DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jan 9 2008

Book Review: China Road

by Heather O

Post_2 With “China Road: a journey into the future of a rising power”, NPR correspondent Rob Gifford journeys through the literal and cultural heart of modern China. An easily accessible work for those interested in post-Mao China and its increasingly important place in the world but don’t want to wade through a gigantic history book spanning China’s centuries old civilization. Following Route 312 from Shanghai to the ends of China at Korgaz in the N.W. Xinjiang province, Gifford travels through what seems like both past and future China as route 312 changes from the busy 10-lane superhighways in Shanghai to single-lane desert roads following the Old Silk Route further West. The road itself paints a vivid picture of the divergences in Chinese landscape and culture that few Westerners seem to know about: from corrupt local officials, Han Chinese tourists taking in ‘traditional’ Tibetan culture, polluted farms and rivers, to ancient historical wonders, rapidly growing urban oases, and Shanghai Hooters. Talking to everyone along the way from hermits with cellphones to Amway sales reps, Gifford taps into iconic imagery we are all too familiar with: route 312 is eerily similar to route 66 with all the wonder and contradictions of the opening of China’s West. The U.S. media is dominated by stories of superpower China’s economic boom and rapid modernization, Gifford attempts to find out what exactly that means to China itself by taking his 3000 mile trip moving east to west – from urban China to rural and minority China, the exact opposite of the route many Chinese often have to take to find work and a future.

Listen to the seven part NPR series “On the Road in China” based on Gifford’s book.

Recommended Reading:

The snow lion and the dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama– Melvyn Goldstein

River town: two years on the Yangtze – Peter Hessler

China shakes the world: a titan’s rise and troubled future and the challenge for America– James Kynge

Chinese lessons: five classmates and the story of the new China–  John Pomfret


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