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Customer Review

on 7 September 2010
If you're even half-considering getting this book, I highly recommend you do. This will appeal to anyone even vaguely interested in China, its history and culture, or its role in the world today and in the years to come.

Divided into 16 chapters each based on a different region of China and a slightly different environmental/social issue, each section balances hard, often jaw-dropping, facts and figures with interesting, often amusing and compassionate, accounts of individual lives and interviews. The result is a persuasive, highly educational book which uses human interest to bring the issues to life and still ensure this is a genuine pleasure to read and never hard work for the reader.

It's also a very fair book. Watts presents views of differing sides of each issue and, though passionate about environmental issues and the need for humanity to change its culture, doesn't lecture the reader nor side against one factor, be it Chinese rulers, consumer culture, capitalism or historical Western practices. Not without well explained reasoning, anyway.

This is a book that could and should interest someone with an already substantial knowledge of China and the issues concerned. But it is also a book written in such a way that is very accessible to a more casual reader who has enjoyed the odd Sunday papers world news article. For the latter, if 400 plus pages seems like too much of a commitment, each chapter would stand up pretty well on its own for more casual dipping into. If you need more convincing, maybe read some of Watts's online Guardian/Observer articles as a taste. Not that they quite do justice to the scale of the project he has undertaken here.

Journalism at its best.
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Product Details

4.4 out of 5 stars