... 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.
... an engaging and dynamic narrative that offers readers an unusual perspective on modern China ... At times, the free taxi rides feel like a thin conceptual thread to hold the book together. Also, there are too many familiar stories of iconoclastic rebels and a slight overproportion of well-to-do, English-speaking characters, given the milieu of residents in commercialized, cab-hailing Shanghai. By driving farther off the beaten track to pick up passengers, Langfitt might have found more characters whose perspectives truly surprise us ... offers us a small slice of those stories, in a country with a population just like its cab passengers: going places.