Tide Players: The Movers and Shakers of a Rising China Hardcover – Mar 29 2011
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—Evan Osnos, The New Yorker
"If you want to understand the astonishing developments in China’s contemporary cultural life . . . there could be no surer or more entertaining guide than Zha."
K. Anthony Appiah, Princeton University
"An engaging, comprehensible cross-section of the personalities and cultural concerns rising with China’s ascent."
"No one who writes in English about contemporary China is more thoroughly bilingual and bicultural than Jianying Zha. She truly 'gets it.'"
Perry Link, author of Evening Chats in Beijing
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How bad is real estate "flipping"? They have their own term: "Stir fry building."
How much do thoughtful Chinese recognize the perils of trying to comment on these issues, reform their universities, and develop arts and literature in what is still a one-party state with growing economic inbalances? Very much.
And, in "Tide Players," Jianying Zha explains the details of all of that and more. With extensive time and academic study spent in the U.S. and U.K. as well as China, she has a good perspective, especially in analyzing the ambivalent feelings many Chinese have toward "sea turtles" that have spent extensive time abroad before returning home.
On issues of Chinese politics, she has a great deal of insight, beginning with the fact that her half-brother recently completed a nine-year prison term as a political dissident.
In an epilogue, she addresses questions of China's future, again from this same binational perspective.
That said, she's a bit more optimistic on China's future than I am. She largely ignores issues of pollution, resource consumption, and the rapid graying/demographic bell curve that lies in China's future. She also seems to skip over questions of just how much political reform will happen in China and how soon. And, speaking of pollution and resource consumption, it would have been nice to see a Chinese environmentalist among the "tide players."
The book is still a 5-star, though, for all the issues she covers before the epilogue.
Along the way, she describes some of the attitudes and beliefs of today's Chinese citizens struggling daily to make the transiton to modern Chinese life.
To me, this little book mirrors, in a way, a book that could have been written about a boisterous, often messy, complex young America and some of the people who made her great."
The main part of the book consists of a reader's digest sort of sketch of several rich people in China. The author seems to share the contemporary chinese obsession with great wealth. Where each fatcat stands on the national tote board seems to be a matter of some interest to the author.
The author relates the amazing fact that these successful people started out poor. Given that pretty much everyone in China 50 years ago was struggling, the astonishment with which that relevation is received is bound to be somewhat muted.
The prose of the book is competent but lifeless. It feels like the purpose of the book was more the sheer fact of its publication than a desire to say anything new or interesting.
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