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China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,737 Ratings  ·  377 Reviews
Route 312 is the Chinese Route 66. It flows three thousand miles from east to west, passing through the factory towns of the coastal areas, through the rural heart of China, then up into the Gobi Desert, where it merges with the Old Silk Road. The highway witnesses every part of the social and economic revolution that is turning China upside down.

In this utterly surprising
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by Random House (first published January 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 29, 2008 Leanna rated it really liked it
Several years ago, I listened to Rob Gifford’s series "On the Road in China" on NPR. Three of my siblings (or siblings-in-law) have lived in Asia, and though I’ve never traveled in the area, I was fascinated by his series.

With this in mind, I intended to read Gifford’s China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power when it first came out last year. However, my local library did not immediately add it to its collection, so I forgot about the book.

Until I read The Geography of Bliss.

In Ge
Aug 24, 2008 Julie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Any traveller; anyone interested in East Asia
Recommended to Julie by: NPR
For a reader such as I, who knows so little about China, this was an excellent and accessible overview. As he experiences the tidal wave of hyper-modernity that begins in the eastern cities and rushes into the remote western deserts and mountains, Gifford offers neat bytes of China's immense history. The bibliography is a trove to mine. Upon finishing the book I had a solid grasp of China's possibilities of growth and tumult respective of its past cultural and political development. ANd I yearn ...more
Nov 02, 2007 Dan rated it liked it
Rather than trying to capture all of China, Gifford takes us along on a guided road-trip; a backpack-toting, hostel-sleeping, diesel-driving, 3000 mile journey through modern China. It is, by his account, a nation divided: obsessed with a future improbable enough to be terrifying, and bound by a past whose release could be fatal.

This is not a scholarly work (though there are some elements of that), but a personal account of the lives of real people: a roomful of villagers infected with AIDS by b
Sep 15, 2011 Barbara rated it liked it
After living in China for a while, I've come to dislike almost all western reporting on China. While it's rarely factually wrong, it generally misses the point. I'm looking at you, CNN.

This book is one of the handful of exceptions. Rob Gifford is well respected here as a true China expert, and his book gives a true and vivid picture of modern China, with all its contradictions.

He uses the device of traveling along Route 312, a 3000 mile road that connects Shanghai with the Western Chinese borde
Paul Holbrook
Jul 07, 2008 Paul Holbrook rated it really liked it
Rob Gifford convinced me that China an enigma to much of the world for good reason, not just because of our ignorance. Points that stuck with me:

First, China is a collection of ethnic minorities, some of whom have almost nothing to do with the rest of China except by political fiat. Head west in China, as Rob Gifford did, and you find yourself with people who are being swamped by the Han Chinese, the 92% ethnic majority. We have nothing quite like that in the US.

Second, China's relationship betw
I found this book to be fascinating. Knowing relatively little about China, this was a very eye-opening book.

The premise is that Gifford, a journalist with many years spent in China, travels Route 312 from the coast of China all the way the Kazakhstan border. The journey is filled with conversations with the Chinese people he meets. Along the way, he educates the reader in Chinese history. Much more emotionally charged than I was expecting, but it is also very funny and entertaining.
Ray Smith
Mar 29, 2013 Ray Smith rated it did not like it
A rather boring and very annoying book. I was expecting a travelogue like Paul Theroux's excellent Riding the Iron Rooster, but instead, the book's broken down so:

20% -- real-life stories Gifford encounters on his trip, which are almost never interesting.
30% -- recycled historical stories about China, stuff I've heard 1000 times before.
50% -- Gifford's endless and sweeping pronouncements about China, which are never original or interesting. This is stuff I've heard 100,000 times before (Tibet, d
Aug 20, 2008 coffeedog rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
British author Rob Gifford, fluent in Mandarin, with 20 years experience in China as a student and journalist, decides to travel Route 312 from Shanghai to Korgaz (China's border with Kazakhstan). Devoting a summer to this 3000-mile trip via buses and taxis, he brings his career experience to ponder the questions of China's future. [return][return]Talking with ordinary people of many ethnic, economic and social identities, and putting today's China into historical context, the result is informat ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Sherri rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book! After living in China for 20 years, former NPR journalist, Rob Gifford, took a summer long trip from Shanghai to China's western boarder on Kazakhstan along route 312 (which he compares to America's Route 66), before leaving China to go back to Europe. Gifford documents his trip in this book, slipping in some of his thoughts and impressions about China and the future of China formed after living there for 20 years and witnessing the incredible pace of change and development. The b ...more
Oct 01, 2008 Pauline rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone traveling to China
Recommended to Pauline by: borrowed it from Rachel on tour
Just got back from a tour of the Mainland and one of my travelmates lent me this book while we were there. I read it on the train and it was neat to follow our progress on the map and in the stories. Gifford's book gives wonderful background into past and modern day China. As a Chinese American, I also appreciated the explanations of common terms that I've heard my parents' use, like "lao bai xing" - old hundred names.

