China Road, by Rob Gifford, is a look into how varied China is, through the lens of a long road trip along Route 312 – from Shanghai in the east to the border with Kazakhstan in the west. It’s a great idea because it highlights the wide disparity in China right now. Shanghai is one of the biggest most vibrant cities in the world, with huge international companies, millions of migrant workers, and just the “big city vibe”. As he heads to the west he quickly leaves that behind and finds small towns, rural villages, and finally the Gobi desert. Throughout it all though he finds people willing, often almost desparate, to talk about their situations and points of view.
This is a good book, but I feel it works best as a contrast to other more basic readings. As one of the first books on China I read it was interesting, but I didn’t really appreciate the perspectives until I reread it later, after getting a better feeling of the country’s situation.