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When Westerners think about China, they see unbridled authoritarianism, censorship, and propaganda used to control a diverse, dissatisfied population. They see the grow-at-any-cost mentality: corruption, factory sweatshops, pollution, lead-tainted toys, and massive infrastructure projects. But how do Chinese view themselves? Author Anand Giridharadas, who writes on global culture for The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, ventures to four of the country's largest cities, spending time with people across a range of professions. He discovers that many Chinese feel that the country has grown too quickly--centuries of progress in decades--and lost its roots in a massive money chase. Part narrative, part reporting, Chinese Dreams is contextually intelligent, exploring a country and people adrift between borrowed and inherited cultures. Voyeuristic and deeply nuanced, this well-written piece tells the stories of people trying both to hold on and to let go of their culture. --Paul Diamond
The author's conclusions pretty much match those that I formed while working in China over the past 25 years. While his seem to have been drawn from interactions mainly from the glamor crowd - writers, entrepreneurs, designers,etc - mine have been drawn from a more white and blue collar group - engineers, hourly workers, etc.
I agree with the book's conclusion that China's struggles and dreams are different and defy being stuck in a simplistic cubbyhole as we in the US tend to do. We should learn to work with them as their dreams develop and change, because their increasing power will necessitate working with them at least as equals in the near future. If we are dealing with them as we think they are rather than from their true stance, our successes will be fewer and our conflicts more bruising.
This gave me a different perspective on China, which I think is important in our increasingly globalized world. It's easy to think of the other people in other cultures as stereotypes.. I really appreciate this kind of insight since health matters will keep me from traveling to other countries to meet their citizens in person. The essay was well written and very engaging.
The author tells you up front he is basically ignoring all the negative aspects of China's current society. Including harsh labor conditions, terrible health conditions, pollution worse than any other nation, discrimination against minorities, massive widespread corruption. Author cites zero references when claiming to state facts. Seems he simply met with half a dozen people and then wrote a long journal entry passing these peoples feeling off as the shared views of the whole of under 40 Chinese people. A few, meaning, 3 good quotes or ideas from the whole book that is less than a 30 minute read.
His usual style and clarity at work here make Giridharadas's book an accessible window into currents in China at the time of his writing. A solid piece of reporting to help ground daily news reports in the long historical context of China.
I was a bit curious about Amazon's new project "Kindle Singles", and picked up a couple of titles from the singles list. This is really short that I spent just my lunch break to read it through, however, it is very nice reading which gave me an interesting view point for understanding present China.
Anand Giridharadas, an author and columnist for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times, traveled to China last summer to obtain a first hand view of the latest developments toward democracy there. He visited Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, and Ningbo, and spoke mainly to the young urban elite in a wide variety of industries, compiling their thoughts and his observations into this account. Giridharadas notes that a common theme among the people he interviewed is a concern that China may be developing far too quickly with an overemphasis on Western capitalism, as the country's older values and traditions are buried and forgotten. They express themselves politically and socially within the confines of the government and its censors, and their values and beliefs are uniquely their own, and not completely in line with the older generations, the Chinese government, or Western society. This was a very interesting document, which was short on analysis due to its short size, but a very worthy read nonetheless.