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Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  563 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
“Americans need not be hostile toward China's rise, but they should be wary about its eventual effects. The United States is the only nation with the scale and power to try to set the terms of its interaction with China rather than just succumb. So starting now, Americans need to consider the economic, environmental, political, and social goals they care about defending as ...more
Paperback, 262 pages
Published December 30th 2008 by Vintage (first published December 24th 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 Aaron Arnold rated it it was amazing
My main takeaway from this book is that anyone who tries to generalize about China doesn't know what they're talking about, and indeed can't know what they're talking about. I feel comfortable making that generalization about generalizers because China is just so big, so complex, and changing so fast that attempts to summarize what's happening there not only inevitably obscure the facts, but are also out-of-date nearly as soon as they're printed. Superlatives evaporate as soon as they leap off ...more
Rebecca Martin
Feb 01, 2012 Rebecca Martin rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of articles and learned so much I hardly know where to start describing the book. This is a series of articles written by Fallows and published in The Atlantic Monthly December '06-November '08. The subjects range from China's self-made manufacturing billionaires, to how Macau became the gambling Mecca of the East, to what's really going on with Internet access in China. Every essay offers fascinating information that I have not come across elsewhere. Here ar ...more
Ms.pegasus
Apr 16, 2011 Ms.pegasus rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in economics, China, globalization
Shelves: nonfiction, china
The art of looking into the future is in part understanding the events of today. Monolithic China, Tiananmen Square and The Great Firewall of China (internet censorship) are some of the images Fallows seeks to balance in this collection of extended essays about the people of China. Introducing a theme of nascent energy, Fallows compares Japan's internalization of orderliness with China: “... China seems like a bunch of individuals who behave themselves only when they think they might get ...more
Garrett
Apr 27, 2013 Garrett rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book as Fallows does a great job exploring the complexities and contradictions of modern China. Most people, and I include myself, tend to think of China as one monolithic State where everything and everyone is very similar. Nothing could be further from the truth. The variety of people and places in China is nearly limitless.

As a collection of essays, this book works very well. The essays included were originally published elsewhere and are now 5 years or older. However, t
...more
Haley
Jun 21, 2014 Haley rated it really liked it
Wonderful collection of stories of Fallows adventures of living in China. It certainly gives a view of China that is vulnerable, funny, and uncertain, all perceptions that I don't think most Americans would have of the country. It was good to see that while China is progressing in so many ways it is also experiencing all of the growing pains that can come with becoming one of the more powerful countries in the modern world. Also, a great perspective on how their history continually influences ...more
Qmmayer
Jan 23, 2013 Qmmayer rated it liked it
Decent read but overall forgettable, I have to say.
Santo
May 28, 2012 Santo rated it really liked it
Shelves: china-studies
I got James Fallow’s “Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China” on sale from a local bookstore in Pondok Indah. At Rp. 35.000, it was a bargain not to be missed. I actually have had my eyes on this book for some time. But somehow I had never found the right reason to buy yet another publication on China, especially when many of them have remained unread ‘til this very day.

In the end, I was happy with my purchase. It was worth all Rp. 35.000, and probably more. After reading just the fi
...more
Graham Mulligan
Nov 22, 2012 Graham Mulligan rated it liked it
Post Cards From Tomorrow Square; Reports From China.
James Fallows, 2009

Reviewed by Graham Mulligan

Fallows is the Atlantic Monthly correspondent for China. In his introduction to the book he categorizes some of the collection of essays as ‘policy’ oriented explorations of the tremendous variety of cultural developments that so frequently lead Western observers to take positions about ‘China’ as though it were one, indivisible reality. His portraits of individuals constitute another category and t
...more
Catherine Woodman
Jun 04, 2014 Catherine Woodman rated it really liked it


Fallows lived in China starting in 2007 and watched the nation ride the boom years upward, much as he had in Japan in the 1980's. His essays for The Atlantic magazine from that time are published here, back to back in the order that they were written to give the reader a sense of what the reader a sense of who were the early winners and losers on the roller coaster going uphill.


Fallows is neither simple in his approach to the rising giant, nor is he in awe of it. He addresses some of the things
...more
Kai Lukoff
Jun 07, 2009 Kai Lukoff rated it liked it
"Postcards" is promising, but ultimately not as rich as it could have been. Fallows is a good thinker and writer, whose analysis would benefit from more time in China, better Chinese, and a deeper understanding of economics.

The format of his book, a series of essays and vignettes, is lively and the topics are well-chosen. It suits Fallows' aim to combat the perception of China as "one big supercoordinated hive" (p. xvi).

