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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  4,036 Ratings  ·  481 Reviews
Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction finalist

Winner of the 2014 National Book Award in nonfiction

An Economist Best Book of 2014

Winner of the bronze medal for the Council on Foreign Relations’ 2015 Arthur Ross Book Award

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 nati
Hardcover, 403 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Mark Hiew
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china
This book, more so than any other I've read on China, best captures the country's current situation, challenges and contradictions. Osnos did a good job of weaving together the characters and themes that he explores--built around the triad of fortune, truth and faith--capturing the way that prosperity and development co-exist with political dissent and spiritual exploration.

I lived in China from 2007 to 2011 and, like many aspiring Western 'half-pats' in China, learned a great deal about my surr
Wei Liu
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Disappointed. Except the chapter of the writer's riding along with a group of Chinese for a guided tour in Europe (which is fresh and insightful), the rest stories are either unoriginal or plainly wrong (like the story about Han Han). In comparison, Peter Hessler's River Town and Oracle Bones are much more fun to read and amazingly insightful about China and Chinese, even for native Chinese like me.
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it

Missy J
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shenzhen landslide, December 2015
Shenzhen landslide, December 2015
Tianjin explosion, August 2015
Tianjin explosion, August 2015
Oriental Star Cruise Ship Disaster, June 2015
Oriental Star Cruise Ship Disaster, June 2015

There are a lot of China books out there. As China is a constantly changing country, I'm sometimes frustrated by how quickly outdated books become. However, if I had to recommend one book to a person, who is interested to learn about contemporary China, I think Osnos' Age of Ambition is the perfect recommendation.

He hits the nail about the Party and the stories he collected from the peopl
I don’t think anyone could argue that Evan Osnos wasn’t ambitious in this, his National Book Award-winning compendium of current Chinese political culture. Subtitled Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, this book extends and expands essays he’d already published in The New Yorker magazine and gives outsiders a glimpse into the confusion and mad, exciting reality that is China today.

Osnos covers a lot of ground and at the risk of appearing to be a ping-pong ball in the hands of a gi
Mal Warwick
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Age of Ambition won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2014, and no wonder. Nothing I’ve read about the rise of China for many years has immersed me so deeply into the texture of life in that country or more memorably portrayed its yawning contradictions.

Twenty years ago, the extraordinary husband-and-wife reporting team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn published China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power. Based on five years of work in China — they won the Pulitzer for
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Evan Osnos’s Age of Ambition is packed with detailed observations and curious facts that will edify anyone looking to learn about modern China’s domestic structure and growing role on the international stage. Osnos is a talented writer whose style can be described as “humanist nonfiction”––a series of interview-based narratives organized by theme and supported by ancillary research. It reminds of me George Packer’s exceptional book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, which is hav ...more
Dan McGrady
Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I've read so far on China. It helps you understand the odd dichotomy of big government and free market capitalism that exists there. Something that the vast majority of westerns including myself fail to really understand. That is not a simple topic to summarize but the author presented it - not as a rigid historical background - but as a mix of stories, biographies, of real fascinating people in China. Combining many of the articles the author has written for the New Yorker ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The last ten years of China is told by mostly telling the stories through second person accounts of people the author has interviewed. He tells the story with three different perspectives at play, China's phenomena growth, the corruption and intimidation the government uses, and the third perspective of what the author refers to as faith, by that he means a belief in tradition and a distrust in the system working fairly for the individual.

