accomplished. This approach must ring a bell in most of us. I have seen similar methods by the current right-wing government in India as well. One could see that even the Trump campaign used such approaches in diverting attention away from Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. However, in spite of all these seeming successes on establishing control over public opinion, the Communist Party of China is nervous and unsure deep down. For the first time in history, Osnos says, China is spending more on domestic security than on foreign defense. They invest more money on surveilling and policing its citizens than on external threats. When I finished the book, the impression I had was that Communist China is on shaky legs at its core. The Party elite is juggling many balls up in the air, and one of them is sure to drop eventually. When that happens, the authoritarian state as no other plan but to put down the resulting protests violently. Even in the unlikely event that no ball drops ever, improving living standards will demand more freedom and individual expression. This will challenge the Party to loosen its control. In such an event as well, the Party has no plan other than to put down the demands. Many scholars have said this over the past couple of decades. The Chinese nationalists have responded that these predictions have not come true and that China is going from strength to strength. However, I would read Evan Osnos’ book as saying that it is an illusion and that Communist China also will meet the same fate that has befallen all authoritarian regimes in history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Miles

    Evan Osnos’s Age of Ambition is packed with detailed observations and curious facts that will edify anyone looking to learn about modern China’s domestic structure and growing role on the international stage. Osnos is a talented writer whose style can be described as “humanist nonfiction”––a series of interview-based narratives organized by theme and supported by ancillary research. It reminds of me George Packer’s exceptional book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, which is hav Evan Osnos’s Age of Ambition is packed with detailed observations and curious facts that will edify anyone looking to learn about modern China’s domestic structure and growing role on the international stage. Osnos is a talented writer whose style can be described as “humanist nonfiction”––a series of interview-based narratives organized by theme and supported by ancillary research. It reminds of me George Packer’s exceptional book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, which is having a new moment in post-election America. As with all good nonfiction, Age of Ambition complicates the world and asks more questions than it answers. The following passages give a good sense of Osnos’s general approach: "The hardest part about writing from China was not navigating the authoritarian bureaucracy or the occasional stint in a police station. It was the problem of proportions. How much of the drama was light and how much was dark? How much was about opportunity and how much was about repression? From far away it was difficult for outsiders to judge, but I found that up close it wasn’t much easier, because it depended on where you were looking." (227) "Anybody who scratched beneath the surface of Chinese life discovered a more complicated conception of the good life that had made room for the pursuit of values and dignity alongside the pursuit of cars and apartments." (371) Age of Ambition is broken into three parts: Fortune, Truth, and Faith. Osnos provides solid commentary on each theme, weaving the stories of his interviewees into each section with impressive fluidity. Osnos’s cast of characters is broad and diverse; it includes a Taiwanese military man who defected to China, a female media mogul, Ai Weiwei (the internationally-acclaimed artist), a young conservative nationalist with training in Western philosophy, a young man obsessed with mastering the English language, a blind lawyer put under house arrest for questioning the government, and more. Each tale adds its own spice to Age of Ambition, but as an American, I became enthralled by the myriad ways contemporary China has imitated the United States while also working very hard to set itself apart from all of Western culture. For example, when fledgling Party propagandists wanted to learn the tricks of the trade, they looked to America, “the holy land of public relations” (118). China rapidly adapted a distinctly American tool to bolster a distinctly anti-American (or at least anti-democratic) government. This dynamic comes up again and again in Age of Ambition, with Chinese individuals constantly negotiating with a cultural attitude toward America that appears admiring, supercilious, aspirational, jealous, and spiteful all at once. Osnos dives deeply into the question of how China’s modernization has affected Chinese identity. He identifies a “paradox of ambition” stemming from the fundamental contraction of an authoritarian state overseeing a booming private sector: “The Party was sparking individual ambition and self-creation in one half of life and suppressing those tendencies in the other” (150). Referring to the lasting impact of China’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, one of Osnos’s subjects asserts: “We cast aside our three core ideas––Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism––and that was a mistake” (107-8). A toxic form of Marxism quickly filled the void, and then was injected with rampant capitalism as China “opened up” to a larger role in international trade. But, as Osnos points out, capitalism is an economic system, and not a particularly effective means of generating or maintaining cultural identity: "In its abuses and deceptions, the Chinese government was failing to make a persuasive argument for what it meant to be Chinese in the modern world. The Party had rested its legitimacy on prosperity, stability, and a pantheon of hollow heroes. In doing so, it had disarmed itself in the battle for the soul, and it sent Chinese individuals out to wander the market of ideas in search of icons of their own." (306) The icons that have come to dominate this rootless landscape are familiar to anyone with a passing interest in world affairs: opulent displays of wealth, crony capitalism, vulgar and insipid media, blind consumerism, and growing socioeconomic inequality. As in America, “China’s new fortunes were wildly out of balance” (267). The nature and scope of Chinese corruption seems to have a flavor all its own, but its underpinnings are present throughout the globalized world. Osnos reflects on this situation with an image that applies as easily to any struggling Western democracy as it does to modern China: "The longer