Friday, February 29, 2008

China Road

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 Geography, Weiner suggests that Rob Gifford is a “hedonic refugee,” that he has an affinity for the United States (Gifford is British). Since Gifford was NPR’s China correspondent for six years, this statement took me by surprise and reminded me to read China Road.

Now that the longwinded introduction is behind me, I’ll write about the book. China is a hot topic and will continue to be so, particularly with the Beijing Olympics this summer. I was surprised, though, by how little I really know about China. For example, Gifford discusses in detail the many ethnic groups that comprise the country. In my Western mind, only Chinese people live in China, but this is just not true.

Like with the NPR series, I was most interested in the “human interest” stories Gifford shares. I was fascinated with the places he visits and the people he meets, so I’ve decided my next trip should be to China.

Much of the book, though, deals with policy, politics, and China’s future. These sections, of course, are of extreme importance. However, they are much less engaging than the rest of the narrative and tend to drag.

Gifford suggests, and I agree, that China’s future (both political and economic) will have a major impact on the global community—and the United States in particular. As such, this is one topic that all Americans should be interested in.

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