At the Edge of Empire: A Family's Reckoning with China (Hardcover)

At the Edge of Empire: A Family's Reckoning with China By Edward Wong Cover Image

At the Edge of Empire: A Family's Reckoning with China (Hardcover)

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“This book’s power comes from Wong’s broad sense of the patterns of Chinese history, reflected in the lives of a father and son, and from his ability to toggle effortlessly between the epic and the intimate.” —Gal Beckerman, The Atlantic

“Edward Wong’s exquisite family chronicle achieves a level of humane illumination that only one of America’s finest reporters on China could deliver. In tracing his father’s journey—from Hong Kong to Xinjiang to America—Wong gives us a profound story of modern China itself. Anyone who once was absorbed by the power of Wild Swans will savor this meditation on memory, history, and belonging.” —Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition, winner of the National Book Award

One of Foreign Policy’s Most Anticipated Books of 2024

An epic story of modern China that weaves a riveting family memoir with vital reporting by the New York Times diplomatic correspondent


The son of Chinese immigrants in Washington, DC, Edward Wong grew up among family secrets. His father toiled in Chinese restaurants and rarely spoke of his native land or his years in the People’s Liberation Army under Mao. Yook Kearn Wong came of age during the Japanese occupation in World War II and the Communist revolution, when he fell under the spell of Mao’s promise of a powerful China. His astonishing journey as a soldier took him from Manchuria during the Korean War to Xinjiang on the Central Asian frontier. In 1962, disillusioned with the Communist Party, he made plans for a desperate escape to Hong Kong.

When Edward Wong became the Beijing bureau chief for The New York Times, he investigated his father’s mysterious past while assessing for himself the dream of a resurgent China. He met the citizens driving the nation’s astounding economic boom and global expansion—and grappling with the vortex of nationalistic rule under Xi Jinping, the most powerful leader since Mao. Following in his father’s footsteps, he witnessed ethnic struggles in Xinjiang and Tibet and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. And he had an insider’s view of the world’s two superpowers meeting at a perilous crossroads.

Wong tells a moving chronicle of a family and a nation that spans decades of momentous change and gives profound insight into a new authoritarian age transforming the world. A groundbreaking book, At the Edge of Empire is the essential work for understanding China today.
Edward Wong is a diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times. In twenty-five years at the Times, he has reported from scores of countries and served as a war correspondent in Iraq and as the Beijing bureau chief. He is the winner of the Livingston Award for international reporting and was on a team of Pulitzer Prize finalists. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a visiting professor at Princeton University and U.C. Berkeley. He has done fellowships at the Wilson Center and the Belfer Center at Harvard Kennedy School. Wong speaks on global issues to television and radio outlets, including CBS, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, and BBC. He lives with his family in Washington, DC.
Product Details ISBN: 9781984877406
ISBN-10: 1984877402
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: June 25th, 2024
Pages: 464
Language: English
Praise for At the Edge of Empire

“[Mr. Wong] brings to his descriptions of his father’s moral dilemmas the same objectivity and rectitude that marked his reporting as a correspondent in China. . . . Mr. Wong is very much his father’s son. He has an abiding love of China, and of its culture and people. But his eyes are wide open when he confronts its faults, of which his book gives us an invaluable account.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“This book’s power comes from Wong’s broad sense of the patterns of Chinese history, reflected in the lives of a father and son, and from his ability to toggle effortlessly between the epic and the intimate.”
—Gal Beckerman, The Atlantic

“A journalist merges family history with his own experience in Beijing to provide a fascinating insight into Chinese life and politics. . . . Wong skilfully weaves his father’s and his uncle’s stories into an account of his own experiences in China, in a way that is deeply satisfying. At the Edge of Empire is valuable both on a political and a personal level, and opens up the complexities of Chinese politics and Chinese life in a way that general readers will find fascinating.”
—The Guardian

“[A] fascinating, ambitiously textured narrative. . . . Wong capably interweaves intimate details with broader truths. A well-written, multilayered work of poignant familial memories and personal reflection.”
—Kirkus Reviews (STARRED review)

