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Publisher's Summary

National Public Radio's Beijing correspondent Rob Gifford recounts his travels along Route 312, the Chinese Mother Road, the longest route in the world's most populous nation. Based on his successful NPR radio series, China Road draws on Gifford's 20 years of observing first-hand this rapidly transforming country, as he travels east to west, from Shanghai to China's border with Kazakhstan. As he takes listeners on this journey, he also takes them through China's past and present while he tries to make sense of this complex nation's potential future.
©2007 Robert Gifford; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

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  • Zack
  • Chicago
  • 01-25-14

An Enlightening Journey Across Present-Day China

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Rob Gifford offers a refreshing, up-close perspective on the people, culture, government, and prospective future of present-day China. The narrative is free from the fear-mongering and doomsday predictions that dominate most Western coverage of China, but is also acutely realistic about the challenges and issues China faces. Plus, it's a great off-the-beaten-path travel story that may inspire you to visit the Middle Kingdom for yourself.

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Great narration, rich info, fantastic writing

Would you listen to China Road again? Why?

Yes - I've read the book and have now listened to it. I'd do it again, because (as someone who lives in China) this is the best book on modern China that I've ever read. It is my first recommendation to anyone wanting to understand China today.

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Simon Vance actually pronounces Chinese correctly. It is really horrible that so many great books on China have audiobooks with the most basic pronunciation errors, making it a constant cringe-inducing experience to anyone who knows even the most basic Chinese. The readers of Wild Swans, Factory Girls, and Peter Hessler's books all make these mistakes. It's as if someone read Les Miserables, and pronounced it "LESS MISERABLE-S" and the main villain "JAY-VERT". I'm not asking for the subtle consonants, or tones, or native pronunciation, but just the absence of the most basic errors - things a reader could learn with a ten minute "basic Chinese pronucniation" intro. Heck, just learning the following rules would solve 95% of the problems:

- Pronounce the "x" as an "sh", not a "z".
- Pronounce the "q" as a "ch", not a "k".
- Pronounce the "zh" as a "j", not a "z".

We wouldn't put up with this sort of thing for a minute from narrators of books in European settings. We wouldn't tolerate a reader who read the spanish-double "L" as a standard L and not a "Y". So why are these incompetent readers not screened out?

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On the road to the future

This is the story of the rise of China through one journalist's 3000 mile trip down route 321 across the heart of China. Gifford looks into the evolving socialist society with Chinese characteristics as evolves from a very government controlled society as it struggles towards more openness under the fourth generation leadership. The characters Gifford meets along the route paint a hopeful story tainted with tragic remnants of the past that continue to hold on such as the HIV communities swept under the rug and the enforcement of the one child policy.

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  • Susan
  • Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 03-25-13

Brilliant Underview of China

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I was so sad when this book ended that I had to play it again. Rob Gifford was a China based journalist so he can sniff out a story. He started out across National Road 312 with a few contacts in his cell phone but no master plan. This allowed him to be open to those he encountered such as a Daoist Monk, in a remote cave who surprised him by coming out in shorts and a tank top and who gave him his cell phone number for future contact. Really!
The old sins of gambling,prostitution, and drug abuse have crept back into the country where they where once eradicated by deadly force. China,today,might be compared to the Robber Baron era in America. The wealthy get wealthier and the peons work extremely hard to maintain their tenuous existence.

It probably helps if you have been to China to really appreciate this book, but Mr. Gifford does an admirable job of creating an excellent picture of the land. His predictions for the future are couched in" maybes" but the future is left up to God.

What did you like best about this story?

Maybe the funniest story(but true) was about the author's attendance at an Amway meeting which is like one might have been in America 30 years ago and still exists in a variety of forms for"magnificent nutraceuticals". The head of the organization does actually have more cars than he can drive and a big house and a maid. Everyone else doesn't realize that their hard work is paying to it!

