Monday, January 30, 2012

Book: Rob Gifford's China Road

Since we'll be going to China this summer I decided to follow the Best Man's suggestion and read Rob Gifford's "China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power".  The book reminded me of another book I read a few years back, Colin Thubron's "Shadow of the Silk Road".  While Thubron concentrated on China's history and the role the silk road played, Gifford viewpoint is firmly planted in the modern China.

"China Road" follows Gifford's trip along route 312, a road stretching 3,000 miles from Shanghai to the Kazakhstan, often described as China's Route 66.  Gifford, an NPR correspondent who lived in China for over six years, traveled the road talking to people along the way for a series of radio segments.  The book is a compilation of the fleshed out radio reports.

I liked Gifford's perspective.  When I think of China I often catch myself thinking of the pre-communist China which barely exists anymore, decimated by Mao.  Gifford's view of the modern China struggling between the rather soulless communist world, one where history and ancient culture were frowned upon and actively destroyed, and modern capitalist China searching for a modern identity.

The one thing Gifford shies away from is predicting the future of China.  He waffles between China muddling through and China torn apart by violent revolution.  I don't fully blame him.  China is changing so rapidly, rushing into uncharted territory, that predicting it's future is probably an exercise in futility.

I like Gifford's views and his writing style and I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the modern China.  I can't wait to see China for myself, even if it's only a small sampling over a two weeks.

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