China is often in the news, but our knowledge of this massive country is cursory at best. Carefully controlled by the Chinese government, little escapes the scrutiny of those who monitor the media. With such a large land mass, a mix of cultures, and one of the world's oldest civilizations, it's surprisingly difficult to frame an accurate picture.
In China Underground, Mexico takes us on a kaleidoscopic journey into the lives of its denizens to reveal the "new" China. It's a riveting ride, with cameos by a drug hustler, a group of club kids, a new prostitute, and some seriously stressed-out teenagers cramming for their college entrance exams. Mexico visits the artists and musicians who comprise the creative class, and the scores obsessed with the newest role-playing game. Through his lens, we see a people disillusioned and full of despair -- a people who've embraced the Western values we cherish.
Like Suketu Mehta's portrait of Mumbai in Maximum City, Mexico's peek behind the Great Wall is surprisingly revelatory. Did you know that the Chinese shun credit cards as well as voice mail? Or that the population of many of its cities makes Manhattan seem like a quiet country meadow? Read this gripping, sometimes comic, always illuminating book and find out what it's like to live in China today: the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Summer 2009 Selection)