Age of Ambition – by Evan Osnos

I can tell this book is the culmination of years of research and conversations with the real people of China. The author is someone with real knowledge of the country. He’s not just any Western journalist who went to China on an assignment and wrote some superficial pieces on the country and never to be heard from again. These generic pieces written by Western journalists often do not tell the whole story about a country with a 5000-year history. The book is very rich in facts and conversations with people from all walks of life with various perspectives on where the country has been, where it is now and where it is heading. China is a very complex country not just in its ethnic makeup, but also in political viewpoints. While reading this book, we get to know some of the characters such as Ai Wei Wei and Chen Guangcheng (blind activist lawyer) in depth. I was always very intrigued by these characters, both of whom have been thoroughly reported on in the Western media. It was only in this book that I really got to know them and especially the rationale for the choices they have made to expose China’s dark side. While Westerners are no stranger to China’s record of human rights violations, we in the West hear about only one side of the country. China, as the book shows, is a country boasting a diversity of thoughts and opinions, but in the end, what every Chinese person aspires to are prosperity and a better life than what their parents’ or grandparents’ generation had. They may each express their desire in a different way but at the end of the day, they all seek better economic and political conditions than the status quo. We read about their challenges, successes and failures. Contrary to the image of a conformist and backward society often painted by the Western media, what the books tell is really a story of a country that is very much in transition – a dynamic country that is bursting at the seams with talented people who really are fighting for every opportunity to push the country forward.

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