China Road, by Rob Gifford

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Great, great book. Everyone interested in China should read it. Written by an NPR correspondent who’s reported from Beijing for 6 years, it’s a really good bit of insight into what’s happening in China now and why. The book jacket reads a bit like a travel book: the frame of the story is 2 trips that Rob took on China’s Route 312, and East-West highway that stretches from Shanghai on the East all the way through Urumqi and into Kazakhstan in the West.

But it’s a lot more than that; it’s a look into the mass migration that’s happening in China from rural areas into cities, and from the relatively underdeveloped West to the coastal East of Beijing, Shanghai & Shenzen. He likens it to the travels of the Okies written about by Steinbeck.

He also gives quite a lot of historical context as he travels through places like Xian (the original capital, I think?), and visits Tibet. There are bits about what the government is doing to bring the West into the rest of China (culturally), and why that’s happening. And it’s a fun book to read, too.

Anyway, great book, highly recommended. I recognized a bunch of the places and the phenomena that he talks about from my recent trips, and from my point of view, he does a really admirable job of making some very complicated things accessible to everyone.

3 Replies to “China Road, by Rob Gifford”

  1. I agree that Gifford’s book is a very interesting and insightful read; particularly because he has experience pursuing subject matter that is officially “off-limits” and censored by the government. However, I wonder if you were also struck with his view that Chinese basically lack a moral compass. My sense from more than one passage is that he believes this is due to their lack of a monotheistic religious tradition. Personally, I think this judgment seems shallow. It goes without saying that moral righteousness is not synonymous with the presence of a monotheistic religion.Anyway, rant over. I agree that overall, it’s a very interesting read.

  2. I agree that Gifford’s book is a very interesting and insightful read; particularly because he has experience pursuing subject matter that is officially “off-limits” and censored by the government. However, I wonder if you were also struck with his view that Chinese basically lack a moral compass. My sense from more than one passage is that he believes this is due to their lack of a monotheistic religious tradition. Personally, I think this judgment seems shallow. It goes without saying that moral righteousness is not synonymous with the presence of a monotheistic religion.

    Anyway, rant over. I agree that overall, it’s a very interesting read.

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