I lived in China, the more it seemed that people had come to see the economic boom as a train with a limited number of seats. For those who found a seat––because they arrived early, they had the right family, they paid the right bribe––progress was beyond their imagination. Everyone else could run as far and fast as their legs would carry them, but they would only be able to watch the caboose shrink into the distance." (271) So what to make of all this? For me, Age of Ambition inspired fear and admiration in about equal measure. I read the book because a dear friend of mine recently lived in China for a time, and came away from the experience distressed by what he saw as a deeply repressive and increasingly aggressive nation with a huge and needy population. Without the chance to make that judgment for myself, I must admit that I’m far more fearful of the new government in my homeland than one far across the Pacific, at least for the moment. And then the sadness really sinks in, because fear is perhaps the only emotion currently shared by everyone alive on Earth––the commonplace tragedy that unites and divides us. As the reasons for informed cynicism continue to mount, I take solace in the knowledge that thinkers like Osnos will continue to provide us with exemplary texts to improve our minds and defend civilization from its worst self. This review was originally published on my blog, words&dirt.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tam

    Let's write a summary of the book's main points: China is growing fast, but many people are discontent with the the lack of freedom. One single party system is inherently problematic much worse than democracy, so is facing crises. The country is overwhelmed with terrible terrible corruptions, and there is great inequality. OK that's it, perfect fit for Western audience, a confirmation of their long suspected idea from an award winning author spending 8 years in China and does speak Chinese decen Let's write a summary of the book's main points: China is growing fast, but many people are discontent with the the lack of freedom. One single party system is inherently problematic much worse than democracy, so is facing crises. The country is overwhelmed with terrible terrible corruptions, and there is great inequality. OK that's it, perfect fit for Western audience, a confirmation of their long suspected idea from an award winning author spending 8 years in China and does speak Chinese decently (my guess). There is nothing new here, you could have read much shorter articles/essays on many Western media. Now, flip to acknowledgement section, you will see an overwhelmingly number of Western names, expatriats in China, people for counsel and expertise. Fine, let's look into the actual people that Osnos portrays. No doubt they are high profile individuals, already famous in the West and elsewhere. And so it was a disappointment. I had two different expections that weren't satisfied. One, that Osnos could provide new perspectives on China, or perhaps more nuanced discussion of all the successes and issues the country has been facing. Each country is unique with its history, and the number of challenges China has to consider is enormous. It is unfair to reduce everything to measure on Western standards, of democracy and liberty, of liberal market and individual freedom. Obviously from the brief summary I provided above, you see that this expectation was absolutely failed. Second, I wish perhaps the author could really tell of stories of common people. Fine, not dirt poor, not migrants with regional slangs, but perhaps common middle class individuals, some who are older and still remember the 70s and 80s, some who are young enough to enjoy and prosper with he country in the 90s and 00s, and some who are very very young and will be the lead of the future, those born in the 90s and 00s. But common people, you know. I wish to see the ambition, the chase for fortune, for truth, for faith from the very root of it. I want multiple real accounts. Because as Osnos mentioned it himself in the book, how much we can trust polls in this country? The account on the Europe tour under Chinese agency is perhaps the only redemption. And of course, Michael. For the most part I feel like Osnos was just guessing about the overall atmosphere. He went for crazy famous dissidents (the fascination with Ai Wei Wei is huge), briefly mentioned their achievements yet hardly any quote. It was a sort of retellings, and I was left dumbfounded. What can I learn from these people without actually reading, watching, analyzing some main pieces of their works, with expert's opinions from all sides? Any discussion remains limited. There are investigative cases that Osnos wasn't directly involved and could not provide first hand reliable statistics either. Of course he could not, not even Chinese journalists could do well, but then why writing about something you do not truly truly know? Why not, like, talking to people, just common people, and let us know? I feel like the author is in China but he is not in China. Just geographically but not emotionally and intellectually, and culturally. My Chinese friend talked to me about how Chinese students study abroad in America, for knowledge but not ideology. I feel the same thing in the author. He was there for some acknowledgement of some big events. But I did learn something from the book. I think carefully about the Western and Eastern world, about the inherent arrogance of the West, about my craving for understanding the East more on its own terms. I am tired, whenever I read news criticizing China it implicitly complains on the grounds of Western ideas of freedom of liberty - yeah, so noble so beautiful. Yet whenever news covering critics of the West, the West isn't compared to any other place at all, well because implicitly we agree the West is the best, isn't it? And I deeply doubt that. Fine, I will find out on my own.