“[A] resonant and moving debut. . . . An affecting elegy for the loss of tradition and familial solidarity wrought by immigration and breakneck change. This illuminates the human cost of China’s revolutionary century.” 
Publisher’s Weekly

“Edward Wong’s exquisite family chronicle achieves a level of humane illumination that only one of America’s finest reporters on China could deliver. In tracing his father’s journey—from Hong Kong to Xinjiang to America—Wong gives us a profound story of modern China itself. Anyone who once was absorbed by the power of Wild Swans will savor this meditation on memory, history, and belonging.”
—Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition, winner of the National Book Award

At the Edge of Empire is a splendid journey through 80 years of Chinese history told from the viewpoint of a nonagenarian Chinese American and his son, the former New York Times bureau chief in Beijing. Edward Wong is about as knowledgeable a guide to China as a reader could ever hope to find, and the interweaving of the highly personal accounts brings it all vividly to life in a way no other book on China has for me.”
—Barbara Demick, author of Eat the Buddha and Nothing to Envy

“It is rare for a book to combine past and present, personal history and the history of a vast nation with such thoughtfulness, grace, and panache. I’ve known Edward Wong as one of our most masterful correspondents, but here, aided by his own and his family’s history, he is able to take all of his knowledge and wisdom and experience to the next level.”
—Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Our Country Friends

At the Edge of Empire is a brilliant personal account of China's borderlands and peoples—Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Mongols, Tibetans—told through the travels of the former New York Times Beijing bureau chief and his father, who was posted as a soldier to these regions decades ago. It is full of insight and compassion.”
Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man

"Edward Wong's blend of epic family memoir and deeply insightful reporting on the rise of an increasingly autocratic China under Xi Jinping brings a level of understanding that other China books lack. In the age of the instant expert, Edward Wong is the real thing.” 
—Edward Luce, author of The Retreat of Western Liberalism and Financial Times columnist

“Edward Wong has masterfully merged the story of his father’s life in Hong Kong, China, and the US with all that he himself has seen and heard as a foreign correspondent in Beijing. He has created a seamless and engaging hybrid narrative that reminds us it’s people who write history.”
Orville Schell, author of more than a dozen books on China, including Discos and Democracy and Mandate of Heaven, and director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society

“This is an utterly gripping and original book, weaving together family history with contemporary reportage from China's contested frontiers—an unforgettable account of the country's recent past and present.”
—Julia Lovell, author of Maoism: A Global History and The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China

"The astonishing, compelling story of modern China told through the relationship between a father and son—from the experience of a young man who joins the revolutionary army under Mao's rule to the progress and protests of China and Hong Kong in our own era, Wong tells a humane, moving story against a massive canvas of China's rise to power.”  
—Rana Mitter, author of China's Good War: How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism

"At the Edge of Empire is a true epic and an extraordinary work of reportage. The son of two empires, Edward Wong is admirably clear-eyed in his ability to weave the personal and intimate with the monumental.”
—Te-Ping Chen, author of Land of Big Numbers and Wall Street Journal correspondent

“Edward Wong has spent a peerless career in journalism chronicling the hinge points of 21st century history. In this sparkling book, he enlists generations of his family to tell a story of greater China that is both intimately personal and fundamentally global, a journey steeped in trauma, nostalgia, and even poetry that only his reporting talents could conjure.” 
—Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post foreign affairs columnist

“Edward Wong’s book is a masterpiece. It’s a must-read for anyone with the faintest interest in China, America’s relationship with China, and the whole question of empire in the contemporary world.” 
—John Delury, author of Agents of Subversion: The Fate of John T. Downey and the CIA’s Covert War in China

“This is a beautifully written personal account of China's rise to a superpower. The story is vividly told through Edward Wong and his father's perspectives, both of them outsiders to the empire. Through their entirely different missions in life and their separate journeys, their personal histories jointly paint the history of how China's politics and society have evolved in modern times. A fascinating read."
—Hsiao-Hung Pai, author of Scattered Sand: The Story of China’s Rural Migrants