Wish Lanterns

Young Lives in New China

4.12 based on 25 ratings & 9 reviews on Goodreads.com

As read on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week.

This is the generation that will change China. The youth, over 320 million of them in their teens and twenties, more than the population of the USA. Born after Mao, with no memory of Tiananmen, they are destined to transform both their nation and the world.

These millennials, offspring of the one-child policy, face fierce competition to succeed. Pressure starts young, and their road isn't easy. Their stories are also like those of young people all over the world: moving out of home, starting a career, falling in love.

Wish Lanterns follows the lives of six young Chinese. Dahai is a military child and netizen; 'Fred' is a daughter of the Party. Lucifer is an aspiring superstar; Snail a country migrant addicted to online games. Xiaoxiao is a hipster from the freezing north; Mia a rebel from Xinjiang in the far west.

Alec Ash, a writer in Beijing of the same generation, has given us a vivid, gripping account of young China as it comes of age. Through individual stories, Wish Lanterns shows with empathy and insight the challenges and dreams that will define China's future global impact.

Compelling and beautifully written
A provocative portrait of a fast-changing society riven by internal contradictions . . . a fine addition to the field, one of the best I have read about the individuals who make up a country that is all too often regarded as a monolith, but which abounds with diversity on multiple levels. Fluently written with nice touches of humour . . . this books supplies much food for thought, informing the wider debate while retaining its value as a closely observed picture of how some Chinese live today
Financial Times
At a time when the future of China is so important, it is surprising that so little is understood, outside the world of specialised studies, about the hopes and fears of those most likely to shape it: the roughly 200 million people in the People's Republic currently between the ages of 15 and 24. It is this conspicuous lacuna that Alec Ash's Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China seeks to fill. He does so by telling the stories of six young Chinese born between 1985 and 1990 from the time they entered the world practically up to the present day. His deft style, welcome restraint (he writes the lives of his subjects but does not comment on them or, with a couple of exceptions, appear himself) yet discreet sympathy for the travails of those who have plainly become close friends, make the stories more compelling than they might otherwise have been. Some idea of the predicament of China's young makes this book more valuable still

About Alec Ash

Alec Ash is a writer and journalist in Beijing. " " " "He studied English literature at Oxford University. After graduating he taught in a Tibetan village in western China for a summer, before moving to Beijing in 2008. " " " "His articles have been published in The Economist, Prospect, Dissent and Foreign Policy among others. He is a correspondent for the Los Angeles Review of Books, a contributing author to the book of reportage Chinese Characters, the author of Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China and founder of the Anthill, a writers' colony of stories from China.

Read More