At first, I thought the author was giving too many second
Grady McCallie
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china
China is far too large and complex for a single book to take the full measure of the country. Instead, Age of Ambition explores three themes: economic changes; censorship; and personal values and ethics. Drawing on Osnos' eight years as a reporter based in China, the book follows a loosely chronological path, and the author does an amazing job weaving his themes around a score of characters - real people he got to know from different walks of life. Although I've read other books about China, alm ...more
Sep 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at contemporary China by a journalist who has spent over a decade living there. Documents the cultural changes of a country in great flux, and tells the story of national changes through individual narratives. I was especially taken with the stories of educated young Chinese nationalists, reviving traditional Eastern thought and insisting on a unique place for China in the world aloof from blind Westernization. This was interesting in the suggestion that "Third Worldism" is s ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Evan Osnos lived in China, specifically Beijing, from 2008 to 2013, covering the enormous changes in that nation as it embraces it own brand of capitalism (and the enormous implications, local and global, of those changes) for the New Yorker. I hadn't read any of Osnos's pieces for the magazine before picking up Age of Ambition, which just won this year's National Book Award, but I imagine much of this lengthy, impressively-reported portrait falls within the previously published category. Or, at ...more
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a book by a journalist with the New Yorker who has spent a lot of time in the new China. It appears to be a collection of stories that originally appeared elsewhere. The general themes consider the promise and reality of China in the new millenium and more broadly since the institution of market reforms in 1978. The result is a well written and fascinating view of China that should be required reading for those seeking to visit China and work there. The picture that emerges in these chap ...more
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos is one of the most recommended nonfiction books of 2014, and now I understand why. The book chronicles the lives of many people Osnos met while living in China from 2005-2013, from the famous to the not-so-famous, from the very rich to the very poor. What fascinated me most was how the one-party system worked in China, which tried to control everything, yet encouraged its people to prosper and even get rich. I think my favorite person Osnos profiled was Gong Hainan, ...more
Oct 23, 2014 rated it liked it
This book about modern China is both informative and entertaining. Mostly through the stories of many Chinese citizens he documents the tensions that exist is what is now a fascist totalitarian police state. The levels and extent of corruption is staggering. One example was wonderfully creative. The bureaucrats of the agency to enforce the one child policy law who seized the extra babies sold them abroad to adoption agencies. Their bosses had them prosecuted when they found the proceeds had not ...more
Lee Granas
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
This gave me a pretty solid understanding of the last 30 years in China and I learned a TON. It's impressive how he crossed paths with such influential characters in modern China. I wish it hadn't only focused on the famous and successful though, I am curious to know more about less well-known daily influences in China. Definitely worth reading though. Having just spent 3 weeks in China, I wish he had also talked more about superstition and ritual that grips China so deeply, compared to other co ...more
Scott Worden
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-china
This is a really informative and useful book that explains China's current state. Osnos interviews various people while living in China to get honest opinions of people who want to challenge the Communist system. You can get a sense that the power of the people will eventually take over the Communist corruption and the government's attempts to keep the people's freedoms limited.
Daniel Simmons
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The single best book I have read about modern China. Its widely ranging synthesis of stories big and small (from the voices of top Party officials to online dissidents to poetry-loving street sweepers) often reminded me of David Remnick's journalistic surveys of the Soviet Union and Russia. Incredible tales, credibly told.
Pyoungsung Choi
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
오늘의 중국을 가장 적나라하게 보여주는 책이다. 자본주의 국가들보다 더 극적으로 삶을 바꿀 수 있는 기회의 땅이기도 하면서, 동시에 수많은 문제들을 통제와 억압으로 덮으려는 권력 앞에 무기력해지는 개인들이 살고 있는 현실이 소설처럼 펼쳐진다. 중국을 이해하는데 정말 큰 도움이 될 책이다. 정말 재미있게 읽었다.
Christine Yen
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Love the use of texts broadcasting newly-censored terms to punctuate politically relevant events.
Joseph Stieb
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really great audiobook about modern China. It brings across in big and small ways how quickly and dramatically the world's largest country is changing. Osnos is a New Yorker writer who lived in China for almost a decade, and he has a great feel for the country. There are excellent chapters on corruption, dating, the media, censorship, learning English, and commercialism. He shows how many Chinese people have achieved material wealth but are still looking for meaning, equality, and a chance for i ...more
Shirley Miao
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Growing up in a Western liberal democracy, I held my Chinese heritage in contempt. I didn't understand my parents' generation, who lived through the tail end of the Cultural Revolution and eventually left China in the late 1990s to pursue better lives. I saw in them the remnants of attitudes birthed in the era of Communist rule: a scarcity mindset, collectivist attitudes.

