Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Book review: China Road

I just finished a very good book Amazon.com: China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power (9780812975246): Rob Gifford: Books.

It's written by an English journalist who worked in China for many years. It was published in 2007 so it's reasonably contemporary and it addresses most of the big issues that China faces. The author thoughtfully analyzes the concept of whether China is capable of ever turning to democracy for example. The book focuses more on the domestic effects of the economic boom rather than the trade issues.

One interesting thing that the book addresses is the idea that China doesn't have social values anymore since Confucian ideals were obliterated by Maoism and now Marxism has no traction either. So the mentality is just do whatever you want since it's a "man eat man" world.

Another point that the author makes is that Confucian thought is hostile to populist, democratic ideas. And that the weight of Confucian tradition makes it unlikely that democracy will happen in China anytime soon. Of course that's debatable but it's a point of view that I had been unaware of.

Here's the book description from Amazon:

Route 312 is the Chinese Route 66. It flows three thousand miles from east to west, passing through the factory towns of the coastal areas, through the rural heart of China, then up into the Gobi Desert, where it merges with the Old Silk Road. The highway witnesses 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? 

This book is well worth your time.

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