Writing about China is never easy. The country is so vast and full of contradictions that almost anything said about it at any given time is true. Writing about China is also increasingly fashionable. The country’s emergence into a global economic and diplomatic player has made it an attractive topic for specialists and amateurs alike. With its ferocious sprint toward an uncertain future, modern China today makes for a compelling narrative. The trick is how to tell the story right.
Perhaps I am too close to my subject; I have lived in China for 10 of the past 24 years. But the longer I have stayed in China, the less patience I have for fresh-off-the-boat enthusiasts amazed at the spanking new skyline in Shanghai or Beijing. Too often, when these people write about China, they are actually using its successes as a way to mourn perceived problems back home. America is becoming complacent, uneducated, slow and bureaucratic, they say. Look at China; it’s got all the answers. It’s the future. But is it really?