Thankfully, with time, I lost my disdain for my parents' culture. I didn't come much closer to understanding it until I read
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: being-open
Wonderful wonderful book!

The book contains far more than its title promises. The author has done an expansive amount of ground research by interviewing lots of people over a long period of time, on subjects, incidents, movements that shape the new China. Due to his special role as a foreign correspondent, he probably could receive juicy bits from both government officials and common people. I read it like a documentary.
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Focuses on the source of China's energy: its people. Common folk and plutocrats, the latter including some of the worlds most dedicated thieves; some holding public office; some both. Stories of the "get rich first crowd" with their "barehanded fortunes", like Cheung Yan, the Queen of Trash, the richest self-made woman in the world in 2006 based on importing trash from the USA, and converting it into cardboard to package goods sold back to America.

So many other adventures. A poignant story of Ju
Author Osnos' theme is expressed right up front on page 5: "The Party no longer promises equality or an end to toil. It promises only prosperity, pride and strength." The remainder of the book elaborates upon this theme chronicling historically how China's Communist Party evolved to this point in order to stay in power, telling the stories of a variety of individuals who have bought into this scenario (or not), or who have remained constant in their desire for a more democratic society (or not), ...more
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, asian
A hard but ultimately hopeful look at the political and cultural challenges China faces.

Osnos, as a journalist, tells the story of new China through the story of its citizenry: the blind lawyer, the activist-artists, the journalist, the casino owner; while I had a little trouble keeping track of who was who, the focus on personal stories allows Osnos's portrait of China's environment both great depth and breath. Osnos also takes care to weave the themes of each story together; the narrative he
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is China described through the lens of its mad-cap growth through the late 1990s through the 2000s. Evan Osnos gave an excellent interview with the Sinica podcast in which he says the writer who most helped him understand China was Mark Twain - the comparison with America is inevitable but what is interesting is to consider what stage of American history to compare contemporary China to. The choice of the early 1900s is, I think, correct - there is a real sense of the enormous potential and ...more
I went into this book knowing nothing about China other than one school Geography project 7 years ago that barely covered the One Child Policy and where the Great Wall of China was. China is largely a mystery to me, and to a lot of people in Europe I feel. This book proved quite a good starting point to understanding China outside of the standard facts that everyone knows. It covers so many different aspects of life in China, encompassing "fortune, truth and faith" as the tag line suggests. Osno ...more
Willy Xiao
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Nothing groundbreaking.

But for Americans who are trying to understand China today, this book provides quite a few fair reflections: Foxconn suicides aren't all about "sweatshop" labor, in studies of Chinese people and anecdotes of Macao casinos Chinese people seem to gamble and take risks a lot more than Americans, public censors/50 cent party/propoganda is even worse than most Americans might realize (but it doesn't quite fool a public probably best described as apathetic), and the Internet is
Kevin English
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asia
This book is a glimpse into modern China by a journalist who lived in China for 10 years, learned Chinese and spent time building relationship with different type of people in the country. Anybody who is interested in modern China should read this book now. Read it before it is outdated in a few years.

After having a few weeks to digest this book, I have a small criticism. The book focuses in on activism, journalism, corruption, censorship and the rapid transformation that is occurring in a very
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Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008. He is a correspondent in Washington, D.C. who writes about politics and foreign affairs. He is the author of "Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, May 2014). Based on eight years of living in Beijing, the book traces the rise of the individual in China, and the clash between as ...more
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“To survive in China you must reveal nothing to others. Or it could be used against you … That’s why I’ve come to think the deepest part of the self is best left unclear. Like mist and clouds in a Chinese landscape painting, hide the private part behind your social persona. Let your public self be like rice in a dinner: bland and inconspicuous, taking on the flavors of its surroundings while giving off no flavor of its own.” 7 likes
“Hope is like a path in the countryside: originally there was no path, but once people begin to pass, a way appears.” 7 likes
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