30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
The China You Already Knew,
This review is from: Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future (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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Initial post: Aug 15, 2011 11:01:22 AM PDT
B. michael Payne says:
It all has to do with the Wu: Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Scocca's a much buzz-ier writer than those you mentioned.
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