“In a series of sharply observed essays, James Fallows gives us a top-notch primer on contemporary China. Wisely eschewing the easy view from Beijing, he takes us to the factories and export zones that have turned China into an economic powerhouse, the fantasy world of a megalomaniacal Chinese robber baron and the nether world of the Internet police. His lucid writing makes these topics not only understandable but a pleasure to explore. I would unreservedly recommend this book to anyone interested in a fresh perspective on what remains the most remarkable rise of a country in a century.”
—Ian Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Wild Grass: Three Stories of Change in Modern China
“Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to notice important features of a familiar landscape. In twelve delightful essays, James Fallows draws on his long experience as an observer of Asian society and culture to explore some of the deepest enigmas of post-reform China. With humanist sensitivities and a reporter’s instincts, he peers behind the headlines in search of the human factor in China’s rise to global prominence. The result is a thoughtful, incisive look at the interior workings of a society on the make—and a very good read to boot.”
—Richard Baum, Professor of Political Science, UCLA; Director Emeritus, UCLA Center for Chinese Studies; and author of China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom
“Dispatches from Atlantic Monthly national correspondent Fallows (Blind Into Baghdad: America's War in Iraq, 2006, etc.) capture with clarity and humor the present and future of the country that could be the next world superpower. . . . Neither alarmist nor apologist, one of the clearest and most enjoyable accounts of China currently available.”
“I devoured Postcards from Tomorrow Square on a return flight from Shanghai, and it was the perfect travel companion. Not only did James Fallows make me rethink my own recent experiences in China but he also inspired me to reconsider how Americans and Chinese can more effectively and imaginatively join forces to address the most pressing challenges of our time.”
—Deborah Davis, Yale University and a member of the National Committee on US-China Relations
“Jim Fallows’ reflections on his three-year immersion experience in China challenge common clichés about China’s rise. They are fascinating and original even to long time China hands. It’s not just the vivid portraits of the individuals he encounters in China or the clarity of his analysis of China’s economy, society and politics and the country’s interdependence with the United States and the rest of the world. What’s special about Fallows’ book is that he guides readers to ponder larger questions about our own history and values as we look at China’s. This is the perfect book to take on the long plane trip to China.” —Susan Shirk, director of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and professor of political science and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs
“Postcards from Tomorrow Square offers some wonderful snapshots of the contradictions of modern China. As always, Fallows writes from the front line with insight and flair.”
—Rob Gifford, NPR’s former Beijing correspondent and author of China Road
“James Fallows insatiable curiosity and clear narrative makes his China journey a real reward.”
—John Sculley, former president of PepsiCo and former CEO of Apple Computer
“Fallows (Blind into Baghdad) offers a candid outsider’s take on contemporary China in this entertaining and richly illustrated investigation of what distinguishes China from other Asian nations and what causes the dissonance between how China sees itself and how it is viewed by the rest of the world, particularly the U.S. The author’s range is admirably broad—he takes on Chinese reality television, school systems, incisive economic analysis—and uncovers a raft of surprising similarities between the East and West. . . . What Fallows lacks in expertise, he makes up for in a truly global vision and a magician’s chest of social, economic and political insight.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“James Fallows’s eye recognizes the large significance of small details. His pen conveys that significance with elegance, humor, and argumentative power. Fallows shows humane sympathy for his characters, from high-level bureaucrats to a farmer in Xiakou. And he is sure-footed and precise as he explores complex policy issues, gently refuting the most common oversimplifications as he goes. There is simply no better introduction to contemporary China than this outstanding volume.”
