Talking ’bout my generation: Alec Ash and Chinese millennials


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The author of Wish Lanterns discusses a changing youth culture in China.

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, which the Financial Times called a “closely observed study of China’s millennials.” The book tells the stories of six Chinese people born between 1985 and 1990. The characters, who have very different backgrounds and aspirations, include a rock musician named Lucifer, an internet addict named Snail and a patriotic Party official’s daughter.

In this episode of the Sinica Podcast, Alec discusses his book with Kaiser, Jeremy and David Moser. He talks about contemporary youth culture in China, the concerns of Chinese millennials, how he met the six characters in the book and what we can understand about China’s changing culture from their stories.


Jeremy: Unreliable Sources: How the Twentieth Century Was Reported, by John Simpson.

David: The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China, edited by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom.

Alec: The Barbarians at the Gate podcast, produced by Jeremiah Jenne.

Kaiser: Battle Cry of Freedom, by James M. McPherson — “the best single-volume history of the American Civil War that I know of” — and Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War, by Stephen R. Platt.