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Evan Osnos lived in China, specifically Beijing, from 2008 to 2013, covering the enormous changes in that nation as it embraces it own brand of capitalism (and the enormous implications, local and global, of those changes) for the New Yorker. I hadn't read any of Osnos's pieces for the magazine before picking up Age of Ambition, which just won this year's National Book Award, but I imagine much of this lengthy, impressively-reported portrait falls within the previously published category. Or, at Evan Osnos lived in China, specifically Beijing, from 2008 to 2013, covering the enormous changes in that nation as it embraces it own brand of capitalism (and the enormous implications, local and global, of those changes) for the New Yorker. I hadn't read any of Osnos's pieces for the magazine before picking up Age of Ambition, which just won this year's National Book Award, but I imagine much of this lengthy, impressively-reported portrait falls within the previously published category. Or, at least, it feels that way, like a bunch of strung-together long-forms, each meandering in standard New Yorker fashion, but to me never quite cohering into a book. Not that there aren't plenty of interesting and engaging moments here, as well as keen insights sharpened still further from his years spent on the ground, talking to an astonishing array of people who embody the "new China" where, as you can tell from the book's title, ambition reigns supreme, with all of the good (hundred of millions of people actually have plenty to eat these days) and the bad (government repression of speech, vast income gap, spiritual and ethical bankruptcy, country- (and planet-) wide environmental nightmare) that comes with that dubious distinction. For example, the many riffs on censorship were fascinating, I thought, how the Party has had to become so open and unashamed in the internet-age about what you can and cannot ask, write about, search for, photograph. Foreign journos like Osnos receive daily texts on what's newly off-limits, and the Propaganda Bureau constantly updates its list of blocked search terms, driven by the events of the day and the code phrases used by crafty bloggers to get around the restrictions. Also notable is how rapidly rampant capitalism, China-style, has destroyed whatever soul the country may have had, as people are willing to accept almost anything, including corruption on a mind-boggling scale, as long as they feel like they are "getting theirs". But while the big-picture stuff was all pretty great, many of the stories Osnos tells to get us there feel a little stale, like years-old news but told with a weekly-magazine immediacy. The best (worst) example of this are the long Ai Weiwei chapters, which feel lifted straight from the pages of 2011 or whatever, adding no perspective to the often-told (for example, in the great documentary Never Sorry, or even at the recent Brooklyn Museum exhibition) tale. And there are other things like that, about much less famous people, lengthy profiles that no longer feel particularly relevant to "Beijing today", nor important enough to warrant inclusion in history. If you want an overview of China of the last decade, Age of Ambition is a solid choice. Beijing Welcomes You, by Tom Socca, on the city's transformation for the recent Olympics (often with devastating results) is also good.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Willy Xiao

    Nothing groundbreaking. But for Americans who are trying to understand China today, this book provides quite a few fair reflections: Foxconn suicides aren't all about "sweatshop" labor, in studies of Chinese people and anecdotes of Macao casinos Chinese people seem to gamble and take risks a lot more than Americans, public censors/50 cent party/propoganda is even worse than most Americans might realize (but it doesn't quite fool a public probably best described as apathetic), and the Internet is Nothing groundbreaking. But for Americans who are trying to understand China today, this book provides quite a few fair reflections: Foxconn suicides aren't all about "sweatshop" labor, in studies of Chinese people and anecdotes of Macao casinos Chinese people seem to gamble and take risks a lot more than Americans, public censors/50 cent party/propoganda is even worse than most Americans might realize (but it doesn't quite fool a public probably best described as apathetic), and the Internet is ubiquitous. I also liked the three narratives of fortune, truth, and faith that the book follows. Ive heard challenges against specific judgements by Osnos, such as Han Han. He also admits to the difficulty of choosing between producing content on people in the spotlight: rowdy dissidents, rich business owners, Bo Xilai and the everyday lives of the Chinese. Mostly he focuses on the former in this book, and as evident by the proportions of his stories, public dissidents much more willingly divulge their lives and thoughts than government censors (or even everyday Chinese people), so it might leave out other understandings such as family structures and support, differences in the regions of China, the plight of hukou. Still for anyone trying to develop an intuition of China, this is a great book to read!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    I heard about this book on Fareed Zakaria and I was intrigued! I know little about Chinese history, modern or ancient, and had wanted to gain more knowledge. This book is broad sweeping in scope but also very personal in depth. The journalist who wrote it deals with Chinese modern history by explaining how the systemic changes the nation underwent as they touched the lives of every day people. I listened to this on audible and it was read very well.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anima

    One of the most memorable books I’ve come across in a long time! ‘But in the China that I encountered, the national narrative, once an ensemble performance, is splintering into a billion stories—stories of flesh and blood, of idiosyncrasies and solitary struggles. It is a time when the ties between the world’s two most powerful countries, China and the United States, can be tested by the aspirations of a lone peasant lawyer who chose the day and the hour in which to alter his fate. It is the age One of the most memorable books I’ve come across in a long time! ‘But in the China that I encountered, the national narrative, once an ensemble performance, is splintering into a billion stories—stories of flesh and blood, of idiosyncrasies and solitary struggles. It is a time when the ties between the world’s two most powerful countries, China and the United States, can be tested by the aspirations of a lone peasant lawyer who chose the day and the hour in which to alter his fate. It is the age of the changeling, when the daughter of a farmer can propel herself from the assembly line to the boardroom so fast that she never has time to shed the manners and anxieties of the village. It is a moment when the individual became a gale force in political, economic, and private life, so central to the self-image of a rising generation that a coal miner’s son can grow up to believe that nothing matters more to him than seeing his name on the cover of a book.’ ‘China today is riven by contradictions. It is the world’s largest buyer of Louis Vuitton, second only to the United States in its purchases of Rolls-Royces and Lamborghinis, yet ruled by a Marxist-Leninist party that seeks to ban the word luxury from billboards. The difference in life expectancy and income between China’s wealthiest cities and its poorest provinces is the difference between New York and Ghana. China has two of the world’s most valuable Internet companies, and more people online than the United States, even as it redoubles its investment in history’s largest effort to censor human expression. China has never been more pluralistic, urban, and prosperous, yet it is the only country in the world with a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in prison.’ ‘Two scholars, Yinqiang Zhang and Tor Eriksson, tracked the paths of Chinese families from 1989 to 2006 and found a “high degree of inequality of opportunity.” They wrote, “The basic idea behind the market reforms was that by enabling some citizens to become rich this would in turn help the rest to become rich as well. Our analysis shows that at least so far there are few traces of the reforms leveling the playing field.” They found that in other developing countries, parents’ education was the most decisive factor in determining how much a child would earn someday. But in China, the decisive factor was “parental connections.” A separate study of parents and children in Chinese cities found “a strikingly low level of intergenerational mobility.” Writing in 2010, the authors ranked “urban China among the least socially mobile places in the world.” Even before they had statistics to prove it, people described new divisions emerging in their society; they no longer simply parsed the distinctions between Bobos and DINKs (double income, no kids) and the New Middle-Income Stratum. There was now a line between the white-collar class and what people called the “black-collar class.” An anonymous author circulated an essay that defined it: “Their clothes are black. Their cars are black. Their income is hidden. Their life is hidden. Their work is hidden. Everything about them is hidden—like a man wearing black, standing in the dark.” “At its extremes, the frustration was explosive. By 2010 the number of strikes, riots, and other “mass incidents” had doubled in five years to 180,000 a year—almost 500 incidents a day, according to the government’s statistics. On July 24, 2009, steelworkers in Jilin Province, fearing layoffs, attacked the general manager, a young graduate named Chen Guojun, beating him to death with bricks and clubs, and blocking police and ambulances. When the Party broke up disturbances like this, it often said the problem was members of the “masses who didn’t know the truth.” ‘In January 2010 a nineteen-year-old named Ma Xiangqian jumped from the roof of his factory dormitory at Foxconn Technology, the maker of iPhones and other electronics. He had worked on the assembly line seven nights a week, eleven hours at a stretch, before being demoted to cleaning toilets. In the months after Ma’s death, thirteen other Foxconn workers committed suicide. People wondered if it was spreading like a fever, and they pointed out that the cluster of suicides was still under the rate expected for a factory as large as a city. Foxconn installed nets around the roofs of its buildings and boosted wages, and the suicides diminished as abruptly as they had begun. Outsiders were quick to imagine a sweatshop, but this explanation was not quite right. When therapists were brought in to Foxconn to meet workers, they found what sociologists had begun to detect in surveys of the new middle class: the first generation of assembly-line workers had been grateful just to be off the farm, but this generation compared themselves to wealthier peers. “What is the most common feeling in China today?” the Tsinghua sociologist Guo Yuhua wrote in 2012. “I think many people would say disappointment. This feeling comes from the insufficient improvement in lives amid rapid economic growth. It also comes from the contrast between the degree to which individual social status is rising and the idea of the ‘rise of a great and powerful nation.’” I noticed that people were still invoking The Great Gatsby as an analogy for their moment in China’s rise, but now the reference carried a sinister new connotation. They pointed to a study known as the Great Gatsby curve, conducted by labor economist Miles Corak, which produced further evidence that China had one of the world’s lowest levels of social mobility. A Chinese blogger read it and wrote, “The sons of rats will only dig holes … Birth determines class.” “Mao’s touch acquired otherworldly significance: when a Pakistani delegation gave Mao a basket of mangoes in 1968, he regifted them to workers, who wept and placed them on altars; crowds lined up and bowed before the fruit. A mango was flown to Shanghai on a chartered plane, so that workers such as Wang Xiaoping could see it. “What is a ‘mango’? Nobody knew,” she recalled in an essay. “Knowledgeable people said it was a fruit of extreme rarity, like Mushrooms of Immortality.” When the mangoes spoiled, they were preserved in formaldehyde, and plastic replicas were created. A village dentist who observed that one of the mangoes resembled a sweet potato was tried for malicious slander and executed.” “Outsiders often saw the Chinese as pragmatists with little time for faith, but for thousands of years the country had been knitted together by beliefs and rituals. .... ... But the longer I stayed in China, the more I sought to understand the changes that were harder to glimpse—the quests for meaning. Nothing had caused more upheaval in the last hundred years of Chinese history than the battle over what to believe. I wanted to know what life was like for men and women trying to decide what mattered most, and I didn’t have to look far. In the bookstores of my neighborhood, the Chinese titles included A Guidebook for the Soul and What Do We Live For? From my front door, I could walk to every point on the compass and find a different answer.” “Little Yueyue was struck twice, first by the front wheel, then by the rear, her upper body, then her lower. She came to rest beside a bale of merchandise, and she lay motionless except for the faint movement of her left arm. Twenty seconds after she was struck, a man on foot, wearing a white shirt and dark trousers, approached. He looked in her direction and slowed. Then he walked on. Five seconds later, a motorbike passed; the driver peered over his shoulder, toward the child, but did not slow down. Ten seconds after that, another man passed, looked in her direction, and kept walking. Nine seconds later, a small truck approached and it, too, hit Little Yueyue, rolling over her legs and continuing on. More people passed—a figure in a blue raincoat, a rider in a black T-shirt, a worker loading goods at the intersection. A man on a motorbike stared at her and talked to a shop owner, before they hurried away. Four minutes after the initial collision, the eleventh person to approach was a woman holding the hand of a little girl. She ran a store nearby, and she, too, had picked up her daughter from school. She stopped, asked