2014 National Book Award for Nonfiction
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"In the pages of the New Yorker, Evan Osnos has portrayed, explained and poked fun at this new China better than any other writer from the West or the East. In Age of Ambition, Osnos takes his reporting a step further, illuminating what he calls China's Gilded Age, its appetites, challenges and dilemmas, in a way few have done." John Pomfret, Washington Post
“Age of Ambition is… a riveting and troubling portrait of a people in a state of extreme anxiety about their identity, values and future, [and] a China rived by moral crisis and explosive frustration.” Judith Shapiro, New York Times
"For those new to China, Mr Osnos beautifully portrays the nation in all its craziness, providing a ringside seat for the greatest show on earth." The Economist
“China's Gilded Age has been every bit as fascinating, colorful and tragic as our own — and [Osnos] offers an engrossing account of it… [He] understands the depths of the transformations, the complexity of the contradictions, and the fragility of the overall enterprise.” Chicago Tribune
"Evan Osnos...has put his keen insight and intrepid research skills to use in his exploration of the internal intellectual and spiritual infrastructure of China's rise.” Dan Blumenthal, The National Interest
“[Osnos] adeptly chronicles…China's 35-year journey from poverty and collective dogmatism to a dynamic if cut-throat era of competition, self-promotion and materialism.” Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times
“Age of Ambition [is] eloquent and comprehensive…” Jonathan Mirsky, New York Times Book Review
"Age of Ambition is a splendid and entertaining picture of 21st-century China…” Michael Fathers, Wall Street Journal
"Evan Osnos gives us twenty-first-century China the way the best American journalists gave us the Gilded Age — he introduces us to outsized characters, tells tales of aspiration, success, and defeat, rakes the muck of corruption and repression, and captures the tremendous energy, as well as the darker impulses, of a society in the throes of a historic transformation." George Packer, author of The Assassins' Gate and The Unwinding
"The best book on China I've ever read. Witty, indispensable, and often moving. I look forward to stealing Evan Osnos's wisdom and passing it off as my own for years to come." Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure and Super Sad True Love Story
About the Author
Evan Osnos is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he served as the China correspondent from 2008 to 2013. He is the winner of two Overseas Press Club awards and the Asia Society's Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Tribune, where he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2008. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Table of Contents
CONTENTS Prologue Part I: Fortune
2. The Call 3. Baptized in Civilization 4. Appetites of the Mind
5. No Longer a Slave
7. Acquired Taste Part II: Truth
8. Dancing in Shackles
9. Liberty Leading the People
10. Miracles and Magic Engines 11. A Chorus of Soloists 12. The Art of Resistance 13. Seven Sentences
14. The Germ in the Henhouse
16. Lightning Storm 17. All That Glitters 18. The Hard Truth Part III: Faith
19. The Spiritual Void
20. Passing By
22. Culture Wars 23. True Believers
24. Breaking Out Epilogue Note on Sources