After living in China for four years I didn't think I would learn much from this book, boy was I wrong!
As a journalist with insider access and as a long-time China hand, Evan Osnos is uniquely qualified to share his insights on what is fast becoming the world's most dynamic country. In this work, he provides striking insights from personal interviews conducted with Chinese from all walks of life, from movers and shakers in China, like Hu Shuli, Han Han, Ai Weiwei and Li Yang, to more obscure individuals, such as nationalistic doctoral students, corrupt officials and aspiring poets moonlightling as street sweepers. At the same time, Osnos brings the listener up to date on most of the major events in China over the past 5 years and makes a solid analysis of why the country has thus far not complied with Western expectations of Democratic reform.
For me, learning more about well-known figures like Han Han and AI Weiwei was a treat. In China, one could frequently hear conversations about Ai's conviction or Han's latest post, but rarely could I find a local who knew much else about the disidents themselves. I had no idea that Ai became a disident after the government corruption revealed by the Sichuan earthquake I was also pleased to be introduced to some I had never heard about on campus such as the editor of Caixin Hu Shuli. Now I know one more source of Chinese news when I don't feel like reading propaganda.
It was also nice to get caught up on current events, I used to watch Chinese news every night, but only had a partial picture of what was actually going on due to censorship. Osnos filled me in on all the details I missed from the Tibet protests in 2007 to the fall of Bo Xilai last year.
The Narrator for most of the book (which is not Osnos!) is a wonderful reader, but I can only give him 4 stars due to his unreliable Mandarin pronunciation. True, he's lightyears beyond most narrators on Audible when pronouncing Chinese propper nouns but he tended to botch the phrases throughout the book. He also didn't do well with some of the names of major characters, such as his annoying habit of pronouncing Han Han as Haan Haan. This could have been overlooked if only Han wasn't mentioned multiple times every chapter. In short, if you are a fluent Mandarin speaker this narrator's occasional mistakes may bother you a little, but otherwise he was a fantastic choice for this production.
This course is a great introduction to anyone interested in the history of US-Middle East relations which has so shaped the world we live in today. From WWI, the resulting fall of the Ottoman empire, to the Iranian revolution, the Oslo peace failures and 9/11, Professor Salim Yaqub gives us a balanced and insightful narration of events.
What really caught my interest in this presentation was Professor Yaqub's recounting of the reasons that lead to the Iranian revolution and the extreme feelings against Americans in the region. I was already aware that our strong support for the rather unsavory Shah was a main factor, but some of the finer details suprised me: for example, I had no idea that bad driving by our GIs resulting in ridiculous levels of death by vehicular manslaughter was one of the sparks that set off the proverbial powder keg.
Really the one qualm that I had with this presentation was the Professor's extremely slow reading speed. Even at 1.5X speed the recording still seems to run at a pace slower than normal conversational speed. He could have gotten so much more information in 12 hours.