China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power
Route 312 is the Chinese Route 66. Wending three thousand miles from east to west, it passes through virtually every part of the social and economic revolution that is turning China upside down. In this utterly surprising and deeply personal book, acclaimed National Public Radio reporter Rob Gifford, a fluent Mandarin speaker, takes the dramatic journey along Route 312 from its start in the boomtown of Shanghai to its end on the border with Kazakhstan. Gifford reveals the rich mosaic of modern Chinese life in all its contradictions, as he poses the crucial questions that all of us are asking about China: Will it really be the next global superpower? Is it as solid and as powerful as it looks from the outside? And who are the ordinary Chinese people, to whom the twenty-first century is supposed to belong? - Back of Book
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New York, NY
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China Road-A Review
I am Sandy Gianella and I am an English teacher working with elementary age children. Even though this book would not be appropriate for elementary school students to read on their own, I can see where sharing some of Gifford’s descriptions of people and places he encounters on his journey would be helpful to provide background information. I found his book very entertaining and thought provoking. I also found myself becoming attached to some of the people he described though I knew there was another adventure just on the next page. In addition to the various Chinese people and places Gifford shares with the reader, he also includes important history lessons along the way that I found helpful to put in perspective the experiences and at times the attitudes of the people Gifford met. Often when I read a good book, I am sad to see it end and I experienced that with this book.
Review of China Road
Reviewed by Samantha Cameron, 11th grade AP World History teacher, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School
Gifford, after 6 years as a correspondent for NPR in China decided to take a trip along China's highway Route 312 as a final trip before moving to a new position in Europe. Route 312 was (at the time - the book was written in 2008) a relatively new highway that stretches from Shanghai, to the Chinese border with Kazakstan. Along his journey, Gifford spoke with people he met about the direction they felt China was headed in. These people included Han Chinese, as well as ethnic minorities such as Uighurs and Tibetans. He spoke to people spanning Chinese social classes: from the upwardly mobile, to poor farmers and truckers. From his journey, Gifford concluded that China is rapidly changing, culturally, environmentally, socially, and economically, but the political system remains rigid. Throughout the book, he contemplates whether China will become a superpower, or collapse when faced with crisis.
This book is an interesting snapshot of China in 2008 and provides useful background about China's relationship with Uighurs and Tibetans as well as some insight into China's development. However, since the book was written a decade ago, the information is outdated and this book should be paired with other readings.
For students, this book would be most appropriate for advanced readers (11th or 12th grade) who already have background in world history. Gifford makes the argument that even though the imperial system ended in 1912, the revolutions of the nationalists and the communists in China did little to actually change the political system, even as they radically altered social and cultural norms. He provides some possible explanations for why so little changed. It would be interesting to present this segment of the book to students at the end of their AP World experience. The AP World curriculum emphasizes continuity and change over time, as well as students' ability to identify secondary source arguments and I think this segment of Gifford's book would be good for students to read and analyze for these objectives.