How is contemporary China portrayed in Ye Sang's China Candid, and is life there positive or negative?

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The author Ye Sang makes it quite clear in his groundbreaking book that there is no one single perspective on contemporary China is applicable or definable. He interviewed thirty-six people from vastly differing backgrounds and with vastly different experiences. These people ranged from a tycoon to a prostitute who served Olympic athletes. These thirty-six are not presented as representative of class or types of Chinese but as unique individuals with compelling stories. Thus no large generalizations can be rightly be drawn as the opinions range as broadly as the individuals do. Nonetheless, the fact that Sang could respond to the demands and requests that he write this book indicates a positive undercurrent to contemporary China.

"Tell a story!"
   It was a simple request, as well as a frequently heard plea, during the waning years of the Cultural Revolution. It was also a common prompt for people anxious to exchange information, tales, rumors, and gossip in the declining years of mao's rule and the painful years of recovery that followed.

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How would you characterize contemporary China, as expressed by the people interviewed in China Candid? How is life in today's China positive, and how is it negative?

As with so much in the globalized world, contemporary China is shown to be complex.  There is really no direct answer to what China is out of the narratives in the book.  Sang Ye himself concludes that it is not entirely absolute that the people he interviewed were telling the truth or merely reciting "the stories that were rehearsed in their minds."  In a philosophical manner, this condition reflects much in how similar contemporary China is to the rest of the world. There is little in way of obtaining "absolute" conditions of truth in a globalized setting. Ideas merge, thoughts combine, and technology advances to make truth more of an adaptable quality to specific contexts and situations.  The particular is what interprets the universal.  The lack of authenticity in the narratives present helps to establish this. 

The fact that authenticity is difficult to validate reflects one of the modern conditions in China.  Truth, in the most absolute of sense, is difficult to establish.  Truth means different things to different individuals.  The truth for the Olympic athlete is that Gold  medals mean benefits and incentives, while other medals reflect failure.  Another truth that is revealed is that the more connections one has to government officials, better opportunities are present.  One more truth that is evident is that the professor who lent his person to an English school ended up benefiting more than with the devoted life he led as a teacher.  The reality is that China is shown to be a complex setting that ends up being no different than any other nation in the globalized world.  Economic success is predicated upon who one knows, those who struggle to make it, such as the farmer in the urban setting, face overwhelming odds, and that there are perks for success.  The narratives end up defining China in complex terms, no different than most other globalized nations that are seeking to establish an identity in a world of intense change and speed.

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