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.