Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction finalist
Winner of the 2014 National Book Award in nonfiction.
An Economist Best Book of 2014.
A vibrant, colorful, and revelatory inner history of China during a moment of profound transformation
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.
Two potent, antagonistic forces a swelling individualism and a political structure intent on controlling it shape a rising superpower in this revealing journalistic portrait. New Yorker staff writer Osnos, the magazine's former Beijing correspondent, hangs his panorama on vivid first-hand profiles of artists, writers, editors, economists, Internet dating entrepreneurs, conservative nationalists, liberal students, and dissidents, including imprisoned Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and exiled lawyer-activist Chen Guangcheng. Through their stories, he depicts a people navigating a dizzying shift from socialist austerity, conformity, and idealism to capitalist materialism and self-promotion; it's a society steeped in vehement dogmas the author spies examples in everything from English-language instruction to tour-guide patter but full of private doubt as they struggle to find fulfillment and social connection in a cutthroat market economy. At the center of his account is a shrewd analysis of the battle between an authoritarian, corrupt, and flagrantly privileged Communist Party and a burgeoning Internet-based culture of mockery and dissent, epitomized by an app that leaks secret government censorship rules as soon as they are decreed. Osnos combines scintillating reportage with an eye for telling ironies that illuminate broader trends; without downplaying the uniqueness of Chinese society, he makes its tensions feel achingly familiar for Western readers.
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This book made our journey in China so much more interesting and real.