I liked how Gifford makes the point that we Westerners should not judge China
Apr 14, 2012 Mag rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, china, asia
A travelogue from the journey made along Route 312- sort of Chinese Route 66- from Shanghai to Kazakhstan’s border, chronicling the changes the post Mao communist regime and globalization have brought to the country. Gifford made the trip east to west and through the Gobi desert along the former Silk Road the way the locals do- mostly by bus, hailed truck, carpooling with others, or by taxi. On the way, he spoke to ordinary people he met: truck drivers, restaurant owners, fellow bus passengers, ...more
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it
I know next to nothing about China, and Gifford's book is a nice way to sort of skim through the impossibly broad array of cultural and socio/political issues and shifts which make it up. Unlike most people who write about China, he's actually more interested in the Chinese people he meets than in the Chinese economy, which no one actually knows what to make of (including most Chinese). He also does a lot to illuminate the historical tensions between Chinese peasants and the centralized ruling p ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Heidi rated it really liked it
Just before packing up and leaving China for good, NPR foreign correspondent Rob Gifford bused and hitchhiked his way along China's 5000 kilometer Route 312. Route 312 spans the country from east to west, from the modern city of Shanghai, through the industrial areas along the coast, alongside the poor rural farmers in China's central region, and right through the Gobi Desert. Along the way, Gifford (who is fluent in Mandarin) talked to the local people and made his own observations about China' ...more
Zhifei Ge
May 01, 2012 Zhifei Ge rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture, travelogue
I've been reading quite a lot of books on China, not simply because I love this country, but I've never had a unified opinion about China. My own attitude towards China has always been self-contradictory. This travelogue just echoes my confusion with lively and thought-provoking anecdotes.

The travel starts from Shanghai and ends in the Gobi Dessert along the Route 312. In the first few chapters, Rob is still near the coastal areas and stories of successful Shanghai have been repeated by many o
Ethan Cramer-Flood
Jun 07, 2011 Ethan Cramer-Flood rated it it was amazing
A perfect book for the China generalist. Entertaining, enlightening, wide-ranging, smoothly presented. Just the right helpings of culture, politics, history, quirk, engaging anecdotes, moving stories, enlightening revelations, social commentary, etc. If you want to know a whole lot more about all the facets of modern China -- rather than just focusing on the politics as I often do -- this book is a great way to start. Yes, it will tell you a lot about the political situation, but it will also se ...more
Sep 08, 2008 Ginni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
If I could use one sentence to review Gifford's China Road it would be simply that it made me think. Which really, is the highest compliment I can offer.

It took me a few weeks to read it, not that it was difficult or hard to follow, but that I enjoyed it more if I took it a chapter at a time. Gifford works for NPR and the book began as a series for the radio. I didn't hear the series when it aired, but I can easily imagine how it went because Gifford's chapters read like radio segments. Each is
Jun 23, 2014 Phillip rated it really liked it
"China Road" would fit comfortably on the shelf with John Stienbeck's "Travels with Charley" and "Earth Odyssey" by Mark Hertsgaard. In "China Road" the author ends his 6 year stay in China as a correspondent for NPR by spending 8 weeks traveling across the country to interview random individuals that he meets on his travels to see what the people of different provinces are like, what their views are, and what they think the future of China is likely to be.

In the 1960s Stienbeck did a similar t
Jun 07, 2014 Elderberrywine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
All right. Let me just lay it on the table. This book is brilliant.

First of all, I love me a good road trip, whether in real life or in a book, and this is certainly that. Gifford travels from Shanghai to the Kazakhstan border via the 3000 + mile Route 312, very much the Chinese equivalent of the U. S. Route 66. He gets there via local taxi, bus, hitchhiking, and in one case, by hooking up with the Shanghai Off-Roader Jeep Club (a photo of the bros is priceless).

