For more than three decades, the combination of the dismantling of socialist economic institutions and rapid growth has fundamentally transformed the lives of China’s citizens. Although in most respects, they have benefited from improved living standards, greater cultural diversity, and heightened contacts with the outside world, the scale and jarring speed of the changes have left many wondering, as the editors of this timely volume put it, “What does it mean now to be Chinese?” This is the third volume of essays on new trends in Chinese society and culture produced by the same editorial team. The dozen essays cover such varied topics as how rich entrepreneurs bribe local officials while at the same time preparing to escape abroad, just in case; how Chinese Internet users invent clever new Chinese characters to outwit the country’s Internet police; popular responses to mass accidents and food-safety scandals; controversies provoked by a popular television dating show; and the resurgence of faith healing and other forms of ecstatic religion. The coverage is necessarily selective -- rural Chinese and urban migrants receive little attention -- but anyone wishing to get a sense of the popular ferment that lies beneath the rapid growth and strict political controls emphasized in daily headlines will find much of value in this book.
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