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

When New Yorker writer Evan Osnos (son of PublicAffairs founder and editor-at-large Peter Osnos) moved to China as a foreign correspondent in 2005, the country had already captivated him with its sweeping metamorphosis into a free-market global superpower, thirsty for new sensations and new ideas despite its thick veil of authoritarian control. He set about trying to understand the changes from the point of view of ordinary citizens. There is the soldier who defected from Taiwan and became the chief World Bank economist; a peasant farmer's daughter whose marriage prospects inspired her to start China's largest online dating service; a young blogger and novelist who became an overnight sensation by sharing youthful views on the current cultural climate.

The reportage goes beyond these everyday men and women to include the controversial figures whose online social critiques and probing questions of party politics have resulted in indefinite imprisonment: Nobel Prize-winning author Liu Xiaobo, internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei and Chen Guangcheng, a peasants' rights advocate whose defection to the United States embarrassed the Chinese government.

"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 drama was light and how much was dark," notes Osnos. Despite its great leap forward in progress and wealth, China continues to be shrouded in contradictions, a capitalist society whose stability is maintained through censorship and intimidation. Osnos never settles for simple explanations in his struggle to comprehend such dividing forces; there are always currents of sadness, wonder and deep-seated anticipation about what the China of his experience will become. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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