China's Great Train

Beijing's Drive West and the Campaign to Remake Tibet

Abrahm Lustgarten

St. Martin's Griffin

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“A great yarn . . . [Lustgarten] also accomplishes something more valuable: He provides insight into the seat-of-the-pants nature of many of China’s massive schemes.”—The Washington Post Book World

When the “sky train” to Tibet opened in 2006, the Chinese government fulfilled a fifty-year plan first envisioned by Mao Zedong. As China grew into an economic power, the railway had become an imperative, a critical component of China’s breakneck expansion and the final maneuver in strengthening the country’s grip over this last frontier.

In China’s Great Train, Abrahm Lustgarten, an investigative reporter with ProPublica, explores the lives of the Chinese and Tibetans swept up in the project. He follows Chinese engineer Zhang Luxin as he makes the train’s route over the treacherous mountains and permafrost possible (for now), and struggling Tibetan shopkeeper Renzin, who is caught in a boomtown that favors the Han Chinese. As the railway—the highest and steepest in the world—extends to Lhasa, their lives and communities fundamentally change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

Lustgarten offers an absorbing and provocative firsthand account of the promise and costs of the Chinese boom.

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Book Excerpts

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China's Great Train
PART IA FIFTY-YEAR AMBITION 
 
Far above the earth, into the blue, You, wild Kunlun, have seen All that was fairest in the world of men. Your three million white jade dragons in flight Freeze the sky with piercing cold. In summer days your melting torrents Flood the streams and rivers, Turning men into fish and turtles ... 
To Kunlun now I say ... Could I but draw my sword o'ertopping heaven, I'd cleave you in three: One piece for Europe, One for America, One to keep in the East. Peace would then reign over the world, The same warmth and cold throughout

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Reviews

Praise for China's Great Train

“I can't think of any story that better captures the exhilaration and the agony of our pell-mell globalization. China’s Great Train is a powerful piece of reporting and of reflection, and it never edges away from the tough questions.”—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"Lustgarten has pulled off something quite extraordinary: by shining a finely-pointed and intimate light on a handful of people directly affected by one of the modern era's greatest engineering feats—or follies—he has rendered a far broader portrait of what happens when two great cultures come into collision. In the process, he not only explores the age-old question of what price progress, but the far more essential question of just how progress might be defined. A must read for anyone who seeks to understand the colossal changes taking place in today's China."—Scott Anderson, author of Moonlight Hotel and The Man Who Tried to Save the World


China’s Great Train is a wonderful account of a project that combined technological ambition, nationalistic and ethnic hubris, and individual determination, cunning, and vision. It is a saga in the spirit of David McCullough’s accounts of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal —but about a project happening right now. Its implications aren’t all positive—about China, Tibet, or the process of modernization—but Abrahm Lustgarten does an admirable job of leading the reader to surprising understandings of all those topics.”—James Fallows, author of Blind Into Baghdad and Looking at the Sun


“Lustgarten lifts the rug off the grand national project of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. His compelling descriptions of bureaucratic struggles and bitter human costs are contrasted with the great Chinese national pride and the heroism of those who tried to solve the problems to make the train work. This is an insider’s view and an important contribution to understanding the enigmas of China.”—James R. Lilley, author of China Hands and former U.S. ambassador to the People’s Republic of China


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About the Author

Abrahm Lustgarten

Abrahm Lustgarten is a reporter for ProPublica, the not-for-profit newsroom launched in 2008, and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant for international reporting. A former contributing writer for Fortune magazine, his articles have also appeared in Esquire, The New York Times, Outside, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic Adventure, Salon, and many other publications. He lives in New York City.

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Available Formats and Book Details

China's Great Train
Beijing's Drive West and the Campaign to Remake Tibet
Abrahm Lustgarten

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
May 2009
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780805090185
ISBN10: 0805090185
5 3/4 x 8 15/16 inches, 320 pages, Includes 16 pages of black-and-white photographs and 2 maps
$19.99

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
Times Books
May 2009
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429967181
ISBN10: 1429967188
320 pages, Includes sixteen pages of photographs and maps
$7.99
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