Colin Thubron is a masterpiece travel writer who has produced a number of fascinating accounts of the mysterious world, which are not widely known. "Inside of the Great Wall" is one of them.
He travelled through and roamed through the rural villages, hamlets, and military zones, and farming communities near the borders of Vietnam, Mongolia, India and Tibet in the 1980s, as well as strolling through big cities, all of which had just open to the West. He had met various people including former political prisoners and families of the victims of the Cultural Revolution, and provides descriptive accounts based on ancient to modern history, politics, agriculture, forestry, economics, education, life of political prisoners, which sounds worse than Soviet's Gulag, geography, and a huge variety of beasts which Chinese have eaten, e.g. dog's brain, cat, snake, to name just a few. He even tells about peculiar and unimaginative food stuff with stinky smells and hideous appearance which he saw in the supermarkets in the 1980s. He includes a very interesting but understandable fact that many of the rural Chinese people do not know the location of Great Britain or elsewhere other than their world.
In reference of the modern history, Chinese government have proposed and implemented one-child polity in the urban areas and two children policy in the rural areas to curb the population. Despite the effort, China's population is still growing and the punishment of people losing the properties and jobs undertaken and its harshness has been criticised by the western media.
If you wish to study in-depth of China and people, this is the book you should read.