Age of Ambition

  • by Evan Osnos
  • Narrated by Evan Osnos, George Backman
  • 16 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A vibrant, colorful, and revelatory inner history of China during a moment of profound transformation.
From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy - or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don’t see is how both powerful and ordinary people are remaking their lives as their country dramatically changes.
As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control. He asks probing questions: Why does a government with more success lifting people from poverty than any civilization in history choose to put strict restraints on freedom of expression? Why do millions of young Chinese professionals - fluent in English and devoted to Western pop culture - consider themselves "angry youth", dedicated to resisting the West's influence? How are Chinese from all strata finding meaning after two decades of the relentless pursuit of wealth?
Writing with great narrative verve and a keen sense of irony, Osnos follows the moving stories of everyday people and reveals life in the new China to be a battleground between aspiration and authoritarianism, in which only one can prevail.


What the Critics Say

"Evan Osnos, Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker (2005-2010) has written an outstanding book covering the political, economic, and cultural aspects of China. Narrating his own work is a wonderful addition as his command of Mandarin and in-depth knowledge of the country are apparent. Observations and interviews are crisp and timely whether the subject is a billionaire online matchmaker or the dissident Ai Wei Wei, who has many critical and pithy comments. Osnos's apt delivery of humor--both his own and Chinese--adds authenticity and fun. Most revealing are his observations during a European tour with a Chinese group. (He was the only non-Chinese person.) Osnos excels at getting people to open up; he then adds luster with his spirited delivery of their thoughts." (AudioFile)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

16% of popoulation on internet is more then any

other country.
China's population is so large it is hard for us to really grasp it. At one point only 16 % of China's population was on the internet, but that was more people on the internet, then any other country. It boggles the mind. I have never been to China, so this review, is from a typical American who knows very little going in. The rating is based on how well the book held my attention.

This book concentrates on the well to do in China, which is a very small percentage of the population. It also focuses on about four dissidents and how they get the message to the people. I learned a lot about the China of today and the struggles to live there. The pressure to get your kids into University, to then get a government job and the difficulty in being successful. You also have to make sure to not be too successful or the government will take it away from you and throw you in jail. A government job is the best way to make money, which is usually through bribes, which are illegal, but expected by everybody. The internet, TV and literature are all restricted and the restrictions change daily. The schools are very regimented and have no room for creativity. The government wants to offer more freedoms, but fear the lose of power more. In this day of technology they are finding it harder and harder to hide things from the general public.

China has an older population that has lived under this government all there lives and know no other way. Yet, when hundreds of kids are killed in an earthquake, because the buildings were built with substandard materials, cause those in charge had the money for the right materials, but bought substandard materials and pocketed the change, then even they can be riled. It is the job of the dissidents to get the message out, under threat of jail or there lives. It is always interesting to see how others see us. They don't understand our problem with how they treat the Tibetans, to them they are a backward people and they are not treated any worse then Native American Indians.

The book was very interesting. I am glad I purchased it. I feel I learned a lot. There are times when, for me, a layman, that it gets a little dry and feels as if Osnos has hammered in the message to the point of boredom. For impatient me, it was a little long in places. I normally listen to Science Fiction or Horror, so I may be a little harder on the book then others. Do not get me wrong, I recommend the book. If you have any interest at all, you should get it. This is a country, which has the ability and manpower to become number one in the world, to explore the universe, cure diseases, come up with new inventions, etc..., I believe everyone should be interested.

I liked the narrator. Not knowing how to speak Chinese, I had no way of knowing that anything was mispronounced.
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- Jim "The Impatient" "My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books."

The Insider's Guide to Contemporary China!!

After living in China for four years I didn't think I would learn much from this book, boy was I wrong!

As a journalist with insider access and as a long-time China hand, Evan Osnos is uniquely qualified to share his insights on what is fast becoming the world's most dynamic country. In this work, he provides striking insights from personal interviews conducted with Chinese from all walks of life, from movers and shakers in China, like Hu Shuli, Han Han, Ai Weiwei and Li Yang, to more obscure individuals, such as nationalistic doctoral students, corrupt officials and aspiring poets moonlightling as street sweepers. At the same time, Osnos brings the listener up to date on most of the major events in China over the past 5 years and makes a solid analysis of why the country has thus far not complied with Western expectations of Democratic reform.

For me, learning more about well-known figures like Han Han and AI Weiwei was a treat. In China, one could frequently hear conversations about Ai's conviction or Han's latest post, but rarely could I find a local who knew much else about the disidents themselves. I had no idea that Ai became a disident after the government corruption revealed by the Sichuan earthquake I was also pleased to be introduced to some I had never heard about on campus such as the editor of Caixin Hu Shuli. Now I know one more source of Chinese news when I don't feel like reading propaganda.

It was also nice to get caught up on current events, I used to watch Chinese news every night, but only had a partial picture of what was actually going on due to censorship. Osnos filled me in on all the details I missed from the Tibet protests in 2007 to the fall of Bo Xilai last year.

The Narrator for most of the book (which is not Osnos!) is a wonderful reader, but I can only give him 4 stars due to his unreliable Mandarin pronunciation. True, he's lightyears beyond most narrators on Audible when pronouncing Chinese propper nouns but he tended to botch the phrases throughout the book. He also didn't do well with some of the names of major characters, such as his annoying habit of pronouncing Han Han as Haan Haan. This could have been overlooked if only Han wasn't mentioned multiple times every chapter. In short, if you are a fluent Mandarin speaker this narrator's occasional mistakes may bother you a little, but otherwise he was a fantastic choice for this production.
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- Jeff

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-13-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios