What’s happening in China now? Evan Osnos on the “Age of Ambition”

China is America’s primary challenger in many fields, including economic growth, science and technology, and political theory. Some would say China is America’s only challenger. What’s happening now in China? Can China’s growth continue, or is it heading for a fall? After eight years in China, Evan Osnos, staff writer for The New Yorker, has written a timely and revealing book about China titled Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China.

Osnos illuminates the current scene in China through the lives of its shakers and movers, including the defector from Taiwan who became the first Chinese selected as chief economist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. He describes the struggles of Chinese entrepreneurs to develop on-line dating websites and English-language training programs. He describes widespread corruption amidst rapid industrialization, the oppression of dissidents, and bureaucratic control and regulation of the internet.

He tells the stories of dissidents and resisters, unknown and little known, against the power of the Chinese state and Communist Party, as well as those accepting the Party’s offer of economic freedom in exchange for absolutist one-party government that attempts to control thoughts and ideas.

Osnos leaves his readers to draw their own conclusions about China’s future, but the picture he paints in not optimistic. A bureaucratic one-party state cannot both fight corruption and maintain its control. Too many people in China are too unhappy for the political system there to remain resistant to change.

Osnos left China in 2013 and published his book in 2014. His book should be read now, while it’s still fresh, by Americans who want and need to understand what’s happening now in the largest country in the world. China will certainly continue to change, and we can only hope that new accounts of change in China will emerge as insightful, interesting, and as well-written as this one.

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