I really don’t want to turn this blog into a series of reviews, but I must comment on the book, China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford.
Rob Gifford is a correspondent for NPR who had been living in China for 20 years. Before leaving this post and becoming NPR’s London correspondent, Gifford decided to travel China’s Route 312 across the country. For those of us in the US, this is the equivalent of driving Route 66 or I-70 from east to west.
This book is so many things. It is a travel log of his experiences along the road. It is a glimpse into the every day lives of people across the country. It ties the past to the present and provides context for the situation in which China currently finds itself. It is a long last look at a complex country where Gifford made his home, before he moves on.
My 9 weeks in China were nothing compared to Gifford’s experiences. I was a student in an international program with people, not just from China, but from all over the world. Gifford spent 20 years there as a journalist. I can’t speak the language. Gifford can, and used that ability to interact with people, and ask deep questions. I barely left Beijing. Gifford traveled Route 312. Despite these differences, I feel I understand a lot of what Gifford discusses in this book.
Before I went to China, I tried to educate myself a bit on the country. I watched some specials, I read some books. While I was there, I kept my eyes open. I made sure I talked to our Chinese classmates, whom it was my honor to meet. I was also in the “Space and Society” department, which exposed me to more of Chinese culture than I may have seen otherwise. My conclusion leaving China was that it was a much more complex place than many of us in the “West” are led to believe.
In China Road, Gifford paints this picture of the complex place that is modern China. Along his journey he talk to whomever he can from Amway salesmen to the ethnic peoples of the Gobi desert to a woman who enforces China’s One Child policy.
In addition to the book itself, there is a series of audio journals that aired on NPR’s morning edition. In these segments you not only hear the author’s own voice, but the voices of those he interviews.
If you are curious about China, are considering traveling there, or have ever gone there, I highly recommend the NPR morning Edition Segments and this fantastic book (in either audio or print form). You may wish to stop by Rob Gifford’s web site.