Friday, November 13, 2009

84) China Road: From Shanghai to Urumqi, Rob Gifford

China, considered the next world superpower in the making, has surpassed Japan as Asia's economic dynamo. In a seven-part series on Morning Edition, NPR's Rob Gifford sets out on a 3,000-mile, 14-day trek across China, and discovers just how far the world's most populous nation has to go to catch up with its potential.

National Public Radio: China Road

Part One: The Journey Begins: Shanghai, China's Boomtown
A marker at the start of Route 312, near Shanghai; Photo: Rob Gifford, NPR Aug. 2, 2004 · If the 21st century belongs to China, then Shanghai will be at the heart of that success. The boomtown on China's eastern Pacific shores attracts migrants from thousands of miles away who come seeking higher wages in a sea of factories. Home to much of China's new and growing middle class, the city is also the starting point of Route 312, reminiscent of the old U.S. Route 66, which will take Gifford on his transnational journey. Web Extra: Photos from the Journey

Part Two: High Taxes and Corruption in China's Rural Heartland
Zhou Jianming, a resident of China's rural Anhui province, whose land was taken to build a factory; Photo: Rob Gifford, NPR Aug. 3, 2004 · The province of Anhui is the rural heartland of China. Free-market reforms were launched here 25 years ago, after Deng Xiaoping succeeded Mao as supreme leader. Given that history of reform, Anhui should be wealthier than it is. But farmers still use water buffalo and wooden plows. Young people have left to look for work in the cities, leaving behind only the old or the very young. And local authorities are as powerful and capricious as ever.

Part Three: Prostitution, Religion Resurface in Wake of Reforms
A small Protestant church beside China's Route 312, just west of the ancient capital of Xian; Photo: Rob Gifford, NPR Aug. 4, 2004 · Heading further west across China, the prevalence of prostitution is inescapable. For many young women, it's the only way to make a living in the impoverished center of the country. With the arrival of capitalism, many state-owned enterprises vanished, taking jobs with them. But with the erosion of communist influence there also is an explosion in religion, and many small Christian churches can be found along Route 312.

Part Four: Scraping By on the Desert's Edge
Wang Bin enjoys a bowl of noodles with his mother, Liu Fengping. She hopes her 21-year-old son will marry, but women are scarce; Photo: Rob Gifford, NPR Aug. 5, 2004 · A small town on the edge of the Gobi Desert symbolizes the problems faced by rural China. The mother of a 21-year-old unemployed man wishes he would marry, but it's impossible to find a wife because China's one-child policy results in a shortage of women. Farther down Route 312, an arid village suffers a water shortage caused when corrupt local officials seized control of the supply. Asked what he can do about it, a resident is resigned to answer: "endure."

Part Five: The New Silk Road
Construction worker Wei Daiying; Photo: Rob Gifford, NPR Aug. 6, 2004 · The well-to-do travel by plane to the cities and tourist attractions of western China. But for most travelers in this sun-baked region, there's the bus. (Camels are mostly for the tourists now.) