CHINA ROAD by Rob Gifford

This was a very enjoyable and informative read. I tend to be a little edgy about books that claim they’re going to tell us all about a particular culture. Honestly, I don’t know how accurate this book really is but Gifford is appealingly modest in his pronouncements. He doesn’t try to lecture the Chinese people on their supposed failings nor does he seem overawed by their accomplishments. He does give his opinion on what he thinks is going right and what is going wrong but is always careful to point out complications and contradictory evidence. Gifford treats China as a complex nation full of complex individuals and doesn’t try to provide easy soundbites. He does give readers a wonderful glimpse into Chinese history which is one of the book’s strongest assets. Sometimes, his humor is a little goofy and I kind of wish he had just a written a general book about China and his time there. The road trip genre is popular and has its charms but Gifford is prevented by its restrictions from dwelling on some very important and fascinating aspects of China. Again, I cannot vouch for this book’s accuracy and, if you know China well, you probably don’t need a book like this. However, if you want to learn more about China, this book seems educational, is great fun and admirably humble.

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