From Publishers Weekly

In this ambitious work, Becker, a veteran chronicler of China (Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine), explores the impact that a quarter-century of economic reform has had upon the Chinese people. In a wise attempt to avoid generalizationsDall too easy to use when writing of a population of 1.25 billion peopleDBecker reports on how the various sectors of Chinese society have fared. He is after contrast, not continuity, conundrums rather than convenient answers, and he succeeds admirably. While entrepreneurs in China 's coastal cities grow wealthy, he explains, millions of peasants in the hinterland remain mired in the deepest poverty. While privileged Communist Party members parlay their positions into lucrative business deals, countless numbers of laid-off state industrial workers fear for the future. Farming communities battle, usually unsuccessfully, against corrupt local officials who are taxing them into ruin; intellectuals battle with themselves over whether to ally with the regime or defy it. And over it all preside the elite few at the very top of the Party, aloof, out of touch, and determined to remain in power by any means necessary. Becker's stories, and the wealth of data and historical references he also provides, support his contention that, while the market may have made China richer, it has not necessarily made it a fairer or more just society; there may be more losers than winners in China 's race toward wealth.

From Booklist

As most everyone knows, China has the largest population in the world and one of the most ancient cultures. Becker, a journalist currently living in Beijing and the author of Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine (1997), which was banned by the Chinese government, delves into the intricacies of the Chinese people. He breaks down the population of 1.25 billion people by using social, ethnic, and economic methods. Beginning with the illiterate peasants who live along the borders of Vietnam , he introduces the reader to people of various statuses from all over that massive country. Becker has spent 20 years touring through China and meeting people in order to understand this vast and mysterious land. His vignettes on government types, shamans, and businessmen join to present a revealing look at China over time. The Chinese is a captivating and enlightening read for anyone interested in Asian or cultural studies

Quotes from Book Reviews

The Nation:  ‘you won’t see much of Jasper Becker’s kind of reporting in the mainstream press, he has spent the past ten years tramping into areas of the country listening to people most other western journalists disregard…Becker is extraordinarily cautious and measured’

 Washington Post ‘he has been everywhere and asked every question…Becker’s judgments are sustained by careful reporting…he is right in both details and analysis in his discussions of demographic change, environmental devastation, internal migration, police repression, grain policy, peasants, the collapse of the health system…’

Foreign Affairs – ‘a superb book...Becker has the unique ability to weave together his own personal observations with clear summary analyses.’

Los Angeles Times ‘Becker writes from the viewpoint of the Chinese people…he evaluates China on its own terms… he has transcended the obstacles of early books and come up with an enduring portrait of modern China …’ 

Los Angeles Times Book of the Year 

The New Yorker  ‘Becker’s broad survey of the last twenty years of reform stresses the ongoing relevance of ancient history to modern China .’

International Herald Tribune: ‘Few Western correspondents in recent times have worked as hard at getting out of Beijing and finding out what is really happening in China…relentless investigation…sympathetic reporting and scholarship.’

Business Week  ‘In his impressive if pessimistic survey...the author describes the huge strains facing the country as it attempts to modernize its economy while still being led by a suspicious and heavy handed communist Party. ‘

Publisher’s Weekly ‘He is after contrast, not continuity, conundrums rather than convenient answers and he succeeds admirably.’

The Washington Times  ‘a highly engaging new book’  attempts to shed new light on the more obscure parts of the China ’s population through a series of snapshots of Chinese life...emphasizes the differences between the various segments of the Chinese populace ..discovering how each of these groups fits into the whole is one of the more satisfying aspects of the book.’ 

Financial Times – ‘one of the Beijing ’s most senior correspondents …he is an assiduous reporter and a shrewd analyst’

Daily Telegraph – ‘a captivating reporter’

The Times ‘ his true forte is to get out on the road and observe what is actually going on’

The Sunday Times ‘an enviable record of getting close to the truth in a phenomenally mercurial environment’…  ‘Blends his eclectic sources with skill and panache’…The result is a captivating study of the fragility and volatility of the most populated nation on earth, and one with many lessons. ‘

Times Literary Supplement ‘Jasper Becker specialises in writing about the difficult, even the untouchable… his work is rendered in a clear journalistic ‘style’… detailed, perceptive’. Becker does not overwhelm the read with literary effusion but offsets a mass of hard facts with characters and experiences which put flesh on statistical bones.’

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