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

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  7,855 ratings  ·  810 reviews
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 correspo
Hardcover, 403 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Nathan China in Ten Words by Yu Hua. It's about him growing up and living in China in the 1970's-1990's, but it's a similar personal historical biography. …moreChina in Ten Words by Yu Hua. It's about him growing up and living in China in the 1970's-1990's, but it's a similar personal historical biography. (less)

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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
Mikey B.
This is a highly interesting account of China at the beginning of the 21st century. The author probes many different aspects, ways of life, and the inhabitants of this large, complex country. What comes through on every page is the extraordinary changes that have occurred in China. Thirty years before this book was written the main concern for most people was getting food on the table. Now they are buying cars, using high-speed rail, educating their children at university (sometimes outside Chin ...more
Missy J
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 As China is a constantly changing country, I'm sometimes frustrated by how quickly outdated books become.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
Woman Reading
4.5 ☆
"Let some people get rich first and gradually all the people can get rich together." - Chairman Deng Xiaoping 1979

That's what kickstarted China's economic reforms, according to the revisionist Communist Party historians. In reality, the shift from a planned economy to capitalism began in the winter of 1978-79 because farmers in the inland village of Xiaogang had designated illicit plots, from which they agreed that produce could be sold for private profit. They dared because Chairman Mao Z
Judith E
Jun 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, china
Now you have no excuse not to know what is really happening in modern China. Author Osnos unveils an energized, powerful, bursting at the seams China. In the 80’s, Party leader Deng Xiaoping permitted private enterprise creating an economy that changed China society into an urban, “free wheeling” machine, while the Party remained totalitarian. It’s a study in contradictions because along with the prosperity of full bellies, high speed trains, and the hammering force of the internet came corrupti ...more
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. ...more
Mario the lone bookwolf
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 0-humanities
Without permanent technology leadership, the West will have to leave the top podium

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Astonishing is the monopoly position of China in the discipline to kick back as a world power for a second time on the international stage within millennials. A hitherto unique event in history from which the Chinese have learned. Thus, it is unlikely that the entire container ship fleet will be sunk, all boa
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
Oleksandr Zholud
This is a non-fic about what is happening in modern China based on the author’s extensive coverage of the country. I read is as a part of monthly reading for March 2021 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

I think it is extremely hard to make a snapshoot of a country, after all we people usually see ourselves as unique, and here is the state with 1.1 bn individuals! As Evan Osnos wrote (rephrasing) “How much did individual stories really tell us about China? The hardest part about writing from China
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
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
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fic
Let's write a summary of the book's main points: China is growing fast, but many people are discontent with the the lack of freedom. One single party system is inherently problematic much worse than democracy, so is facing crises. The country is overwhelmed with terrible terrible corruptions, and there is great inequality.

OK that's it, perfect fit for Western audience, a confirmation of their long suspected idea from an award winning author spending 8 years in China and does speak Chinese decen
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was so well written and very interesting. I did not all that much about modern China--Osnos has a gift for exploring some of the tensions in the culture. His access to some of the people he profiles is remarkable. This is well worth the read.
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
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I look at China’s meteoric rise in the past four decades with contradictory emotions. I admire the way they execute massive infrastructural projects like highways, bridges and high-speed rail at a rapid pace. I admire the way they have risen to the No.2 position in the world in just four decades. I have always wondered how they produce goods at such low prices that even poorer Asian countries cannot compete with them. On the other hand, I fear their military build-up and attempts to hegemonize i ...more
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
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
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
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
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
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I heard about this book on Fareed Zakaria and I was intrigued! I know little about Chinese history, modern or ancient, and had wanted to gain more knowledge. This book is broad sweeping in scope but also very personal in depth. The journalist who wrote it deals with Chinese modern history by explaining how the systemic changes the nation underwent as they touched the lives of every day people. I listened to this on audible and it was read very well.
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the most memorable books I’ve come across in a long time!
‘But in the China that I encountered, the national narrative, once an ensemble performance, is splintering into a billion stories—stories of flesh and blood, of idiosyncrasies and solitary struggles. It is a time when the ties between the world’s two most powerful countries, China and the United States, can be tested by the aspirations of a lone peasant lawyer who chose the day and the hour in which to alter his fate. It is the age
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
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
May 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
I planned to read this book three years ago, the last time when I visited China. I did not finish, maybe because it is really not a captivating book in any sense.

This book is quite disappointing to me. It caters to western readers, especially the intellectual or social elites. It reads like a McKinsey report written on the topics of some anti-China websites . Even though Osnos had lived in China for quite some time, it seems to me he never really understood China. He portrayed China from a clich
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Evan Osnos was based in China from 2005 to 2013, working for the New Yorker magazine and the Chicago Tribune. This book especially resonated with me, having lived there myself from 2005 to 2009, living through some of the events he covers such as the Sichuan earthquake, the Olympics and milk formula poisonings. As well as being a bit of a nostalgia trip for me, I found many of his observations about life in China and the Chinese people really hit the mark.

Age of Ambition is subtitled Chasing For
Aug 19, 2021 rated it liked it
This book did and did not align with my experiences in China. More of the later, which puzzled me until I was able to sort it out.

Evan follows the lives of six Chinese citizens: a sculptor, an artist, an economist, two English teachers, and a journalist/publicist. Once introduced the book circles back to their experiences. Interwoven are the events in China during the eras from Deng Xiaopeng to Hu Jintao. We read about the opening of China’s economy and the opportunities created leading to both
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hd, 2019
Really great book showcasing life in China for many different types of people in the past few decades. Osnos does a great job balancing Chinese vs Western values and perspectives, which is valuable. This book gave a lot of insight into the experiences of Chinese people as they work to follow their dreams, I really enjoyed seeing how the thought process of Chinese people in these situations differs from my own and thinking about what that says about the country. Each of these chapters reads like ...more
Sep 06, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
This is the kind of book -- general nonfiction, written in a polished journalistic prose that is not unclear or unpleasant but that invariably goes on too long and occasionally indulges in unfortunate attempts at lyricism, with a lot of interesting information but also excessive anecdotes -- that I quickly skim so as to keep its smalltime benefits outweighing the costs of reading it. In other words, this kind of book (über long-form journalism) is not generally what I like to spend much reading ...more
Aug 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
This took me such a long time to finish. Each chapter covers a different dimension of China, but the fact that I agree with and have experience most of the things written in this book made it tough to get through. The rise of China is a phenomenon that continuously updates itself, so even a book written in 2014 seems like it has fallen behind.
Sep 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed it, primarily for the stories of people in China: journalists, bloggers, politicians, entrepreneurs, economists, defectors, loyalists and many more. The stories are much more diverse than you usually find in articles about China in American media - you can tell that the author had lived in the country for many years.
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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 aspira ...more

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