In this book, Kristof and WuDunn, husband and wife, wrote about their experiences in China from 1988 to 1993. The couple spent five years in China as journalist reporting for the New York Times. For a time WuDunn worked and travelled around China as a tourist after her press credentials had been revoked by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on a technicality.
The authors present alternating chapters with Kristof writing the odd numbered chapters and WuDunn writing the even numbered chapters. Only the last chapter of the book was written by both authors. Kristoff and WuDunn cover various topics such as the lives of Chinese peasants, corruption, sex, religion, China's one child policy, the June 4th Incident , and the future of the Communist party. The two journalists are assisted by local Chinese friends, anonymous sources, and Communist officials in researching stories for the New York Times. In the Author's Note it is stated that the names of some Chinese sources have been changed for their protection, while the names of corrupt Communist officials have been left uncensored. China emerges as a country torn between Deng Xiaoping's successful economic strategy and frustrated political reform and human rights.