a shopkeeper about the child in the road, and then darted off, hurrying her daughter away from the scene. On they came: a rider on a motorbike, a man on foot, a worker from the shop on the corner. At 5:31, six minutes after the girl was hit, a small woman carrying bags of salvaged cans and bottles approached. She was the eighteenth passerby. But she did not pass. She dropped her bags and tried to lift Little Yueyue in her arms. She heard the child groan, and her small body crumpled like dead weight. The woman was an illiterate grandmother named Chen Xianmei, who recycled trash and scrap metal for a living. She pulled the child’s body closer to the curb, and then she peered around for help. She approached nearby shopkeepers, but one was busy with a customer; another told her, “That child is not mine.” Chen tried the next block, shouting for help, and there she encountered the mother, Qu Feifei, who was searching desperately for her daughter. Chen led her to the roadside. The mother crouched on the asphalt, wrapped Little Yueyue in her arms, and began to run. Ambulances are rare in China, so mother and father loaded their daughter into the small family Buick. When they reached Huangqi Hospital, fifteen minutes away, nurses in pink uniforms were attending to a stream of arrivals. The waiting room was clean and well built, but the signs on the walls warned people of the perils that cling to China’s health care system. One sign advised them against trying to bribe a doctor for better care; another warned against “Appointment Scalpers.” It said, IF A STRANGER CLAIMS TO HAVE A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH A SPECIALIST, AND TRIES TO LEAD YOU OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL, DON’T BE FOOLED. Doctors discovered that Little Yueyue had a skull fracture and serious damage to the brain. At first, local reporters figured it was a typical hit-and-run. Then they saw the surveillance video. Instantly, the story of the seventeen passersby began to spread across China, and it provoked a surge of self-recrimination. The writer Zhang Lijia asked, “How can we possibly win respect and play the role of a world leader if this is a nation with 1.4 billion cold hearts?”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    The last ten years of China is told by mostly telling the stories through second person accounts of people the author has interviewed. He tells the story with three different perspectives at play, China's phenomena growth, the corruption and intimidation the government uses, and the third perspective of what the author refers to as faith, by that he means a belief in tradition and a distrust in the system working fairly for the individual. At first, I thought the author was giving too many second The last ten years of China is told by mostly telling the stories through second person accounts of people the author has interviewed. He tells the story with three different perspectives at play, China's phenomena growth, the corruption and intimidation the government uses, and the third perspective of what the author refers to as faith, by that he means a belief in tradition and a distrust in the system working fairly for the individual. At first, I thought the author was giving too many second person accounts, but then I started to realize he really did have a central overriding narrative tying all the stories together in a cohesive whole. The concept of freethinking never seems to enter in his stories. Respect for authority and tradition usually seems to permeate all the stories. The book does seem very up to date and it seems that China (as represented by its Politburo) is trying to transition from an autocracy to an aristocracy. They are doing everything in their power to shut down free speech on the internet (e.g. banning the search on the word "The Truth"), sometimes their corrupt official defense is "they were sisters not twins", and a young child can grow up saying "I want to become a corrupt official". The second volume of "Political Order and Political Decay" made me realize how different China is from the rest of the world and how little I knew about what was going on today in China. I would recommend reading Fukuyama's book before reading this one. The book does a lot in bringing me up to speed on where China is today. I'm anxious to see what steps China takes in the future and because of this book I'll be able to put future articles in to their proper context.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Grady

    China is far too large and complex for a single book to take the full measure of the country. Instead, Age of Ambition explores three themes: economic changes; censorship; and personal values and ethics. Drawing on Osnos' eight years as a reporter based in China, the book follows a loosely chronological path, and the author does an amazing job weaving his themes around a score of characters - real people he got to know from different walks of life. Although I've read other books about China, alm China is far too large and complex for a single book to take the full measure of the country. Instead, Age of Ambition explores three themes: economic changes; censorship; and personal values and ethics. Drawing on Osnos' eight years as a reporter based in China, the book follows a loosely chronological path, and the author does an amazing job weaving his themes around a score of characters - real people he got to know from different walks of life. Although I've read other books about China, almost eveything here was somewhat new, or took events I'd heard about in the news and fit them into a much more comprehensible context. At one point, Osnos wrestles with his choice to give so much space to a relatively small number of dissidents in the middle section of the book. On the other hand, as he points out, the question of how the Party will adapt to increasing public pressure to allow freer expression - and how it will get a handle on rampant corruption - is of vital importance to the nation's future. The most disturbing part of Osnos' story is the degree to which the Party really is committed to tight control of ideas, news coverage, and public debate. This book is particularly good at conveying what it feels like for a variety of critics to operate under that scrutiny, and the personal and professional prices they are forced to pay. Topics that receive mention but relatively little discussion include China's environment; status of minority peoples; the colonization of western China and Tibet; China's foreign policy. But there are other good books on each of these issues, and Age of Ambition offers superb insight into the themes it focuses on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Xinyu

