China: Age of Ambition

China: Age of Ambition

Keynote & panel discussion - Evan Osnos, The New Yorker; Alex Wang, UCLA; Yunxiang Yan, UCLA; and Jeffrey Wasserstrom, UCI

Monday, October 06, 2014
12:00 PM
UCLA School of Law, Room 1420
Los Angeles , CA 90095

Audio: To listen to audio from the lecture click here.


EVAN OSNOS is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he served as the China correspondent from 2008 to 2013. He is the winner of two Overseas Press Club awards and the Asia Society's Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Tribune, where he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2008. In his recent book Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, Osnos writes about the inner history of China during a moment of profound transformation.


is Assistant Professor of Law at UCLA. His primary research and teaching interests are in environmental law, Chinese law, comparative law, and torts. Prior to 2011, Wang was a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) based in Beijing and the founding director of NRDC’s China Environmental Law & Governance Project for nearly six years. In this capacity, he worked with China’s government agencies, legal community, and environmental groups to improve environmental rule of law and strengthen the role of the public in environmental protection. He helped to establish NRDC’s Beijing office in 2006. He was a Fulbright Fellow to China from 2004-05.

Wang holds a J.D. from NYU School of Law, and earned his B.S. in Biology with distinction from Duke University. He was a fellow of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (2008-10), and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Advisory Board to the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. He is a regular speaker on issues related to China and environmental protection.

YUNXIANG YAN is Professor of Anthropology at UCLA. Yan was born in Beijing, China. In 1966, like some 200,000 other people nationwide, Yan involuntarily became an impoverished villager when his family was expelled from the city to a remote village due to his father’s political opinions. In the same year, he was forced to drop out of primary school and to work as a shepherd, farmer, and seasonal manual laborer in rural China until 1978. As a young political outcast living and working in two villages during this 12-year period, he had more opportunities than many of his peers to experience the devastating economic hardships (including famine) and the brutal political oppression under radical Maoism. Regardless, he benefited a great deal from living at the very bottom rungs of society, as he learned directly from everyday life what really matters to ordinary people.

This long-term experience in village life engendered a strong commitment to equitably represent the lives of ordinary people (especially Chinese peasants) in Yan's academic work. During his undergraduate and masters’ career, he was trained and worked as a literary scholar at Peking University (1978-86), with a focus on folklore and mythology. However, to better study the everyday life of ordinary people and rural society, he changed his field to anthropology in 1986 and received a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Harvard University in 1993. After teaching anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1993-94) and Johns Hopkins University (1994-96), Yan joined his colleagues at the UCLA Department of Anthropology in 1996 and has been happily living and working in Los Angeles ever since.

JEFFREY WASSERSTROM is Chancellor's Professor of History at UC Irvine. He is a specialist in Chinese history and interested in a wide range of topics, ranging from the gendered symbolism of revolutions to patterns of student protest, and from the way that globalization affects urban life and popular culture to American images of Asia. These diverse concerns have influenced his publications, including his first book Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China: The View from Shanghai (Stanford, 1991) and his more recent ones, such as Global Shanghai, 1850-2010 (Routledge, 2009) and China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2010, updated edition 2013).

Wasserstrom has contributed to many academic periodicals, including China Quarterly and Urban History, and has served for several years as one of the editors for the Oxford University Press “Pages from History”. He also worked as a consultant to the Long Bow Group, whose documentary on Tiananmen, “The Gate of Heavenly Peace,” was shown on PBS, and whose documentary on the Cultural Revolution, “Morning Sun,” won a prize from the American Historical Association.

Wasserstrom came to UCI after spending fifteen years at Indiana University in Bloomington, where in addition to teaching he spent a year as the Acting Editor of the Bloomington-based American Historical Review and served for three years as the Director of IU’s East Asian Studies Center. He received his B.A. from UC Santa Cruz (1982) and his doctorate from UC Berkeley (1989), after a brief stint on the East Coast studying at Harvard (where he received his Master’s degree in 1984).


Kal Raustiala is Director of the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations and Associate Vice Provost of the International Institute. A professor at UCLA Law School, he holds a joint appointment with the UCLA International Institute, where he teaches in the Program on Global Studies. His book, Does the Constitution Follow the Flag? The Evolution of Territoriality in American Law (2009), was published by Oxford University Press.

Professor Raustiala has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, and was a fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. He serves on the editorial boards of International Organization and the American Journal of International Law and is a blogger for A life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he is a graduate of Harvard Law School, Duke University, and the University of California, San Diego.


In Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control. He asks probing questions: Why does a government with more success lifting people from poverty than any civilization in history choose to put strict restraints on freedom of expression? Why do millions of young Chinese professionals—fluent in English and devoted to Western pop culture—consider themselves “angry youth,” dedicated to resisting the West’s influence? How are Chinese from all strata finding meaning after two decades of the relentless pursuit of wealth?

Writing with great narrative verve and a keen sense of irony, Osnos follows the moving stories of everyday people and reveals life in the new China to be a battleground between aspiration and authoritarianism, in which only one can prevail.

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Sponsor(s): Burkle Center for International Relations, Center for Chinese Studies, Asia Pacific Center, UCLA Law