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.
~~~~~ Description ~~~~~The moonlight was still strong, and Lo Man Gong still sat up on the overhead window, where few people and no old men could ever get.“Feel better, Chinaman?” he asked mildly.The night before, my resistance had been low, and his presence had somehow seemed tolerable, if not rational. Now I was more clear-headed ... yet he was still here. I didn’t like him as much.I let my eyes drop closed again. Once I was cured of malaria, I’d be free of him. I had eaten twice today; now, if I slept well, I’d be in sound shape pretty soon.“You know the keilin, Chinaman Jack?”That was the Chinese unicorn, a mystical animal whose rare appearances were highly auspicious. In the Cantonese I normally heard, it was pronounced “keilun.” It wasn’t like European ones, though. This unicorn had the body of a deer, the hooves of a horse, the tail of an ox, and a fleshy horn. I knew that much.“The unicorn?” I opened my eyes and looked at him. As before, the moonlight glowed through his shape.“Ah, you know the keilin. He smiled and nodded thoughtfully. “The keilin means good things happen. It’s very powerful.”I watched him silently.After a while, he looked into my eyes again. “Nobody remember me, Jack. Some people remember, some of my frien’. A few of them. Most, nobody remember at all. No children, no relative. You, Jack. You like me. Unless you change.”Yes, I knew that. I had already come to understand that. And I knew that he had come for me, here in the middle of the country, away from his home as longtime Californ’. But I didn’t know why.