Probably as overseas Chinese, we are very familiar with Mao's Old Three Articles which every Chinese was required to recite during the Cultural Revolution. However, when I travel and live in the seemingly more civilized West, I have to face the Old Three Articles made in the West: "Human rights, Tibet and Democracy". I have no intention to trivialize the West Old Three Articles. However, I found the Western version and the endless political campaigns carried out by the media to be as boring as Mao's. The only difference is that the people in the West do not appear to be as cynical to the Western Old Threes as the Chinese are to Mao's Old Threes.
I found myself in tears reading this book: Duncan Hewitt really cares. He really went to different parts of the country, reached people from different backgrounds and successfully showed the diversity of the country. Importantly, he demonstrates that there is no such thing as collectivized Chinese people; the Chinese people are individuals having their own interests, which may not be the same as the Government's and the Party's. This is an insider's view from a person who lives in China, observes and writes diligently and has a good command of the Chinese cynicism, which often proves illusive to the rest of the world.
In this book he looks into a wide range of major social changes and challenges that are taking place in China. These are a reflection of what the Chinese people really talk about on a daily basis. The Old Threes are not missed out, but you can find much more. The discussions are supported by vivid and often entertaining observations and interviews.
His book gives an almost thorough account of the rapid changes that the country is going through. However, he writes with such a sense of calm that one can sense that he has patiently tried to understand the country.
This is a living history. It tells so much about China and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I would recommend this book to anyone who is either seriously interested in understanding modern China and the people, including the millions of expatriates like Duncan Hewitt living in China, or anyone who wants to know something about China but will not be satisfied with the Mao style Western "Old Three Articles".