China—Getting Rich First: A Modern Social History

Duncan Hewitt, Author . Pegasus $30 (454p) ISBN 978-1-933648-47-7

The stupendous scale and breakneck pace of China’s modernization, compressing into a few decades changes that took the West centuries to complete, is one of the great stories of our time. Newsweek correspondent Hewitt, a China hand since the 1980s, surveys the social fallout of this economic boom from many angles: the “me generation” of pampered only children alarming parents with crazy hairstyles and pop-culture fads; the new sexual mores of casual hookups and premarital cohabitation; the avant-garde assault on traditional values (one Beijing performance artist caused a stir by grilling and eating a human embryo). Alternately promoting and punishing these developments, he observes, is an uneasy Communist Party, its socialist rhetoric belied by its corrupt collusion with landlords and factory bosses. The author’s sympathetic profiles of winners and losers comprise a panorama of the new China, from the nouveau riche craze for upscale home furnishings to the precarious “floating” existence of dispossessed migrant workers and the gnawing status anxieties of middle-class strivers. Hewitt’s broad experience, vivid reportage and canny insights make this one of the best of the many recent guides to China’s upheaval. Photos. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2008
Release date: 06/01/2008
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Paperback - 454 pages - 978-1-60598-061-4
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