Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos

Age of Ambition: Chasing Truth in the New China

  • Book:  “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China”
  • Author:  Evan Osnos
  • Publisher:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014

There has been a number of books published on China in the last few decades that cover everything from politics, cuisine, culture, and even modern trends.  However, not that many of them come even close to the level of insight and the quality of investigative reporting done by a young, talented journalist, Evan Osnos.

In this award-winning book, the author describes the lives of a number of ordinary and the not-so-ordinary people, based on numerous interviews, meetings, and visits that took place during many years that Evan spent living in China.  

So what’s it like to live in a country that has not renounced its communist past, and is not governed by a democracy?  What goes on behind the closed doors where decisions are made that directly affect the lives of China’s billion citizens?  Well, there is no better way to find out about these and other topics than by learning from the locals themselves.

And here’s where the “Age of Ambition” comes in.  In this book you will meet a very popular teenage author turned celebrity, who defined the current educational system, rising against its strict, uniform ways; an older, blind and uneducated man who became a lawyer, standing up for his fellow villagers’ rights, despite the physical and political limitations; an ambitious, educated young man who cannot find a meaningful job while pursuing his entrepreneurial ideas; as well as many others ranging from famous artists, writers, professors, to the corrupt politicians, and their accomplices.

The “Age of Ambition” is a truly eye-opening book, one that looks beyond the surface, and provides a wider understanding of how China functions today.  It covers a number of important and stimulating topics – from education, economics, social media, news and trends, to politics, and the wide-spread corruption that is eating out the country from within.

Guilin - Photo Diary Of A Subtropical Town

“For outsiders, the scale of political corruption in China was often difficult to comprehend, in part because most were insulated from it. Visitors to China, compared to other developing countries, were not hit up for small bribes by customs officers or street cops; unless foreigners used Chinese schools or public hospitals, they didn’t feel the creep of bribery into virtually every corner of Chinese society. On paper, Chinese public education was free and guaranteed, but parents knew to pay “sponsorship fees” to gain entry to top schools; in Beijing, the fees reached sixteen thousand dollars – more than double the average annual salary. […] By 2011, according to a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, authorities were opening corruption cases at the rate of one a day for department-level officials, the equivalent of a city mayor.” (p. 252)

Shanghai, China

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