I haven't finished (listening), but I *can* write a comment now. This is a wonderful book. Hessler is a wonderful and brilliant writer. He has a deep and serious understanding of culture (as such), as well as of Chinese culture in particular; he is intelligent, observant, has emotional range, a sense of humor -- and, most importantly, he is writing about something important. The emergence of China is a world-historical event, and this book -- much of which takes place in rural China in 2002-2006 -- it is like reading Braudel.... or Hobsbawm's description of the emergence of modernity in late 18th cen Europe -- modernization of transport, of communications, of values... all taking place before his eyes -- only condensed from 50 years into 5. This book, and Oracle Bones (which is even better), will thus have value as a permanent record -- an on-the-ground reportage -- of events that historians will spend the next 50 years digesting.
And most importantly, reading or listening to Hessler is just so damned entertaining -- that it's a treat.
Well..., let me qualify that -- NOT most importantly...
.... but all the same... these books ARE a pleasure.