He asks fascinating questions (some that I have wondered about myself):
--
...more
Steviano Tungka
Jul 21, 2015 Steviano Tungka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Penasaran ingin baca buku dalam bahasa aslinya. Soalnya dalam terjemahan Bahasa Indonesia, kualitas penerbitannya sendiri kurang baik, mulai dari masalah saduran bahasanya sampai pada masalah pengetikan sendiri. Terdapat banyak sekali typo. Mungkin ini yang membuat saya mendapati kopinya dalam deretan buku diskon :)

Dari isinya sendiri saya merasa ini adalah buku yang menarik. James Fallows berhasil mengajak pembaca masuk ke dalam dunia pengamatannya yang kaya wawasan tentang China. Latar belakan
...more
marcus miller
Dec 25, 2012 marcus miller rated it really liked it
Shelves: globalization, china
Most of these are essays written between 2006 and 2008 so some may be a bit dated, but Fallows provides excellent insight into the Chinese economy, culture, and process of development, along with thoughtful asides into the United States.
I was able to spend a month in China in 2005 so it brought back memories of the air pollution, the crazy traffic, the pride expressed in building things fast, the bullet train in Shanghai, and though Fallows doesn't mention it, the toilets, or lack of toilets. T
...more
Kay
May 16, 2014 Kay rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, china
This was the third book of contemporary essays on China that I've read recently, and it is by far my favorite so far. (The other two were Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present by Peter Hessler and China in Ten Words by Yu Hua.) Fallows journalistic training gives this book an edge and insight that the other two books, which seemed to me to be mired in personal circumstances, lacked.

Each of these essays appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, and while in the past I've been underwhe
...more
Jen
Mar 22, 2009 Jen rated it really liked it
This would be "the book I forced myself to read for book club that felt like homework for an econ class." And yet...I'm glad I read it, because I learned a lot about China that I didn't know before. I would never have picked it up on my own though, and I certainly doubt I'll ever read it again. It's already in the hands of my boss, who asked to borrow it, and then I'm giving it to my father-in-law, who is interested in both China and economics, so I'm guessing he'll be fascinated.

The book is a c
...more
Louise
Mar 31, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china
Here is a book that actually tells you (in a way you can understand) how China gets all those US dollars and how things actually work from the gambling industry in Macao to internet filtering nationwide.

Many westerners tend to think of China as a well oiled monolith. James Fallows debunks this. One example he gives is of the reservation of 3 places for people to protest during the Olympics. Everyone who applied for a permit to actually protest was arrested. He speculates that the top people were
...more
Liam
Aug 13, 2012 Liam rated it it was amazing
"I suspected before coming to China, and now know for sure, that no one can sensibly try to present the 'real story' or the 'overall picture' of this country. It is simply too big and too contradictory." (xiv)

"Lawrence Summers calls today's arrangement 'the balance of financial terror.' and says that it is flawed in the same way that the 'mutually reassured destruction' of the Cold War era was. ... China can't afford to stop feeding dollars to America, because China's own dollar holdings would b
...more
Amy
Feb 19, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
I like the book, I was a bit worried that it would be too dated, because in China something 4 years old is already dated! So I wasn't sure that it was all up to date, but I thought some of the essays were really good. I thought the one about Environmental stability was good - it was interesting to hear about the Broad company and their air conditioning, I then saw an article about them, and now they are into overall sustainable building - and you can find a video of them building a hotel in 360 ...more
Jeremy
Mar 31, 2009 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Originally written as a series of articles for The Atlantic Monthly, 'Postcards' offers snippets of modern Chinese life intended to provide the reader with a glimpse of the diversity of challenges and triumphs that the nation faces. Fallows does an excellent job of bringing the reader along on his journey into China. It's not a single smooth, seamless journey, but rather a series of excursions into different aspects of China, from the tale of a successful entrepreneur to the often dangerous ...more
Colin
Apr 19, 2009 Colin rated it it was ok
I wasn't too thrilled by James Fallows' book of essays on China. I've read a fair amount on China by Western authors in recent years and this was somewhat disappointing. Despite his entreaties that this piece doesn't encapsulate "all" of China, at the end of each essay, I was left with the feeling that Fallows was trying to tie all of this stuff into a bigger picture, mostly that China doesn't represent quite the rival many in the US believe it to be. This isn't so much a collection of essays ...more
craige
Oct 17, 2011 craige rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
My parents both just read this book and really liked it. There are even some sections highlighted by one of them. My mom loaned the book to Jeff, but when looking for a new book to start this morning, I grabbed it.

