“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

LARB Q&A with Alec Ash on Wish Lanterns


When I first came to live in China in 2008 I was 22, and I spent most of my twenties in Beijing. In that Olympic summer, everyone was talking of how China might change the world. But to me it was how young Chinese are changing that was the real transformational story, with the deepest long-term consequences for the future of China and us all. Now I’m 31, and the so-called “youth” are a different generation entirely. But for those born between 1985 and 1990 — six of whose stories I follow in the book — I think of them as a transitional generation that encapsulates much of the change China is going through. A wedge generation, slowly prising China open but still stuck themselves.


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