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China Road: One Man's Journey into the Heart of Modern China Paperback – 2 Jun 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747593353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747593355
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Of the (too) many books about China, this is an oustanding one.'
-- Ross Leckie, The Times, May 31st 2008

About the Author

Rob Gifford first went to China in 1987 as a twenty-year-old undergraduate, to study the language. A fluent Mandarin speaker and former BBC producer, he has spent twenty years studying, visiting and reporting on China. From 1999 to 2005 he was Beijing correspondent for the US network, National Public Radio. During that time he travelled all over China, from Tibet to the Russian border, and from the Muslim northwest to North Korea. He is now NPR's London bureau chief.


Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Rob Gifford, journalist, long term resident in China and fluent Mandarin speaker, takes one last journey along the old Silk Road (modern day route 312) before leaving China for a posting in London. Travelling the route using a combination of hitching, public transport and taxis, he contemplates and talks to the people he meets about the state of China, how it got there, and where it might be going.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A very easy read (Gifford's journalistic background is amply demonstrated), it seemed to cover a lot of ground, seamlessly passing from travelogue to interviews to background knowledge on aspects of Chinese culture and history influencing the current state of the country, a history that the Communist government has tried to bury, but which it ignores at its peril. His respect for the Chinese people permeates the whole book, along with his ambivalence about its government, castigating on one side its attitude to the 'Old Hundred Names' (the heart of the Chinese population) and widespread local corruption, whilst appreciating the challenges inherent in governing what is, in effect, an emerging continent.
Using his journalistic and language skills and his familiarity with China to the full, Gifford provides a portrait of China that too few westerners (including Michael Palin) could get anywhere near achieving. If you want a glossy travelogue, then this is not the book to read. If you want an intelligent but readable discussion about where the most heavily populated nation on earth might be heading, then it certainly is. It might not go into the sort of depth that some might want (hence 4 rather than 5 stars), but if you are a beginner like me, it's an excellent primer.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
China Road, One Man's Journey into the Heart of Modern China, Rob Gifford
This fascinating book delivers so much more even than it promises. The Journalist, Rob Gifford is leaving China where he has visited and lived for 20 years with his family. He has now sent his family home and is making one last trip from Shanghai in the east to the Kazakhstan border in far west. His route is the 312 road, which follows for part of its length the old Silk Road.
He undertakes this journey alone in the book (though in fact as pointed out in the notes, the book is a composite of two trips, one accompanied by his assistant), and travels through the highways and byways of modern China. At the start (and indeed the end) he samples the glitz, glamour and technology of Shanghai, but as he journeys westward encounters a very different China, and a range of attitudes from hostility and resentment to resignation. The real heart of this book is his conversations with various fellow-travellers in which he reveals some of these attitudes and frustrations, and unearths the physical changes and astonishing developments. Throughout, he paints the picture of contrasts and contradictions - indeed, near the start of the book he suggests that "how foreigners see China often has as much to do with their own characters and prejudices......as the reality on the ground" (surely actually a good working hypothesis for any situation!). As points out, there is no better way of getting to know some of the reality on the ground than chatting with a long-distance lorry driver barrelling across the Gobi desert!
On his journey he visits many towns and villages - some on the main route, others branched off to see or experience interesting features or to meet interesting people.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a fan of travelogues and since I'm trying to get a little more clued in about modern China, this book seemed like a good pick. After spending seven years as a correspondent for NPR, author Gifford packed his bags in 2004 to move back to England and struck out for one last Chinese adventure. Over the course of two weeks, he made his way along "Route 312", which winds a roughly northwest 3,000-mile route from Shanghai to the border with Kazakhstan. Gifford preaces hiss journey with the hope that it will help him answer the question he gets all the time about China: will it become the next global superpower, or will it crumble into chaos? With that in mind, he's off (along with an NPR production crew) on a motley assortment of buses and trucks, meeting all manner of people, from angry poor farmers to slick rich businessmen, and everyone in between (including some zealous Amway reps!). The most memorable of his casual encounters is probably the traveling government abortionist who matter-of-factly explains the need for forced abortions to Gifford.

His travels touch on pretty much everything someone reasonably conversant with modern China might already be familiar with: rural civil unrest, AIDS epidemics, the sex-trade industry, the shortage of woman in some areas, the pervasiveness of official corruption, ecological catastrophes in the making, the rise of religion, the political repression and cultural conversion of ethnic minorities, and of course the booming economic development and the confusing winds of change that follows in its wake. It's all good stuff, ably reported, however it struck me as somewhat superficial in a sense.
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