    I planned to read this book three years ago, the last time when I visited China. I did not finish, maybe because it is really not a captivating book in any sense. This book is quite disappointing to me. It caters to western readers, especially the intellectual or social elites. It reads like a McKinsey report written on the topics of some anti-China websites . Even though Osnos had lived in China for quite some time, it seems to me he never really understood China. He portrayed China from a clich I planned to read this book three years ago, the last time when I visited China. I did not finish, maybe because it is really not a captivating book in any sense. This book is quite disappointing to me. It caters to western readers, especially the intellectual or social elites. It reads like a McKinsey report written on the topics of some anti-China websites . Even though Osnos had lived in China for quite some time, it seems to me he never really understood China. He portrayed China from a cliched political perspective, and fail to see it from a humane and deeper one. It is not unexpected all of his interviewees are at the extreme of human existence - social elites, or political activists, or high-rank officials, or extremely pitiful young man who I can tell not representative at all. Who can you interview if you want to portray Chinese society as a political drama, right? But even in those interview, I think he constantly failed to understand or analyze deeper motivations. He was only able to comment well when the viewpoints align with his. I know the journalists, the ones I like the most, like Peter Hessler or Svetlana Alexievich, would present the interviewee's dialog as it is. Theirs read warm and truthful, but Osnos' reads like lame translation from Chinese to English. I think it is fair to say that those cliche political dramas are indeed part of what is China, and those people are indeed representative to a small percentage of Chinese.. China is a huge country. There are many Chinese people. One can see or understand it from different perspectives. Osnos chose the most banal one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

    Growing up in a Western liberal democracy, I held my Chinese heritage in contempt. I didn't understand my parents' generation, who lived through the tail end of the Cultural Revolution and eventually left China in the late 1990s to pursue better lives. I saw in them the remnants of attitudes birthed in the era of Communist rule: a scarcity mindset, collectivist attitudes. Thankfully, with time, I lost my disdain for my parents' culture. I didn't come much closer to understanding it until I read Growing up in a Western liberal democracy, I held my Chinese heritage in contempt. I didn't understand my parents' generation, who lived through the tail end of the Cultural Revolution and eventually left China in the late 1990s to pursue better lives. I saw in them the remnants of attitudes birthed in the era of Communist rule: a scarcity mindset, collectivist attitudes. Thankfully, with time, I lost my disdain for my parents' culture. I didn't come much closer to understanding it until I read Age of Ambition. This book was remarkable because it was both historically enlightening and personally meaningful. It shed light on corruption in politics, crackdowns on dissidents, the rise of cities and railways, and large-scale migrations towards the cities. It also takes deeply personal routes at times, introducing the reader to people who built media empires that later fell out of favour with the government and aspiring English masters alike. Most of all, it piqued in me an interest about China - and brought me closer to comprehending its intersection with my past.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Evan Osnos was based in China from 2005 to 2013, working for the New Yorker magazine and the Chicago Tribune. This book especially resonated with me, having lived there myself from 2005 to 2009, living through some of the events he covers such as the Sichuan earthquake, the Olympics and milk formula poisonings. As well as being a bit of a nostalgia trip for me, I found many of his observations about life in China and the Chinese people really hit the mark. Age of Ambition is subtitled Chasing For Evan Osnos was based in China from 2005 to 2013, working for the New Yorker magazine and the Chicago Tribune. This book especially resonated with me, having lived there myself from 2005 to 2009, living through some of the events he covers such as the Sichuan earthquake, the Olympics and milk formula poisonings. As well as being a bit of a nostalgia trip for me, I found many of his observations about life in China and the Chinese people really hit the mark. Age of Ambition is subtitled Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, and this provides the structure for the book which is divided into three parts: Fortune, Truth and Faith. Part 1: Fortune is for me the best section. Osnos writes with wry, gentle humour, introducing us to some memorable individuals and their foibles. (My favourites were Michael the obsessive English learner and Guide Li, an ultra-wary European tour guide.) Then the book's tone shifts in Part 2: Truth, the longest section of the book. Here Osnos examines China's dissidents and internal critics, as well as the Chinese government's efforts to silence dissenting voices through intimidation, arrests and censorship. Osnos can still make the wry observation: he gains access to a text message service from the Central Propaganda Department that sends out pithy instructions to the Chinese media on how to cover sensitive topics. Osnos occasionally inserts these messages into the narrative, a kind of Orwellian running gag: "All websites are required to remove immediately the article entitled, 'In China, 94% Unhappy with Wealth Disproportionately Concentrated at the Top'". Despite the muted humour, a reader's reaction while reading Part 2 is more likely to be one of anger and condemnation over the government's treatment of those who dare to criticise it. There's a particularly grim chapter centred on a high-speed rail crash that left 40 dead (which the Chinese government initially tried to cover up). The treatment of crusading blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng and Ai Weiwei are also quite harrowing. By focusing so much on the negatives of modern China, Osnos runs the risk of seeming biased, his journalism unbalanced. He relates a personal story where at a Beijing dinner party one of his expat acquaintances rebuked him for a negative article he had written: "Stop embarrassing China!" he is told. And I must admit, having lived in China myself, enjoying it immensely and meeting so many wonderful people there, I could sympathise with the angry expat. Osnos to his credit recognises that his stories could be seen as disproportionately negative and spends a couple of pages arguing his case for