Released on 02 June 2016.

Read extract  

Wish Lanterns

Young Lives in New China

4.16 based on 159 ratings & 29 reviews on


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.

In the media

An intimate portrait of six young Chinese — three women and three men — on a journey from high school into the workforce . . . Lyrical, with its characters finely drawn, Ash’s book paints a telling portrait of this most restless generation raised in a system that has provided them with unprecedented personal opportunities while denying them political ones . . . a gifted observer
The Washington Post
Compelling and beautifully written
The people currently ruling China lived through the upheavels of the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen. The millennials who will shape China's future face very different pressures and challenges. In a study that is both literary and political, Ash tries to understand China's future through the lives and aspirations of its rising generation
Financial Times