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Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future Hardcover – August 4, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (August 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487847
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487842
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011: Beijing Welcomes You is a portrait of the future. The city of Beijing embodies China's rise as a political and cultural superpower, and during his stay from 2004 to 2010, Tom Scocca attempts to make sense of Beijing as it modernizes at a dizzying pace. He converses with architects, athletes, and artists, but Scocca is at his best when he's discussing the 2008 Olympics--China's boldest push yet for national identity and international recognition. Scocca isn't interested in generalizations, and, in fact, takes great pleasure dismantling them (on the stereotype that China is tradition-bound: "A thirty-year-old Chinese citizen has seen more disruption and change than a sixty-two-year-old American has; a sixty-year-old Chinese citizen has seen more than a two-hundred-year-old American would have"), while his personal experiences give a human touch to his often unflattering sociological analyses. But Scocca knows when to defer to the real star of the book, Beijing itself. It's a constantly changing, overwhelming city that may be the strongest signal of things to come, not just in China but all over the world. --Kevin Nguyen


"A brilliant cultural study written in a surprisingly poetic style, this is highly recommended to all interested readers." - Library Journal

"Equal-opportunity irreverence"... "A spirited portrayal of an old metropolis being turned inside out"... "Brought both Twain and Dave Barry to mind." -

"A very good book"... "[Scocca] has a keen eye for the oddities with which Beijing is abundantly endowed." - The Washington Post

"Excels at straddling the line between the personal and sociopolitical." - Publishers Weekly

"Tracking his experience on the dual planes of resident and journalist, Scocca explodes the dichotomous East-vs.-West narrative that's endemic to reports from China." - The Onion A.V. Club

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Customer Reviews

I only gave it one star because I couldn't give it zero.
D. Connor
Scocca's book sounded like just what I was looking for--something informative but fun to read--and it did not disappoint.
avid reader
If you are going to Beijing, or anywhere in China, buy this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Tiger CK on August 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Journalist Tom Scocca spent several years in Beijing prior to the 2008 Olympics and wrote about his observations in this book. He is a fairly good writer and parts of the book make for a moderately entertaining read. But he really doesn't tell us very much about Beijing that is interesting or surprising. Often, Scocca only seems to be scratching the surface of the events and people that he describes without getting at their deeper cultural and historical roots.

Many of Socca's observations are the kinds of things that any tourist who has been to Beijing would notice. He begins by telling us that the "first important fact to know about China is that it has a lot of Chinese people." No, really!?! And here I thought that the capitol city of the most populous nation in the world was virtually empty. He also spends a lot of time talking about the basic architecture of Beijing, pollution and other things that anybody who has spent even a short time in China would be familiar with.

I have nothing against Scocca. He didn't say anything that was outright wrong or offensive. But he doesn't quite have his finger on the pulse of Chinese society to the same degree that Peter Hessler (River Town, Oracle Bones, Country Driving) or, to a lesser degree, Robert Gifford (China Road) and Simon Winchester (The Man Who Loved China) do. If you want to read a journalistic account of social change in contemporary Chinese society I would recommend one of those books over Scocca's.

"Beijing Welcomes You" isn't a bad read. I wonder why Amazon made it a "Book of the Month" over Ezra Vogel's forthcoming biography of Deng Xiaoping and Aaron Friedberg's recent "A Contest for Supremacy," however. Both of these promise to be considerably more insightful and more likely to teach us something about China's rise that we didn't know already.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Scott McMaster on January 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I always enjoy Tom Scocca's writing on Slate. But not this.

If you want to hear a long list of complaints about life in Beijing, this is your book. Yeah, there is a bureaucracy you have to deal with as an expat, they make it annoying to keep your visa, there is constant construction noise, debris, and garbage, etc. etc. Scocca seems to mention the air pollution on virtually every page. And while he is perhaps understandably bitter about how the pollution triggered his infant son's asthma, that doesn't necessarily make for the best reading at times.

And while this book is very recently published, its focus on the run-up to the 2008 Olympics makes it feel already-dated. All of Pete Hessler's books are more relevant. If you want to actually learn something about China, read those. Or Rob Gifford's.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By JSE on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
You can read news articles about China, its politics, and its economy every day, but if you want to get a real sense of what's going on there you need to read Tom Scocca's outstanding _Beijing Welcomes You_. Scocca's book gives you the nitty gritty of everyday life in Beijing as the 2008 Olympics approached and the city turned itself inside out. Scocca has a novelist's power of description and a stand-up comic's eye for the absurd detail. And he's not afraid to ask the tough questions to the leader of a dance squad trying (with hilariously mixed success) to bring Western-style cheerleading to Chinese sports, or to the artist whose lifetime of creative work is overshadowed by the Olympic mascots he designed. Not the ordinary travel book, not an ordinary writer. Highly recommended.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Forrest L. Norvell on August 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anybody looking for an in-depth, meaty factual holograph of Beijing in the early 21st century should probably exit through the gift shop right now; that's not really what Scocca's all about. Nor is he interested in pure memoir - his family, particularly the birth of his son Mac, are an integral part of the book, but the main character is Beijing, its inhabitants, and officials. And this isn't really a story, or a travelogue, or even a piece of straightforward journalism.

What it is, is an entertaining and measured take on a certain place at a certain time. Scocca takes on Beijing from the point of view of someone who lives there - harried, exasperated, occasionally deeply fond, but someone trying to get places and do things rather than just looking around. His take on the city and the people around him is a kind of scrupulously rigorous subjectivity that I associate with the best kind of journalism. When he tackles the knotty subject of the crackdown in Lhasa that preceded the Olympics he's careful to document just how divergent the Chinese and Western points of view were; when he writes about the unpremeditated outpouring of grief that followed the terrible earthquake in Sichuan shortly afterwards, his portrayal is sympathetic and moving. When he talks to the various press secretaries, coaches, artists, dance team coaches, athletes, weather engineers, and other members of China's official apparatus during the run up to the Olympics, he comes across as skeptical but friendly - willing to put across the official line while pointing out the inevitable confrontations with reality that result. Also, Scocca is (at least in part) a sportswriter, and the writing about the actual sports events leading up to and comprising the Olympics is always entertaining.
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