China Road: One Man's Journey into the Heart of Modern China Paperback – 2 Jun 2008
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'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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Rob's book is excellent for understanding China. He has written the best short summery of Chinese history I have ever read. His travels do touch the rhythm of everyday China. Read morePublished 3 months ago by T. Hord Little
I like the book. A specific view of the China. And again the book is so cheap. I will definitely recommend this to my friends. Thank you very much,Published 11 months ago by Shuai Wang
Beautifully written and thought provoking book that has made me more aware of why China is the way it is and what we may expect of it in years to comePublished 12 months ago by BQ
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in China and its rapid transition for the last few decades. Read morePublished 21 months ago by ant_1213
The main strength of this book lies in the author's ability to link the past to the present, the historic China to the modern Chinese nation. Read morePublished on 9 April 2014 by Sasha
Even if you never go this is a great read ! A way to learn lots about the silk road regions and how to have an adventure instead of just a holiday. Read morePublished on 31 Mar. 2014 by Jennifer Wilders
Well written. I enjoyed reading about the variety of people Rob Gifford met - their jobs, experiences and aspirations - in preparation for my visit to China.Published on 4 Jan. 2014 by Flic Lewis
I had listened to Rob Gifford on NPR for several years when I lived in the US, so I knew of him. He was a very observant reporter, and also knew the history, so was especially... Read morePublished on 21 May 2013 by Davey
I very much enjoyed this book and I recommend it but I was shocked to read at the end it was two trips rolled into one. Gifford had an assistant for the first trip. Read morePublished on 25 Feb. 2013 by noname
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