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*WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 2014* A stunning narrative that reveals China as we have never understood it before.

A young army captain who risked execution to swim from free-market Taiwan to Communist China.
A barber who made $150 million in the gambling dens of Macau.
The richest woman in China, a recycling tycoon known as the ‘Wastepaper Queen’.

Age of Ambition describes some of the billion individual lives that make up China’s story – one that unfolds on remote farms, in glittering mansions, and in the halls of power of the world’s largest authoritarian regime. Together they describe the defining clash taking place today: between the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control.

Here is a China infused with a sense of boundless possibility and teeming romance. Yet it is also riven by contradictions. It is the world’s largest buyer of Rolls Royces and Ferraris yet the word ‘luxury’ is banned from billboards. It has more Christians than members of the Communist Party. And why does a government that has lifted more people from poverty than any other so strictly restrain freedom of expression?

Based on years of research, Age of Ambition is a stunning narrative that reveals China as we have never understood it before.


The rise of China is the biggest story of the past twenty-five years. Evan Osnos captures the country in all its striving, thunderous diversity, through a narrative that moves, provokes and makes us laugh. Age of Ambition is a marvel of great reporting, careful thinking, and powerful writing.

Dexter Filkins

If you have time to read only one book about China today, read this one. Woven from vignettes of Chinese life at many different levels, it provides unerring insights into what makes the Chinese the people they are while wearing its learning so lightly that the narrative never flags. It should be in every tourist’s baggage and every diplomat’s library.

Philip Short, author of Mao: A Life

Evan Osnos is one of the most astute observers of contemporary China, and in this book he gives us a powerful and moving portrait of that country as it moves into the next decade. Using crisp and brilliant prose, Osnos uses some of the figures at the cutting edge of a changing China - artists, bloggers, religious leaders, and workers - to show us the strengths and weaknesses of this fast-changing and deeply important nation. This is a must-read book for those who want to understand China today - and where it is going.

Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, University of Oxford

The best book on China I've ever read. Witty, indispensable, and often moving. I look forward to stealing Evan Osnos's wisdom and passing it off as my own for years to come.

Gary Shteyngart

For most of a decade, Evan Osnos has been one of the most energetic, skilled, and thoughtful observers of China. Whether he’s accompanying Chinese tourists to the Best Western in Luxembourg or watching Ai Weiwei blur the lines between performance and protest, Osnos is always engaging. This is a wonderful book.

Peter Hessler, author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze and Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip

The very hardest thing to convey about modern China is the combination of hope and despair, idealism and crassness, coordinated mass action and chaotic individual scheming, you encounter each day. Evan Osnos has captured all parts of this disorienting 'reality', but he has done so much more. Beautifully written, humane but critical-minded, funny on every page, Age of Ambition offers a better understanding of China's process of 'becoming' than most people could ever gain by living there. China veterans and amateurs alike will find it an illuminating and delightful read.

James Fallows

How often have travelers asked: 'What is the one book about China that I should read before I depart?' Alas, for years I have had no good answer to this question. But now, Evan Osnos has provided a stellar candidate. Wonderfully engaging, readable and informative, this vivid tableau of actors from all walks of Chinese life goes a long way to helping us make sense out of the often confusing complexity that is today's China.

Orville Schell, co-author of Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century

Compelling and accessible

Louisa Lim, Washington Post Sunday

Osnos beautifully portrays the nation in all its craziness, providing a ringside seat for the greatest show on earth


[Osnos] provides a fluent, cohesive view of the country that goes to the heart of the conflict between Party control and the rise of the individual

Jonathan Fenby, Financial Times

Osnos writes beautifully… This is a book about China as it really is – not a book about China as we in the West would like, or fear, it to be

Ben Chu, Independent

The quirky, the colourful, the sideways look, the illumination of the general through a detailed journey around a small particular… It is in this that Osnos excels

Isabel Hilton, Observer

Fascinating glimpse behind the scenes

Good Book Guide

A highly readable, colourful introduction to the complexities of modern China

Tash Aw, Guardian

Pacy… Read and be amazed by the antics of our future masters

James Delingpole, Mail on Sunday

Assiduous and stylish reportage


An enjoyable and useful introduction to events in China over the last decade

Nick Holdstock, Literary Review

[A] lively panorama of evolving contemporary China… A highly readable, colourful introduction to [its] complexities

Guardian Weekly

For anyone interested in breaking through western perceptions to discover something about what life is really like in China, this is a great introduction

Femke Colborne, Big Issue in the North

A highly readable account of life in contemporary China… This is a very useful primer for newcomers seeking to understand the world’s premature superpower

Lionel Barber, Financial Times

Well-written, thought provoking

Vee Freir, Nudge

a smoothly interesting book

Guy Pringle, Nudge

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    September 1, 2015


    416 pages

    RRP $22.99

    Online retailers

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  • EBook


    June 26, 2014

    Vintage Digital

    416 pages

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