Alec Ash is a writer and journalist in Beijing. He is the author of Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China (Picador, 2016), following the lives of six young Chinese. His articles have been published in The Economist, Dissent, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere. He is also a contributing author to the book of reportage Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land (University of California Press, 2012), and co-editor of While We’re Here: China Stories from a Writers’ Colony (Earnshaw Books, 2015), an anthology of stories from the website the Anthill, which he founded and edits.

Last Updated: August 19, 2016

Books

03.27.17

Wish Lanterns

Alec Ash
If China will rule the world one day, who will rule China? There are more than 320 million Chinese between the ages of 16 and 30. Children of the one-child policy, born after Mao, with no memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre, they are the first net native generation to come of age in a market-driven, more international China. Their experiences and aspirations were formed in a radically different country from the one that shaped their elders, and their lives will decide the future of their nation and its place in the world.Wish Lanterns offers a deep dive into the life stories of six young Chinese. Dahai is a military child, netizen, and self-styled loser. Xiaoxiao is a hipster from the freezing north. Fred, born on the tropical southern island of Hainan, is the daughter of a Party official, while Lucifer is a would-be international rock star. Snail is a country boy and Internet-gaming addict, and Mia is a fashionista rebel from far west Xinjiang. Following them as they grow up, go to college, and find work and love, all the while navigating the pressure of their parents and society, Wish Lanterns paints a vivid portrait of Chinese youth culture and of a millennial generation whose struggles and dreams reflect the larger issues confronting China today. —Arcade Publishing{chop}

Sinica Podcast

01.31.17

Talking ’Bout My Generation: Chinese Millennials

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Alec Ash, a young British writer who lives in Beijing, has covered “left-behind” children in Chinese villages, the “toughest high-school exam in the world,” and Internet live-streaming, among many other subjects. He is the author of Wish Lanterns,...

Excerpts

08.18.16

Why an Elite Chinese Student Decided Not to Join the Communist Party

Alec Ash
“Wish Lanterns” follows the lives of six Chinese born between 1985 and 1990 as they grow up, go to school, and pursue their aspirations. Millennials are a transformational generation in China, heralding key societal and cultural shifts, and they are...

Sinica Podcast

12.22.15

While We’re Here: China Stories from a Writers’ Colony

Kaiser Kuo, David Moser & more from Sinica Podcast
When Ernest Hemingway somewhat presciently referred to Paris as a movable feast (“wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you”) he captured the concerns of the long-term expat rather concisely. So why does everyone like to compare...

Conversation

05.21.15

Censorship and Publishing in China

Andrew J. Nathan, Zha Jianying & more
This week, a new PEN American Center report “Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship,” by Alexa Olesen, draws fresh attention to a perennial problem for researchers, scholars, and creative writers trying to...

Culture

08.26.14

Healthy Words

Alec Ash
In 1902, Lu Xun translated Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon into Chinese from the Japanese edition. Science fiction, he wrote in the preface, was “as rare as unicorn horns, which shows in a way the intellectual poverty of our time.” Not any...

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05.18.12

The Opium War, understood as the start of an unprecedented crisis inflicted on China by foreigners, is a key source of political legitimacy for China’s contemporary ruling party. The official Communist historiographical narrative of the Opium War relates that it brought on a national emergency which different generations of Chinese reformers—from...

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05.14.12

I realised that the history of Chinese literature has often been shaped from outside of its society—by exiled writers and thinkers. From [3rd century BC Chinese poet] Qu Yuan to Confucius, the Tang dynasty to the Qing dynasty, right up to modern novels today, you find that those authors who in the end became central to Chinese culture were at the...