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Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  732 ratings  ·  82 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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Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 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changing so fast that attempts to summarize what's happening there not only inevitably obscure the facts, but are also out-of-date nearly as soon as they're printed.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 t ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
I have to say this was pretty disappointing. I love reading about China more than most, and this was not the strongest collection. This book is a collation of essays written by Fallows for The Atlantic Monthly from summer 2006 to summer 2008, when he and his wife moved to China. One of the first things to mention is that it is pretty dated - pre-Beijing 2008 China feels like a very different place from China in 2017, and it shows in these essays.

My main issues with these essays/articles was the
Rebecca Martin
Feb 01, 2012 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
Apr 16, 2011 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 caught. ...more
Kai Lukoff
May 31, 2009 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):
Apr 15, 2013 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
Kathryn Bashaar
Mar 27, 2009 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 substit ...more
May 14, 2014 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 ma ...more
Anne Pytlak
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Some interesting essays here that give a good insight into China and the Chinese, as told from an American's perspective. I especially recommend reading the environmental policies chapter.

The chapter about the distrust of the Japanese is also eye-opening, and becomes ever more worrisome as current news coverage shows conflict re: islands in the South China Sea.

China continues to grow at a breakneck pace, so unfortunately the book is already outdated in many regards.
Sami Thomas
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In his book Postcards from Tomorrow Square, Fallows provides a commentary on China’s current and future reality, through a series of portraits of many people across society. Fallows presents the reader with “postcards” of these particular individuals and the “modern roles” they play in their community. Fallows tackles one overarching question throughout the entire book, “what will China dream of as its dreams of money begin to be realized?”(39) The answer to this question, as developed through F ...more
May 28, 2012 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
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019, china
I remember reading Fallow's essays in the Atlantic on China the year I graduated high school. These essays along with many other influences stoked a deep desire to go to China. The future seemed to be happening there.

I still haven't made it to China but when I saw this book in the dollar bin at a used bookstore I bought it as much for the nostalgia as for the essays which is a good thing because the essays are disappointing. The biggest reason to read this book is to get a snapshot of American
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Just ok. China is changing so fast that we can't read 10-year-old journalism and claim to have that much relevant knowledge. But if you didn't know about their astonishing industry (more manufacturing workers in Guangdong than all of the US by 2007) or their horrendously serious reality shows, or their super-rich (including the usual eco-friendly super-rich) then it might update you.

I was surprised that Fallows is so eminent without having even much spoken Mandarin, but he's immersed in other w
Lona Manning
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed reading this because he had many of the same reactions and observations that I've had while living in China. Also, an in-depth discussion of China's factories in their social and economic context; in other words, not just dismissing them as sweatshops that churn out junk.
Frank Chen
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this in 2017, and some of the Big Questions James asks are still the Big Questions about China. Very thought provoking, clearly written, and smart book about China based on his personal expeience living there for years.
Graham Mulligan
Nov 22, 2012 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
Catherine Woodman
May 13, 2014 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
marcus miller
Dec 18, 2012 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
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, nonfiction
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
Feb 23, 2009 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
Aug 11, 2012 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
Mar 31, 2013 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
Jul 15, 2011 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
Mar 24, 2009 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 fact ...more
Apr 19, 2009 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 ab ...more
Mar 07, 2011 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, was
Aug 30, 2009 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
Jun 14, 2009 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
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, non-fiction
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 in ...more
May 16, 2013 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 a ...more
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