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

no, but he is an excellent narrator, and I wish he would read Peter the Great since I had to return that book due to the narration.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

In Hunan province, 20 years ago,farmers and their families began selling their plasma or extra cash. The needles were probably not clean and the blood all went into a common vat. the cells were returned to the donor's bodies, but the cells were all mixed up so if a person without HIV got CD4 cells that were infected, they suddenly had a retrovirus that could kill them with AIDS. They did in massive numbers. The government tried to cover it up, but the survivors now get a minuscule pension. Ugly.

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Interesting Book

Where does China Road rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the middle.

What other book might you compare China Road to and why?

Lost on Planet China

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

First time listener to Simon Vance.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No

Any additional comments?

I have just moved to China and found the book very interesting. After listening to the author journey through China, there are many places he visited, I hope to visit while living here in China.

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A countries with many stories to be told

Naturally, this is not an upbeat story. As far as ten years ago, it was mostly Japan that was featured on cover stories of Economist, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, etc. Though all the stories were not about positive topics, Japan still was the center of attention in Asia.

Over the last decade, things changed a lot. Now you can't turn pages in your newspaper without reading something about China.

I wonder how things will turn out to be for China and how that future will affect us. That is why I chose China Road, and I think the author asks basically the same question in his book. There are quite a number of books on modern China and its future. But this one is one of the books you should get.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ari
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 05-23-12

Like trekking in China with a history nerd

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Vance does a good job of interrpretting the autor's perspective and giving the words more meaning.

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed the book and learned a lot about China. The story was well paced but did have lots of extra detail. Overall I enjoyed the book.

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Fascinating tales from deep within China

Rob Gifford does a phenomenal job with this book. He travels down the China Road talking and listening to the people he meets along the way. He talks to people standing on the corner, working in the fields, sitting on the bus - anywhere he has the opportunity. If they invite him to dinner or to a local activity, he goes. Then he relates the stories to us as if he's sitting at the dinner table with us - one great story after another. He expresses theories about why things are the way they are based on the country's history, while thankfully sparing us any judgements about right vs wrong. Toward the end, he seemed a tad weary of his travels and the pace slowed down, but not enough to diminish the 5 stars the book deserves.

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  • michael
  • EAST PEORIA, IL, United States
  • 01-14-12

Beautifully Written

This is a really great and still fairly relevant analysis of China. Also it is one of the most interesting travelogues I have ever read.

Whatever your current opinion is about the rise of China, be it a good thing or bad thing for America and Europe, this book will leave you with mixed emotions on the subject. As for me, I would love it if the whole world had plenty. The only problem is that if the whole world goes through the process needed to obtain plenty, there won't be much of the world left, afterwards.

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Best book on China I have read.

Would you consider the audio edition of China Road to be better than the print version?

It provides an alternate way to experience the book. Convenience, drive time, walking, etc.

What did you like best about this story?

Personal experiences shared and beautiful writing.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The constraints of time don't allow this luxury. I also don't like to absorb too much at once.

Any additional comments?

Tackling a theme for a book as complex as China requires an enormous about of skill and knowledge and most of all sensitive objective approach. While deciding to purchase this book, I was a little wary because I did not want to become overwhelmed with academic and generalized discussions on how China???s rise is imminent and threatening. As it turned out, however, the book was a very enlightening experience. Not only did it provide a great deal of insights into China, it boosted my fascination with the topic even more. The author shares his experiences of traveling on route 312 from Shanghai all the way to the Kazakhstan border. Many of those experiences include candid conversations - not interviews - with the myriad of everyday Chinese. It often felt like I was part of the conversations. The author, Rob Gifford, skillfully weaves Chinese history, politics, and culture into a comprehensive story that reads like fiction but is actually a primary account of his time there. He shares his personal views in a manner that is thoughtful and credible, which includes his appreciation, as well as abhorrence of various aspects of Chinese society today. Having never visited China and now desiring to go there even more so, I feel like I could visit China with some important insights gained from reading ???China Road???. The author???s skill with words brings the land and people right into the mind from the high energy bustle to the tranquil and serene. I highly recommend this book for just about anyone. It is an easy and delightful read.