choosing to write on the subjects he does. The final part of the book is entitled Faith, and there is some coverage of the resurgence of interest in religion, including Christianity, as well as in traditional Chinese belief systems like Confucianism and the quasi-religion that is nationalism. Some chapters in Part 3 felt shoehorned into the section. There's a chilling account of a toddler victim of a hit-and-run, the most disturbing part of which was that seventeen passers-by ignored the dying 2 year-old girl as they stepped around her. Osnos presented this as evidence that spiritually, ethically, morally, Chinese society as a whole may have lost its way. In Part 3: Faith the book also returns to some of the individuals introduced earlier. Michael the English student seemed to have lost all faith in his own ability to achieve success. As well as being an insightful examination of Chinese society, politics and economics, one of the real strengths of the book is Osnos' intrepid and tenacious journalism. He meets with many of his subjects on multiple occasions, often travelling across the country to interview them in different locations, such as travelling to novelist-turned-blogger Han Han's rural home town. And Osnos has a novelist's flair for observation, honing in on a mannerism, a gesture, a turn of speech, to illuminate another side of his subject or make his subject a more rounded, fully-developed personality. I was so impressed by this book that I immediately searched for other books by the author. Sadly this appears to be Evan Osnos' only full-length book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Really great book showcasing life in China for many different types of people in the past few decades. Osnos does a great job balancing Chinese vs Western values and perspectives, which is valuable. This book gave a lot of insight into the experiences of Chinese people as they work to follow their dreams, I really enjoyed seeing how the thought process of Chinese people in these situations differs from my own and thinking about what that says about the country. Each of these chapters reads like Really great book showcasing life in China for many different types of people in the past few decades. Osnos does a great job balancing Chinese vs Western values and perspectives, which is valuable. This book gave a lot of insight into the experiences of Chinese people as they work to follow their dreams, I really enjoyed seeing how the thought process of Chinese people in these situations differs from my own and thinking about what that says about the country. Each of these chapters reads like a deep dive longform news article about a specific topic, which I appreciate bc he gives lots of context to set up each persons situation. This book was a slower read for me bc I wanted to absorb and learn, and it was well-worth the time Also, just an FYI - Osnos does talk about faith, but a more general faith in humanity/reality, not so much the experience of organized religion in China. Which is great, I enjoyed those chapters a lot, but I am someone who is interested in reading about religion in China I didn’t really find that here, so wanted to give like minded readers realistic expectations!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jakub Dovcik

    Wonderful narrative of the story of modern China.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Menno Vis

    Great insight in the recent hiatory of China. Nice to read and very interesting to read about this amazing and fast developing country.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Guna

    This is a fascinating book on an otherwise opaque nation. Evan’s journalistic efforts in uncovering the story of China is intriguing and refreshing. He has successfully managed to do a fly-on-the-wall reporting arguably starving his prejudicial instincts. I particularly loved how his many anecdotal exposition paints a larger picture of the country’s soul. Evan is an outstanding journalist and it definitely comes through in how he puts himself in situations that warrant such curiosity. I liked the This is a fascinating book on an otherwise opaque nation. Evan’s journalistic efforts in uncovering the story of China is intriguing and refreshing. He has successfully managed to do a fly-on-the-wall reporting arguably starving his prejudicial instincts. I particularly loved how his many anecdotal exposition paints a larger picture of the country’s soul. Evan is an outstanding journalist and it definitely comes through in how he puts himself in situations that warrant such curiosity. I liked the overall structure of the book and if at all the titles, very diligently, expose Evan’s interpretations of the stories themselves. The choice of the three dimensions - fortune, truth and faith - that he treats in this book is fascinating in itself. Overall, the book leaves you with a little more awe of this behemoth of a nation, and also a deep sense of appreciation for some of the freedoms you are bestowed with.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is a book by a journalist with the New Yorker who has spent a lot of time in the new China. It appears to be a collection of stories that originally appeared elsewhere. The general themes consider the promise and reality of China in the new millenium and more broadly since the institution of market reforms in 1978. The result is a well written and fascinating view of China that should be required reading for those seeking to visit China and work there. The picture that emerges in these chap This is a book by a journalist with the New Yorker who has spent a lot of time in the new China. It appears to be a collection of stories that originally appeared elsewhere. The general themes consider the promise and reality of China in the new millenium and more broadly since the institution of market reforms in 1978. The result is a well written and fascinating view of China that should be required reading for those seeking to visit China and work there. The picture that emerges in these chapters is a country that is more capitalist and competitive than the US even as the country remains controlled by a totalitarian bureaucratic state. While growth has been unprecedented - even in the West during the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries - the society is also chaotic and highly corrupt, with the result that problems of justice and equality are increasing as economic inequality in China expands beyond all expectations. High growth and corruption seem to signal an upcoming bursting of the growth bubble and questions about what society will be like when the bubble bursts. There are lots of fascinating chapters, including those on the spread of religious belief in the new China. Another fascinating chapter was the one in which the author joined a Chinese tour group going on a package tour around Europe. The author also does a good job at profiling dissidents, as well as the problems with rapid infrastructure growth - such as the crash of two bullet trains in 2011. The materials comes largely from interviews with the author, supplemented by background material where needed. This is a well done and entertaining book, on a par with "Factory Girls" or the books of Peter Hessler (River Town) and very accessible.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Margarita

