Born in the United Kingdom. Education: Durham University, B.A.; Harvard University, M.A.
Home—London, England. Office—National Public Radio, 635 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001.
Journalist. British Broadcasting Corporation World Service, London, England, on staff; National Public Radio, Washington, DC, on staff at member station WGBH in Boston, mid-1990s, foreign correspondent in Beijing, 1999-2005, London bureau chief, 2005—.
China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
Rob Gifford is a journalist who was born in the United Kingdom. He completed a bachelor of arts degree in Chinese studies at Durham University. After graduation, he began working for the British Broadcasting Corporation World Service, gaining international journalism experience. In 1994, he moved to the United States where he earned a master of arts degree in East Asian studies from Harvard University. While there, he worked for two years at National Public Radio's Boston member station, WGBH.
After receiving his master's degree, Gifford remained with National Public Radio, becoming a foreign correspondent in China in 1999, a position he held until 2005, when he was named London bureau chief. Gifford traveled all around China during this time, questioning whether he viewed China as the world's next superpower based on what he experienced.
Gifford published his first book, China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power, in 2007. The account discusses his travels around China on its mother road, Route 312, from Shanghai to its westernmost borders with Central Asia. Describing China as being in the midst of a social revolution, Gifford explained his reasons for making such a trip in an interview with Steve Inskeep in Morning Edition, stating: "China is a nation on the move. It's really the sort of perfect metaphor for what's happening to China—there's some[where] between 150 million and 200 million people who are traveling across China looking for work, leaving the rural areas, coming to the cities. And so, as you meet those people, you got a feel for the sort of mobility, the convulsions, the sort of churn that is going on in individual's lives, of course." In the same interview, Gifford explained how he gathered his direct research, saying: "I'd just get on the bus. And you just find the four people sitting around you all have amazing stories about their life in the countryside or their life in the city. You know, everywhere you go, you just ask the people, what are you doing? What's your life like? And they just want to talk about it. And that's really what the book is."
David J. Lynch, writing in USA Today, said that China Road "is more than just an intrepid traveler's account," adding that "Gifford has some hard-earned wisdom to impart about China, and his qualifications entitle him to a hearing." In discussing China's weaknesses as opposed to focusing on its strengths, Lynch noted that Gifford brings up "an important message and one that is underappreciated in American politics, where overheated rhetoric about commercial disputes often makes it sound as if the country with the $14 trillion economy and the world's largest military is China, not the United States." Poornima Apte, reviewing the book on the Mostly Fiction Web site, remarked that "as the trip goes on, you don't start to tire of the landscape but you do tire of the same questions Gifford seems to be putting to his interviewees." Apte mentioned, however, that "for all the length traveled in the book one actually wishes for more time spent with the people, delving into their lives, to shed some more light into the sociological perspective of things."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power, p. 57.
Morning Edition, May 29, 2007, Steve Inskeep, author interview.
USA Today, September 3, 2007, David J. Lynch, review of China Road.
Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (March 31, 2008), author profile; Poornima Apte, review of China Road.
National Public radio Web site,http://www.npr.org/ (March 31, 2008), author profile.
Rob Gifford Home Page,http://www.robgifford.com (March 31, 2008), author biography.
West Peavine,http://peavine.blogspot.com/ (March 15, 2008), author profile.