EO: In the end, it was the non physical transformation that became the subject of this book.It was this very private, and in some ways kind of intimate, change in the way people saw themselves as citizens, as members of the society.Through these stories Osnos traces the cadence of everyday life that often gets lost amid modern China’s played-out superlatives.Now living in Washington, DC, Osnos spoke to : What are the most notable ways China has changed since you first visited?, you wrote about trying to publish a Chinese edition of this book.Local publishers wanted to significantly revise or censor politically sensitive sentences.
The problem is that in order to publish a book in mainland China, you have to agree to be subject to censorship. You won’t be able to talk about dissidents like Chen Guangcheng or Ai Weiwei, we don’t want you to talk about Chinese history in a certain way.’ I decided that that’s not something that I can do.
Now, of course, 40 percent of the skyscrapers under construction worldwide are in China.
It’s rare, if you look back through history, there are these moments—we had one in the United States, there was one in the UK—where countries just physically transform themselves. MJ: In your book, you also talk about China’s intangible transformations.
Today, the Chinese call it the “Me” generation, because that’s exactly what it is, people who are able and quite determined to think about their own lives in ways that are specific, idiosyncratic, and infused with personal choice.
They imagine themselves to be the actor at the center of this drama. It’s meaningful in all kinds of ways—politically, economically, socially.