The US National Book Award for non-fiction last month was awarded to Evan Osnos for “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China.”
Osnos is a well-decorated China journalist who has worked for The New Yorker since 2008, although some have criticized him for giving too much coverage to dissidents.
Whatever you make of his book, the title highlights wonderfully what most people in China today actually care about (no, it really isn’t bicycles or Mao suits or Marxist-Leninism) and the contradictions that come with it.
‘Ambition’ refers to a pervading “belief in the sheer possibility to remake a life,” which makes China generally an unusually positive and hopeful place to be.
‘Fortune’ speaks for itself: when your country’s economy is growing at 10% a year and every year there are more exciting options to spend your income on, then a growing wealth is not just an aspiration but a viable opportunity.
‘Truth’ comes with the explosion of social media and an ever-growing exposure to the wider world: discovering that there is more than one perspective is generating a hunger for a more objective understanding of circumstances. And that means not swallowing Hollywood’s messaging wholesale anymore than Beijing’s.
‘Faith’ reflects a greater openness to explore the spiritual realm and different worldviews than we find in either the committedly secular West or the religious states in other parts of the world.
Sounds like quite a liberating place to be – for an autocratic censorious socialist dictatorship, doesn’t it?