Age of Ambition Book Summary - Age of Ambition Book explained in key points

Age of Ambition summary

Evan Osnos

Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China

3.6 (16 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos examines the rise of China's middle class and their desire for freedom, success, and individualism in a country ruled by the Communist Party. It explores the collision between modern aspirations and traditional values in contemporary China.

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    Age of Ambition
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    Since the 1980s China’s economy has been growing spectacularly – and continues to expand today.

    The Chinese economy has become an incredible success story: over the course of only a few decades, the country has leapt from poverty to economic domination, and become one of the biggest players in the world – its rapid growth continues to this day.

    In fact, over the last 30 years China’s economy has grown at a rate of approximately eight percent per year in terms of GDP. In other words, it has doubled in size every seven to eight years!

    That makes China the fastest-growing economy worldwide. Between 1989 and 2014, China’s annual GDP growth rate averaged an astonishing nine percent, while the United States’ grew only three percent during the same period.

    Coupled with China’s amazing GDP growth is an equally impressive rise in income – one that continues to soar today.

    Consider, for example, that in 1978 the average Chinese per capita income was a meager $200 per year. In contrast, the average Chinese citizen today brings home 30 times that amount – around $6,000. What’s more, wages, just like China’s overall economic conditions, continue to improve.

    In addition, China has become increasingly important as an exporter over the years.

    Back in 1999, China’s exports amounted to less than a third of those of the world’s largest exporter, the United States, placing it at number nine on the list of top global exporters. However, a mere decade later China had launched itself into first place.

    Clearly, China’s economy is booming. That only leaves us asking: Why?

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    What is Age of Ambition about?

    Age of Ambition offers an insightful look into the many changes that have taken place in China over the past 30 years, transforming the country from a destitute, developing nation into the economic powerhouse it is today. Evan Osnos examines the day-to-day lives of Chinese citizens as they navigate a new social and economic reality.

    Best quote from Age of Ambition

    In my years in China . . . airline passengers doubled; cell phone sales tripled; the length of the Beijing subway quadrupled.

    —Evan Osnos
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    Who should read Age of Ambition?

    • Anyone who wants to understand China today
    • Anyone who wants to learn about China’s rise to economic power
    • Anyone curious about the balance between individualism and state domination in China

    About the Author

    Evan Osnos is an American journalist who has worked both as bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune and as the New Yorker’s China correspondent. In addition, he contributed to a series on government safety standards that won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, and has been awarded two Overseas Press Club prizes. His first book, Age of Ambition, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2014.

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