—Jeffrey Lehman, Chancellor and Founding Dean, Peking University School of Transnational Law
“These aren’t sepia-toned ‘postcards’ of Cathay’s scenic spots. Jim writes to us from the crowded, supercharged, exhaust-filled streets of modern China. The scenes could come straight from a Dickens’ novel, and that’s just Jim’s point: scratch the exotic surface, and you meet the familiar. China won’t be so mysterious after you read this book”
—Charles R. McElwee, China Environmental Law
“With these delightful ‘Postcards,’James Fallows takes wing, soars over China’s vast panorama, then swoops down to bring human-scale subjects home to his hungry readers. His essays reveal the deepening curiosity of a sensitive and articulate journalist on a lengthening reportorial mission. Fallows avoids breezy over-generalizations, and is humble enough to sense how much about China he has yet to understand, but never does he flirt with ‘inscrutability.’ In the narrow lane between blithe certainty and fatalistic mystification lie the seeds of his own growing understanding, and of ours.”
—Robert A. Kapp, Former President, US-China Business Council
By using the word "postcards" for the title of this lively collection of a dozen reports written between the summers of 2006 and 2008…he seems to be alerting readers to expect vignettes rather than extended essays. But readers shouldn't be put off by the word, because Fallows does manage to give us panoramic views of China that are both absorbing and illuminating. If these reports are "postcards," it is only in the Chinese sensethe three characters commonly used to translate "postcard" (ming xin pian) literally mean something more like "exposed letter card" or "open letter." That may not quite be an expose, but it's certainly more than a quick note.
The New York Times
Although no apologist for China, Fallows is convinced that it's "a better country than its leaders and spokesmen make it seem, and those same leaders look more impressive on their home territory." His tonesmooth, assiduously politesoftens his contrarian bent. But from the start, he takes aim at some of the shibboleths that Western writers have advanced in recent years about China.
The Washington Post
Fallows (Blind into Baghdad) offers a candid outsider's take on contemporary China in this entertaining and richly illustrated investigation of what distinguishes China from other Asian nations and what causes the dissonance between how China sees itself and how it is viewed by the rest of the world, particularly the U.S. The author's range is admirably broad-he takes on Chinese reality television, school systems, incisive economic analysis-and uncovers a raft of surprising similarities between the East and West. Fallows compares Shenzhen-the manufacturing and migration capital of southern China-to New York, where once you've left the airport and stashed your suitcase, it's difficult to tell if you're a tourist or a native. In the gambling mecca of Macau (whose revenues recently exceeded those of Las Vegas), the author finds strains of Atlantic City. What Fallows lacks in expertise, he makes up for in a truly global vision and a magician's chest of social, economic and political insight. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dispatches from Atlantic Monthly national correspondent Fallows (Blind Into Baghdad: America's War in Iraq, 2006, etc.) capture with clarity and humor the present and future of the country that could be the next world superpower. China is in the midst of an astonishing economic boom that is fantastically anarchic, despite the heavy-handed political controls of the Communist Party. Those who are young, smart and ambitious, writes the author, can seize unprecedented opportunities for wealth and success. A popular reality-TV show, Win in China (loosely based on Donald Trump's The Apprentice), which has would-be entrepreneurs competing for a million dollars in seed money, conveys the message that anyone might have such chances. Fallows profiles visionary billionaire technology whiz kids who have created entire cities to house their production facilities. He travels to the Pearl River Delta in southern China, where factories the size of airports employ, feed and house as many as 250,000 workers, and five factories turn out 90 percent of the laptops sold by "competing" Western companies. At the local Sheraton, Fallows details the delicate dance between Western company representatives who want to set up production in China and expatriate middlemen who locate the factories they need. He also offers sober analysis of China's dire environmental state, as well as a moving and enlightening portrait of earthquake-ravaged western Sichuan. Finally, amidst the cacophony of Chinese productivity, Fallows pauses to consider what it all means to the United States. China is simply too busy to be a political or military threat, he concludes. If our economic relations with this powerhouse leave us worried anduneasy, he notes, that is not China's concern but our own. It is our responsibility to learn how to compete successfully in the new economic order it exemplifies. Neither alarmist nor apologist, one of the clearest and most enjoyable accounts of China currently available.