    My first book on modern China, and interesting indeed. Living in China and being Russian gives a different perspective on the current situation in the Middle Kingdom: as if you were looking at Russia in 90s, just after the collapse of the USSR. The personality cult of Stalin definitely was Mao's inspiration. Great Purge - Cultural Revolution. Evan says in his book: "When it became clear that Xi Jinping was placing his bet on fortifying the status quo, another Party aristocrat, Hu Dehua, the sixt My first book on modern China, and interesting indeed. Living in China and being Russian gives a different perspective on the current situation in the Middle Kingdom: as if you were looking at Russia in 90s, just after the collapse of the USSR. The personality cult of Stalin definitely was Mao's inspiration. Great Purge - Cultural Revolution. Evan says in his book: "When it became clear that Xi Jinping was placing his bet on fortifying the status quo, another Party aristocrat, Hu Dehua, the sixty-three-year-old son of a previous Party chief, Hu Yaobang, used the protection afforded by his family name and pedigree to openly criticize the president. The real reason the Soviets fell, Hu Dehua argued, was that they couldn't stop themselves from appropriating public property by graft and bribery. The Party, Hu said, was indeed facing a crisis. There are two options: to suppress the opposition or to reach reconciliation with the people, he said. It had faced this choice once before, in 1989; and in an astonishing acknowledgment of the bloodshed at Tiananmen, he asked, What does this mean: man enough? Is driving battle tanks against your own people man enough?" And judging by the measures taken today (10.2017) Xi opted for the latter.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos is one of the most recommended nonfiction books of 2014, and now I understand why. The book chronicles the lives of many people Osnos met while living in China from 2005-2013, from the famous to the not-so-famous, from the very rich to the very poor. What fascinated me most was how the one-party system worked in China, which tried to control everything, yet encouraged its people to prosper and even get rich. I think my favorite person Osnos profiled was Gong Hainan, Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos is one of the most recommended nonfiction books of 2014, and now I understand why. The book chronicles the lives of many people Osnos met while living in China from 2005-2013, from the famous to the not-so-famous, from the very rich to the very poor. What fascinated me most was how the one-party system worked in China, which tried to control everything, yet encouraged its people to prosper and even get rich. I think my favorite person Osnos profiled was Gong Hainan, a woman who founded a successful online dating site and got very wealthy. They take online dating far more seriously in China, where people are much more picky about making a good match. One woman had a very long list of traits for her husband to be, including that he already had more than two, but less than four, serious girlfriends. But the last person Osnos interviews, Qi Xiangfu, a street sweeper, was very moving. Qi knew people looked down on him, yet he had created a rich life on the Internet as a poet, even a good one that was recognized as Super King of Chinese couplets. It was almost as if Osnos had ran into a modern day Walt Whitman or Henry David Thoreau living in Beijing. Age of Ambition is an excellent book to see how the other side of the world lives.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    This book about modern China is both informative and entertaining. Mostly through the stories of many Chinese citizens he documents the tensions that exist is what is now a fascist totalitarian police state. The levels and extent of corruption is staggering. One example was wonderfully creative. The bureaucrats of the agency to enforce the one child policy law who seized the extra babies sold them abroad to adoption agencies. Their bosses had them prosecuted when they found the proceeds had not This book about modern China is both informative and entertaining. Mostly through the stories of many Chinese citizens he documents the tensions that exist is what is now a fascist totalitarian police state. The levels and extent of corruption is staggering. One example was wonderfully creative. The bureaucrats of the agency to enforce the one child policy law who seized the extra babies sold them abroad to adoption agencies. Their bosses had them prosecuted when they found the proceeds had not been shared with them. At the close of the book the author gives a thoughtful discussion of how China's future will go relative to the Communist Party leaders control of power versus freedom for the people. The leaders are now essentially an hereditary aristocracy passing on control to their own children. The control question is interesting given the current demonstrations today (October 2014) in Hong Cong asking for democratic elections. Students are holding up signs saying "you can't kill us all" But the actual truth is the Party can kill them all if they choose to. We shall see.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lee Granas

    This gave me a pretty solid understanding of the last 30 years in China and I learned a TON. It's impressive how he crossed paths with such influential characters in modern China. I wish it hadn't only focused on the famous and successful though, I am curious to know more about less well-known daily influences in China. Definitely worth reading though. Having just spent 3 weeks in China, I wish he had also talked more about superstition and ritual that grips China so deeply, compared to other co This gave me a pretty solid understanding of the last 30 years in China and I learned a TON. It's impressive how he crossed paths with such influential characters in modern China. I wish it hadn't only focused on the famous and successful though, I am curious to know more about less well-known daily influences in China. Definitely worth reading though. Having just spent 3 weeks in China, I wish he had also talked more about superstition and ritual that grips China so deeply, compared to other countries.

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