... a master class on how to chronicle a changing country through the personal narratives of its citizens ... offers an outstanding, touching, honest chronicle of China, arguably America's most important competitor, as it adapts to inner changes and worldwide events ... works mainly for two reasons: Langfitt's educated, simple reporting — and the cast of characters that populate the book ... delves deep into China's troubles. It describes the good, the bad, and the ugly with fairness and honesty. Langfitt loves the country, but isn't afraid to reflect its darkest truths, both historical and contemporary ... blends memorable characters with perceptive observation and informed political analysis to give readers a deep, nuanced look at the world's other superpower at this stage of its long, ongoing, rich history.
Langfitt deftly captures the nature of a rapidly changing China, the effects this has on society on a personal level, and how people attempt to navigate a system whose rules are constantly changing. Drawing on years of reporting, he provides context and a broader picture to anchor the narrative’s kaleidoscope of characters, experiences, and opinions, making for a heartfelt, engaging, and informative read.
Langfitt is particularly good at slotting his subjects into the specifics of this Chinese and global era ... in reality the book is only loosely held together by the conceit of the 'Free Loving Heart Taxi'. Yet, Langfitt is an amiable, informed correspondent, and there is much to enjoy here for those looking to learn about modern China: for anyone in a Beijing-bound cab from the airport, forget about probing your cabbie for some home-spun authentic wisdom, and enjoy a few chapters of The Shanghai Free Taxi instead.