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

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  3,170 Ratings  ·  413 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
Paperback, 322 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2007)
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Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie Christine
Aug 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any traveller; anyone interested in East Asia
Recommended to Julie Christine 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
Sep 19, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 20, 2008 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
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gifford ha vissuto in Cina dal 1987 e quindi è un grande conoscitore di questo immenso Paese. Nel libro descrive un viaggio di oltre 4000 km lungo la Route 312, una strada che taglia l'intero territorio cinese da est (Shanghai) a ovest (confine con il Kazakistan). Un bel libro ricco di descrizioni vivide di cos'è la Cina oggi (e di com'era nell'antichità), di acute osservazioni personali ed interpretazioni. Gifford pone l'accento sui cambiamenti molto rapidi, o forse troppo rapidi, che stanno av ...more
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ray Smith
Mar 05, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Zhifei Ge
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ethan Cramer-Flood
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
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Incrediballz. Definitely a worth-while read. Super informative about the transition of power in modern China and the struggles the CCP is facing and will face in the near future. Plus, it all becomes quite personalized; you meet the most wonderful characters along Route 312 - from Wu Faliang who is struggling with the western pursuit of survival to Princess Pinky who is chasing the eastern pursuit of happiness; from the Han, the Mongols, the Tibetans, the Uighurs, and every ethnicity in between; ...more
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book to read before you go to China. I loved it - he blends the personal with the historical (told in an accessible way) and sociological. It's not a hagiography but clearly he loves China - warts and all.

I knew nothing about the blood scandal in Henan where villages are almost wiped out from selling blood in the 90s and there was cross-contamination. This blood was for Western pharmaceutical companies. Of course there was a huge cover-up. Rob Gifford is rightly angry about it.

Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Covers the most recent/contemporary territory of all the books on China I've read so far. I especially appreciated his portraits of the Chinese people he spent time with--a good mix of political/social/economic analyses and personal human stories.
Eveline Chao
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.
Absolutely excellent. Outstanding. I took notes especially on chapter 9, "Power". I quote here from the book the sections that struck me as incredibly significant.

"There are many ways in which China was far ahead of Europe, in terms of technological development and prosperity. But for some reason, their system never developed any real checks on state power, and since in the West these checks did emerge, it has become a point of real contention between the two sides. The subject of human rights w
Andrea James
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
I have gaping holes in my knowledge about China. Gigantic gaping holes. Come to think of it, those gargantuan holes exist in just about every other subject too.

But I suppose part of me wants to take a slightly greater interest in China. I feel saddened that I can barely speak Mandarin anymore. Almost 25 years of being in the UK and not having any friends who speak Mandarin has eroded whatever I knew before I left Singapore.

I'm also, like probably most people, blown away by the magnitude of the
Sep 16, 2017 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book a lot more than I thought I would. I have been to China three times and think its a magical place. So I was excited to read the author's perspective. Most of what he writes on, is what I felt, thought and experienced during my time in China as well. The book feels nostalgic to me because of this. I enjoyed the author's perspective on his time in China. I feel like he is a true Journalist. He writes on the perspectives of all the people he talks with and does a great job with it ...more
Vytautas Rimkus
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nicely delivered and captivating road trip journal/commetary on China. The only thing that left me slightly disappointed is the last chapter. Not because it's not good. It certainly is. But it would be better as a standalone essay or divided across chapters in small bites where appropriate. Now though, it feels like there are twenty something chapters of travel journal and one chapter where the author realised he hasn't talked about where China is going, so he needs to hurry up, give predictions ...more
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful view of China from 10 years ago. I'd love to know what happened next.
Ranní ptáče
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zrní
Pokud chcete vědět něco o tom, jak vypadá současná Čína, tahle kniha vám jí ukáže.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting a lots of info on China
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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.” 4 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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