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  • The Truth About China

  • By: Bill Birtles
  • Narrated by: Bill Birtles
  • Length: 8 hrs and 34 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (147 ratings)

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The Truth About China

By: Bill Birtles
Narrated by: Bill Birtles
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Publisher's Summary

A thrilling and provocative account of unfolding tensions between China and the West, filled with the people, stories and sticky situations from Bill Birtles' five years as an ABC correspondent. 

'People abroad always thought things were much scarier in China than they really were. What threw me, though, was the urgency of the diplomats in Beijing. They live it; they get it. And they wanted me out.'

Bill Birtles was rushed out of China in September 2020, forced to seek refuge in the Australian Embassy in Beijing while diplomats delicately negotiated his departure in an unprecedented standoff with China's government. Five days later, he was on a flight back to Sydney, leaving China without any Australian foreign correspondents on the ground for the first time in decades.

A journalist's perspective on this rising global power has never been more important, as Australia's relationship with China undergoes an extraordinary change that's seen the detention of journalist Cheng Lei, Canberra's criticism of Beijing's efforts to crush Hong Kong's freedoms, as well as China's military activity in the South China Sea and its human rights violations targeting the mostly Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang province. Chronicling his five-year stint in China as he criss-crossed the country, Birtles reveals why the historic unravelling of China's relations with the West is perceived very differently inside the country.

The Truth About China is a compelling and candid examination of China, one that takes a magnifying glass to recent events and looks through a telescope at what is yet to come.

©2021 Bill Birtles (P)2021 W F Howes

Critic Reviews

"A compelling, clear-eyed yet colourful take of a changing china...riveting." (Fran Kelly)

What listeners say about The Truth About China

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Like a war correspondent

At first as i listened it seemed so frontline as to lack in depth analysis but that soon changed. it has both,, the Hong Kong parts are like a war correspondents report and yet there is plenty of interpretation of sometimes random and surprising events. The author does a fine job of narrating but not perfect for my ear lLstening to this will give you the truth about China and it's not pretty. Certainly not a dry essay and thoroughly listenable while still giving you the back story.

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6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good Background

Good background to a very complex story but Australia should continue to manage this relationship for equal benefit.

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2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating!

I had been desperately wanting to read this book since the minute it came out, but life, lockdown, and finding our new life as a returned Aussie Expat from Hong Kong got in the way. Thank god for Audible!!

Firstly, I am a Bill Birtles Fan. I’ll say it straight up. He was a constant visitor to our family via the Australian Channel Network on the Hong Kong TV stations. So I feel like Bill was there every step of our time there.. a great eight years. I also think Bill is a good role model for a teen like my son - loves reading, loves history, learning Mandarin and a third culture kid. He has the book on his bedside table ready for school holidays already.

Bill’s story is so interesting. He is the kind of guy you want to invite over for a family dinner and hear all the stories he couldn’t include in the book. I’m sure there are many!

Bill was the last Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) left in China and sadly right now, 2021, there are no more reporting on the real China.

I laughed at his descriptions of many places in China and HK I visited regularly (yes the Wan Chai bars) and genuinely think he is a lucky guy to be here telling his story now.

When he realised he could have gotten a DFAT flight out of locked down Wuhan, so he would have stayed rather than escaping with hours to spare, I genuinely felt sorry for his mum and wife that they had such a adventure loving guy in their midst.

Well done Bill. Now let’s hear more!

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Not for me

I thought this book would offer a critical insight into China, it does not in my opinion. This book lacks depth and offers little. It’s a story about how an Aussie journo did his job, flat hunting and a whole lot of drivel.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Honest and gripping

Gripping tale of a foreign correspondent in a complicated country. A non-biased, honest account by someone who lived and worked with and the Chinese people. The reading by the author himself felt like he's telling you his experience over a beer. I found it enjoyable. I have also gained much insight into modern China, and the citizens living under the CCP, through his experiences recounted in this book. Not all we hear in the media is as it seems. The context of stories and sources of information are just as important as the story itself, if not more so. This is a timely book and should be read as soon as possible for anyone wishing to gain some insight into why China's international relationships today are the way they are.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

interesting expose

this was an incredibly interesting expose into Chinese political culture from someone with wonderful curiosity. It was obvious that he had great respect and love for the Chinese people.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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A reporter's memoir

I was hoping for analysis and elucidation of the political incentives and cultural differences that are accompanying China's rise and causing international consternation.
Unfortunately the book provides very little of this and does not live up to its title.
You get a first hand account, but not further insight, into recent events that you would already have by following the news over the last few years.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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fantastic

great account of personal and actual facts.

the political future will be very complicated considering countries dependence on each other.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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A wonderful and insightful read

This was a great read written by one of Australia's most respected foreign journalist.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Up to date and enjoyable analysis

Thanks to Bill Birtles for his part serious, part humorous analysis of present day China

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In the spirit of reconciliation, Audible acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.