Fallows is a very easy writer to read and I have enjoyed reading his essays in The Atlantic for years. I also know that he's a good guy because my first job out of college was at US News & World Report where he was editor-in-chief at the time. The highlight of that job, for sure,
...more
Gary
Aug 08, 2010 Gary rated it liked it
Fallows has some interesting tales about his two years living in China, but it's not a travelogue. Instead it's a collection of pieces he wrote for The Atlantic. As a pretty regular reader of that periodical, I had seen most of these before, which made me enjoy the book less than I would have otherwise. Nevertheless, his chapters on the "Great Firewall of China" and the recurring themes of China's environmental catastrophe, a non-monolithic Chinese society, a great divide between rich and poor, ...more
Kathryn Bashaar
Nov 19, 2009 Kathryn Bashaar rated it really liked it
This book was both entertaining and enlightening. The chapter about how the Chinese government blocks internet content was especially interesting. I also like the point Fallows made that China has plenty of problems of its own to address, but America's problems are not China's fault, and we need to get our own house in order if we want to remain an economic force in the world. An excellent book; I would recommend it to anyone who wants to really understand more about China, as opposed to ...more
Liz
May 16, 2013 Liz rated it really liked it
An interesting cross-section of modern China investigating themes of censorship, technology, manufacturing, employment culture, and innovation, this book is a non-fiction account of Chinese-American relations circa 2009. I liked Fallows' ability to remain objective to both countries' strategies while evaluating pros and cons, while still maintaining an Ameri-centric voice. This book was a bit dry at times, but I appreciated the insight into modern China given its promising developments as well ...more
Sofia
Jul 06, 2011 Sofia rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, asia
I knew as I was going to like this book, as China is a topic I'm very interested in. But I ended up finding most of the articles that comprise it absolutely fascinating (and the rest are pretty good too). Fallows is a very smart writer who doesn't simply report but also analyses his subjects. Said subjects range from expat living, internet censorship, and factory life, to environmental issues, local government and a lot more. Regardless of how many books you've read on China and your level of ...more
Phil
Jun 14, 2009 Phil rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the economic and social development of China today.
Shelves: china
Went to China two years ago - still trying to understand it.

Fallows book is a collection of a dozen essays from the Atlantic Monthly, written while living there from 2006 to 2008. The essays address cultural and economic themes - internet censorship, pollution, the development of gaming in Macau, etc. While written for the magazine articles, the author probably saw a book in the future and plannaed accordingly - the material flows well.

Easy reading style, enough statistics to make the point with
...more
Pat
Sep 25, 2009 Pat rated it it was amazing
I've been reading a lot of books - non-fiction - aboout China recently because the current China fascinates me. This is one of the better ones that I have read. It is a series of essays that were published in Atlantic magazine as they were written in 2005 - 2008 up to, but not including the Beijing Olympics. It's certainly an outsider's perspective of current Chinese culture, but an informed outsider. Quite good!
Angela
Feb 09, 2009 Angela rated it really liked it
I admire James Fallows from his work in "The Atlantic" and this book, while it's only a collection of those Atlantic articles, didn't disappoint. Fallows presents his impressions of China with insight *and* humility, which highlights the vastness of the place and highlights the complexity of the system, a "civilization" rather than a country... It's time we all understood more about it, and this is a great place to start.
Matt
Apr 27, 2015 Matt rated it it was ok
The author admits in Chapter 1 that he doesn't speak Chinese. It's a damning admission for anyone who wants to understand (or explain) China. I admire James Fallows for his honesty, belief in American values, and compassion towards China. But I have difficulty recommending a book that can't access Chinese people, blogs, TV shows, movies etc. unmediated. Written in 2008, it hasn't aged that well—stick with Evan Osnos instead.
Tricia
Sep 10, 2016 Tricia rated it liked it
Shelves: china
Written accounts of an American journalist in China from 2006-2008. Especially interesting after reading Wild Swans and wanting more insight on current China and the aftermath of all of the events described in that book. Fallows writes with an economic/political point of view. He covers topics such as the Chinese Internet Firewall, China's investment in US Treasury Bonds, environmental issues, and entrepreneurial efforts by Chinese citizens.
Mara
Feb 18, 2009 Mara rated it really liked it
Before and since my visit to China, I've found this vast and ancient country of contrasts extremely intriguing. This compilation of "reports" on a variety of aspects of modern China provided a well-balanced overview of the challenges, mis-perceptions, and opportunities associated with China's scale and massive growth/development surge. The implications for the world and the role we all play was a consistent message that linked the topics and proved both moving and motivating.
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