Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives i n a Fast-Changing Land

Angilee Shah, Editor, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Editor, Pankaj Mishra, Foreword by
Edited by Angilee Shah and Jeffrey Wasserstrom. Univ. of California, $24.95 trade paper (244p) ISBN 978-0-520-27027-5
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Hardcover - 244 pages - 978-0-520-27026-8
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-283-54325-5
Open Ebook - 244 pages - 978-0-520-95413-7
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Edited by UC-Irvine history professor Wasserstrom (China in the 21st Century) and journalist Shah, this anthology chronicles the difficulties and contradictions faced by Chinese citizens, as well as emerging opportunities. As Shah notes in her afterword, “Oversimplified views, which too often pit Communist Party loyalists against a few famous dissidents, have done much to fuel cartoonish understandings of China.” The reality is far more complex, and in providing 15 essays by different authors, the book shows citizens (and foreigners) of all ages adjusting to the rapidly modernizing country, working both in cautious tandem with, and against, the single-party government. With the rise of the middle class, the prevalence of migrant labor, and a measure of independence from government control of private life, citizens are seizing strange new opportunities: bringing rock guitar to the Chinese masses, starting a rental car business, or simply floating from job to job. However, problems abound: racial tensions between the Uyghurs and Han Chinese simmer; activists reveal the hidden environmental costs of massive government works projects; and children spend every minute of their days on schoolwork. The essays cover a panoply of issues facing modern China, and the book’s combination of scope and intimacy is central to its achievement. (Sept.)
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