Top positive review
14 people found this helpful
on 4 October 2008
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.