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Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future Paperback – July 3, 2012
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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Blindingly brilliant insights . . . Scocca writes with grace, texture, nuance, wisdom, and wit. Don’t skim this book, savor it.” — Gene Weingarten
“Wry [and] knowing . . . Beijing Welcomes You is a street-level introduction to a city that’s at once the world’s center and its back office, a place where you can feel ‘on the top of the pile and on the bottom, all at once.’” — The Christian Science Monitor
“Lively . . . [Scocca] has a keen eye for the oddities with which Beijing is abundantly endowed.” — The Washington Post
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
I bought "Beijing Welcomes You" before traveling to Beijing for work in late 2011, and read it on the plane over to Beijing and on my Kindle while traveling on the Beijing subway. I found it both echoed and expanded my own sense of what Beijing was. If you're not familiar with Beijing and/or are uninterested in Chinese culture, you'd probably enjoy it less than I did, although it was still an interesting read, and Scocca's prose is eminently readable without feeling dumbed-down.
But the book is not a guidebook, and in fact can probably be best appreciated by readers who themselves have had to breathe Beijing's thickly polluted air and crawl through its traffic. But what the book does provide--something that's very rare in travel writing--is a cross-section across time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you are going to Beijing, or anywhere in China, buy this book. As a caucasian american traveling to Beijing, his experiences were true to my own. Read morePublished on September 8, 2013 by N8
Perhaps I read a different book than most of the other reviewers, but I only wish I could get my wasted time back. The writing is abysmal and the content inane. Read morePublished on January 22, 2013 by D. Connor
As a frequent visitor to Beijing- a city I love- some of this is a bit familiar. On the other hand, much of it is not. Read morePublished on March 3, 2012 by Todd M. Steed
Having visited China for the first time in the spring of 2011, with most of the days of my visit in Beijing, and having been very impressed by the modernity of the city and the... Read morePublished on September 20, 2011 by avid reader
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... Read morePublished on August 22, 2011 by Forrest L. Norvell
I was disappointed in this book,especially as to the attitude I feel the author brings to the subject. Read morePublished on August 15, 2011 by Leesburg, VA