Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Recently I’d commented on an incident in Rob Gifford’s book CHINA ROAD, and said I’d get back to you with more on this rather astonishing story. Rob is a correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR), and at the time (2007) was stationed in China. He made the nearly 3,000 mile trip from Shanghai to the Khazakstan border in the west, taking Route 312, with a few side jaunts in order to understand this immense country.

In this publication over the course of his trip Gifford talks with as many Chinese as he can. He describes the differences of the various groups, from the (relatively) well off workers in the east, to the factory workers in the newly industrialized interior, to the literally dirt poor farmers all along the way. He also notes that the inhabitants of China are not one homogeneous population, but an amalgam of Han Chinese to the Tibetans, to the Muslims of far western China, and the growing population of Christians, as well as others.

He writes about the contradictions in present day China, especially the need for the Government to maintain control, but also the need for creativity, which the Government is reluctant to allow. He notes the difference between American democracy and Chinese autocracy, and wonders, despite China’s growing influence in the world, if the whole system is simply too fragile to last. And he cites his reasons for so wondering, from the lack of creativity to the unrest of the huge peasant population. China has done much to improve the lives of some of the population, especially in the cities of the east coast, but many of the peasants he talked to complain that their lives have changed but little.

This book was an eye-opener for me. I learned more in this volume than I ever knew before. What the West has to say about this country is quite limited, and what the Chinese government tells the rest of the world is certainly far from the whole truth. I heartily recommend Gifford’s book.

Humor -

A True Scot:
A young Scottish lad and lass were sitting on a low stone wall, holding hands, gazing
out over the loch. For several minutes they sat silently. Then finally the girl looked at the boy and said, "A penny for your thoughts, Angus."

"Well, uh, I was thinkin'... perhaps it's aboot time for a wee kiss." The girl blushed, then leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Then he blushed. The two turned once again to gaze out over the loch.

Minutes passed and the girl spoke again. "Another penny for your thoughts, Angus." "Well, uh, I was thinkin' perhaps it's noo time aboot time for a wee cuddle." The girl blushed, then leaned over and cuddled him for a few seconds. Then he blushed. And the two turned once again to gaze out over the loch.

After a while, she again said, "Another penny for your thoughts, Angus." "Well, uh, I was thinkin' perhaps it's aboot time you let me put my hand on your leg." The girl blushed, then took his hand and put it on her knee. Then he blushed. Then the two turned once again to gaze out over the loch before the girl spoke again.

"Another penny for your thoughts, Angus." The young man glanced down with a furled brow. "Well, noo," he said, "my thoughts are a wee bit more serious this time.' "Really?" said the lass in a whisper, filled with anticipation. "Aye," said the lad, nodding. The girl looked away in shyness, began to blush, and bit her lip in anticipation of the ultimate request. Then he said, "Dae ye nae think it's aboot time ye paid me the first three pennies?"


  1. Did you read that Obama's half-brother has been living in China? He's got a book out and there was a feature on him in the Telegraph.

  2. "Son of the Revolution," a number of years back, was by a young man who'd survived the Cultural Revolution (barely), whose father had come under suspicion for having worked with American diplomats and the like. Liang Heng, I think his name was, and the book was co-written by Judith Shapiro, his American wife.

  3. (I think Judith Shapiro--wait, wasn't she the journalist who later... Huh.)