- Book: “China Road: A Journey Into The Future Of A Rising Power”
- Author: Rob Gifford
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008
Rob Gifford is a talented journalist, travel writer, and a correspondent who used to work for the National Public Radio’s (NPR) China division, while he lived in this country for many years. This book is based on his personal journey traversing the country on the famous Route 312 – from Shanghai to Korgaz, a tiny town on the border with Kazakhstan.
When he was planning this trip, the author decided to use mostly the ground transportation – from buses, taxis, to even hitchhiking, in order to observe and experience the country as much as possible. While passing through different villages and towns, mountains, and even some deserts – the author stopped to chat with different locals, to find out how they live.
This personal account is intertwined with numerous historical references, facts, and other deep insights that will help one understand the modern life in China a lot better. The author dives into such sensitive topics as Tibet and Chinese Turkestan, and their respective ethical and cultural issues; he also talks about the main religions in China – their role, history, practice and… persecution; he examines the country’s past, present, and debates about its future; and lastly, he portrays the life of ordinary Chinese people – from students, activists, and young professionals, to the old and very poor farmers, living in tiny villages, spread across the country.
Bottomline: this book is full of great insight, it’s very easy to read and follow; it can serve as a captivating travel companion to anyone visiting China, traveling around it, or anyone who simply wants to understand this fascinating country more.
“It’s impossible to be neutral about China. Some foreigners hate it from the moment they set foot here. Others love it so much they put down roots and never go home. I wonder if other countries divide people so intensely in their emotions. For myself, I have always tried to retain my own unity of opposites, attempting to keep love and hate in balance. But it’s difficult, especially as a journalist. I’m supposed to not care. I’m just supposed to observe. But how can I not care when a fifth of humanity is being convulsed before my eyes, and thousands are making missions, and millions are being crushed? And if I seem a little confused about China, it’s because I am. And if you’re not confused, then you simply haven’t been paying attention”. (p. 274).