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

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

Evan Osnos. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (416p) ISBN 978-0-374-28074-1

Two potent, antagonistic forces—a swelling individualism and a political structure intent on controlling it—shape a rising superpower in this revealing journalistic portrait. New Yorker staff writer Osnos, the magazine’s former Beijing correspondent, hangs his panorama on vivid first-hand profiles of artists, writers, editors, economists, Internet dating entrepreneurs, conservative nationalists, liberal students, and dissidents, including imprisoned Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and exiled lawyer-activist Chen Guangcheng. Through their stories, he depicts a people navigating a dizzying shift from socialist austerity, conformity, and idealism to capitalist materialism and self-promotion; it’s a society steeped in vehement dogmas—the author spies examples in everything from English-language instruction to tour-guide patter—but full of private doubt as they struggle to find fulfillment and social connection in a cutthroat market economy. At the center of his account is a shrewd analysis of the battle between an authoritarian, corrupt, and flagrantly privileged Communist Party and a burgeoning Internet-based culture of mockery and dissent, epitomized by an app that leaks secret government censorship rules as soon as they are decreed. Osnos combines scintillating reportage with an eye for telling ironies that illuminate broader trends; without downplaying the uniqueness of Chinese society, he makes its tensions feel achingly familiar for Western readers. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM. (May)