Dan's Reviews > China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power

China Road by Rob Gifford
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's review
Nov 02, 2007

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Read in October, 2007

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 bad government policy, a cell-phone carrying hermit who meditates alone on mount Hua Shan, an Amway salesman who is beginning to see his dreams become real, a school teacher who helps children from his own nation give up their heritage to become Chinese (their best chance at success). None of these stories are in-depth enough to be completely satisfying their own, but taken together they paint a picture of present-day China, in all its industrious complexity and contradiction.

Just as when you walk by a fence and build a picture of the backyard from a series of tiny slices, we get a taste of many different lives in such brief duration and rapid succession that a shape, at least, begins to form. China rushes forward with big-city dreams and peasant feet. No matter what happens there over the next twenty years, the rest of the world will feel it.
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