Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China

Front Cover
Arcade Publishing, Mar 7, 2017 - History - 336 pages
“One of the best [books] I’ve read about the individuals who make up a country that is all too often regarded as a monolith.” —Jonathan Fenby, Financial Times

If China will rule the world one day, who will rule China? There are more than 320 million Chinese between the ages of sixteen and thirty. Children of the one-child policy, born after Mao, with no memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre, they are the first net native generation to come of age in a market-driven, more international China. Their experiences and aspirations were formed in a radically different country from the one that shaped their elders, and their lives will decide the future of their nation and its place in the world.

Wish Lanterns offers a deep dive into the life stories of six young Chinese. Dahai is a military child, netizen, and self-styled loser. Xiaoxiao is a hipster from the freezing north. “Fred,” born on the tropical southern island of Hainan, is the daughter of a Party official, while Lucifer is a would-be international rock star. Snail is a country boy and Internet gaming addict, and Mia is a fashionista rebel from far west Xinjiang. Following them as they grow up, go to college, find work and love, all the while navigating the pressure of their parents and society, Wish Lanterns paints a vivid portrait of Chinese youth culture and of a millennial generation whose struggles and dreams reflect the larger issues confronting China today.

About the author (2017)

Alec Ash was born in England in 1986 and is of the same generations as his subjects in Wish Lanterns. After graduating from Oxford, he taught in a Tibetan village and in 2008 moved to Beijing, where he is a writer and journalist. His articles have appeared in the Economist, Dissent, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere, including the book of reportage Chinese Characters and the Los Angeles Review of Books, for which he blogs. He is a founder and editor of theanthill.org and coeditor of the anthology While We're Here. He resides in Beijing.

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