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'This is a memoir of a year I spent off the beaten track in China. From the Pacific coast to the dusty heart of Central Asia, I travelled 10,000 miles through virtually every region of that vast country. My backpacking adventures were much more than just a young man’s solitary wanderings. I taught myself Mandarin so that I could communicate with anyone and everyone I came across. My book is a personal account, yes, but it is also reveals China through the eyes of the Chinese. I spoke to people in every part of the nation, from politically-disillusioned artists in Shanghai to poverty-stricken farmers in the mountains of Tibet. As my book moves through vastly-varied encounters, the reader joins me on my journey and emerges with an enriched vision of China.
 
A hallmark of my travels was that I sought out the lower rungs of society. You can learn a lot about a state by how it treats the people at the bottom. Away from the white heat of China’s industrial boom, in areas that few foreigners ever visit, I spoke with people who were gaining little and losing much because of China’s growth. However, in this book I do not simply offer a clichéd account of how China’s authoritarian government is oppressing its people.  My encounters were often surprising and I have tried to present all of them faithfully in my narrative. For example, the priceless experience of being lectured about the Chinese Space Program by a boastful Tibetan shepherd- a man I had imagined would be fiercely opposed to Chinese rule- is one of many thought-provoking anecdotes I share with the reader.
 
Nico Hobhouse'

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