The final volume of this dictionary covers 100 prominent figures of the reform era in China, which spans the last 40 years or so. Many of them are still alive. The entries range from the obvious (Chinese President Xi Jinping, the dissident Wei Jingsheng) to the surprising (Wang Shuo, a transgressive novelist; Jet Li, the martial arts movie star; Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled Uighur advocate; Lai Changxing, the smuggling kingpin) and include leaders in politics, business, science, sports, and the arts. Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan are also represented (by, among others, former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, the pop singer Teresa Teng, the movie director Wong Kar-wai, and the gambling czar Stanley Ho). Some important names are inevitably omitted—for example, the dissident artist Ai Weiwei. The entries are not merely life chronologies. They probe their subjects’ personalities and accomplishments, providing a sense of howeach subject fits into the complex mosaic of Chinese society. The result is a readable, often entertaining portrait of an era that is still in the process of becoming.
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This article was originally published in Foreign Affairs Magazine for the January/February 2016 issue.