But what makes this book somethin
Sophie Zapoli
Aug 26, 2015 Sophie Zapoli rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asia-middle-east
If I were only allowed to read one book on China in my lifetime, I think this would have to be it. This is the first book that makes me feel like I "get" China, its current situation, and the mindset of its people. We studied China in school and I had read about it on my own, but I was still looking at it from the outside in and viewing China's success as well as its problems with very western eyes. Through candid interviews with Chinese people of various social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Freeny rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. Rob Gifford writes clearly and thoughtfully about modern China, widely covering many topics of politics, society, economics, history, religion, and art. Despite sometimes heavy subject matter, Gifford's writing style is always approachable and never dry, and really kept me very interested and interested. Modern China is a complex country entangled with its long, long, (very long) history, a population larger than any other, shame and embarrassment after centuries of Western exploit ...more
Oct 17, 2007 Annalee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Great Book! I would highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the history, present and possible future of China and how this could affect us in the US. The author, an NPR correspondent in China for six years, took a road trip along the equivalent of US's Route 66 from Shanghai to the border of Kazakhstan, traveling by taxi, bus and hitchhiking. I found the stories of the people he met and his insight on China's history fascinating.
Dec 07, 2014 Serena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an undergraduate studying Chinese and currently on my own year abroad in Beijing, I was already very inclined to enjoy China Road. Its premise is cool - as is the case with a lot of travel writing - and pretty unique as far as I'm aware. Detailing Gifford's journey from Shanghai to Urumqi by taking Route 312, the book also explores a number of themes important to modern China including the economy, politics, Chinese history, religion, ethnicity, corruption and the future. It's very easy to re ...more
Eveline Chao
Nov 24, 2007 Eveline Chao rated it liked it
not the best of the china books out there, but there are a few thought-provoking and interesting scenes and ideas. mostly though i felt like just when you had finally come upon an interesting character, the book only dwelled on them for a moment before skipping on to the next part of the journey.
Sep 14, 2007 Mari rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Tourists & Business people going to China
Rob Gifford, a longtime journalist in Bejing, follows Rte 312 the 3000 mile long Old Silk Road from Shanghai to Kazihstan. His knowledge of Mandarin facilitates conversations that are at time poingnant, humorous and
Apr 11, 2015 Wendy rated it really liked it
Most people, when they think of China, think of the glamorous, glitzy modern cities, like Shanghai and Beijing. However, China is an enormous country, made up of many dialects and tribes. The author, who lived and worked in China, traveled through the country 3000 miles from East (Shanghai) to West (by the Kazakh border) via Route 312. Along the way he explored how the country has grown and changed. He talked to regular folks, from peasant farmers to urban yuppies, AIDS patients to Tibetan monks ...more
Jan 22, 2015 Mitzi rated it really liked it
This book excited me because it opened my eyes to life in China today...something I guess I've not considered very deeply. The author certainly colors his observances with his own history of being from Britain, living in China for a number of years, and now doing a farewell trip. He has an affinity for the Chinese people, to be sure, but shows the effect of a tumultuous and not very happy history. It certainly made me more interested in what happens to a people denied certain freedoms as they tr ...more
Carissa Norris
Apr 18, 2015 Carissa Norris rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful observation of modern day China. I lived in China for a couple years after graduating from college and so many of the experiences of this author echoed my own. He also went so many places I had been and I can verify his descriptions. He has some of the same thoughts as me. I liked in particular his description of seeing the amazing potential of China one day and then feeling it will all fall apart the next. Yes, that is what it often feels like as a foreigner living in China ...more
Wesley  Gerrard
This book is a thoroughly absorbing study of modern China and its vast population. The author embarks on a pilgrimage along Route 312, China's Route 66, heading West from Shanghai, deep into the deserted Asiatic frontier in the northwest. En route, he documents his mainly chance encounters with the general populace and impromptu, un-monitored interviews, bring out the true feelings of the Chinese and their views on modern life and the future. The book is quite scathing of the Chinese government ...more
Mark Farley
Very interesting, although I got bogged down with it a couple of times. Again, I tend not to read things about places I have never visited but my recent soujorn and appreciation for escapism, this was a really welcome charity shop find when I found myselfin another town with some time to kill. The politics are a bit heavy but the history and learning about the ways and the psyche of your average china man was really fascinating. It's written by someone with lots of knowledge and experience too.
Jonna Higgins-Freese
This is very straightforward and easily readable (though the writing/storytelling is not as intricate, detailed, and vivid as Peter Hessler's). A friend pointed out to me five or six years ago how hugely influential India and China will be/are in the world, and ever since I've tried to learn more. I'm fascinated by China. Gifford's own complex feelings of loving the energy and optimism of China and the number of people who have gotten out of poverty there in recent years, while hating the repres ...more
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From Wikipedia:
Rob Gifford is a British radio correspondent and journalist. He has degrees in Chinese Studies from Durham University and in Regional Studies (East Asia) from Harvard University. He began to learn Mandarin Chinese in 1987 whilst in China.

Gifford was on staff at the BBC World Service for three years. In the United States, he worked for two years at WGBH in Boston. From 1999 to 2005,
More about Rob Gifford...

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“The sign says BLIND PEOPLE’S ARBORETUM. I stand, still out of breath, dripping sweat and marveling at such a beautiful concept—in China, of all places, where disabled people are still often considered flawed and superfluous. I have never seen anything like this, even in the United States or Europe, and yet here, hidden away on the edge of a noisy, bustling, modernizing Chinese city, someone has taken the effort and expense to plant this beautiful, tree-hugging garden—an island of stop-and-rest in a sea of smash-and-grab.   5.” 2 likes
“Technology is the new religion of urban China, and no longer just in the coastal cities. Having wasted decades, centuries almost, overcoming traditional objections to progress, and then wasted thirty years convulsing to a Maoist revolutionary tune, the Chinese have finally gotten themselves into a position where they can develop technology and begin to take on the world. Everywhere you see signs that say REVIVE THE NATION THROUGH SCIENCE AND EDUCATION.” 0 likes
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