Best Book of Last Year

The phrase “best book”, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt because it is not a phrase that can be applied with any certainty or reliability, books being a category much depending on mood and moment. But for what it is worth, The Equuschick plundered Shasta’s school book list for the coming school year and discovered China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power.

If what you’re looking for is a comprehensive and in depth look at China’s economy, or history, or religion, or any one of the above, than this probably isn’t the book you’re looking for. But if you’re looking for a sweeping and eminently readable book that covers the history, current economy, geography, philosophy, religion and landscape (physical and otherwise) of China all at once in depth and yet at the same time in a delightfully scattered way, than you should read it.

Actually you should read it anyway. Because it is just INTERESTING. (No, The Equuschick is not being paid for this review. She just has a Thing for ADD journalists. An affinity, if you will. Odd…Ahem.)

Rob Gifford spent six years as a journalist in China and chose to spend his last summer there travelling China’s version of Route 66, by bus, taxi, hitch-hiking, and etc, interviewing whoever seemed worth interviewing at the time.

(A note for younger readers: By about page 100 of the book The Equuschick was getting annoyed by his apparent lack of interest in the issue of forced abortions, but this is because he saved it up for the chapter where he found himself, quite by accident, on a bus with three female members of the Chinese version of Planned Parenthood. He engages them in discussion and the eldest of the three is surprisingly frank and uncompromising about her job and what she does. A disturbing chapter, but a badly needed one.)

When he set out to do the trip and write the book the agreement with his publisher was that he would answer some questions about China along the way- Is China as strong as it looks? What does the future hold? When he reached the end of his journey, he had this to say: “If I sound confused about China, it is because I am. And if you’re not confused about China, you simply haven’t been paying attention.”

He asks two questions. Overall, are the people in China more prepared by education, prosperity, and technology than they ever have been in the past to take a pivotal place in World History? His answer to this is yes. But is the government in China, he then asks, prepared to treat this unique situation in the unique way that it would require to cultivate true strength in a nation?

He answers this with a sad negative.

We speak of the great changes China has undergone in the past years, but Mr. Gifford points out that in two fundamentally significant ways, China has not changed at all in the past 2,000 years. Their religious philosophy has always been one of relativism, and the power of their government has always been absolute.

Perhaps, for those who might still be listening, there’s a lesson in this for us that the two always go hand-in-hand.

Anyway. Read the book. Well worth it.

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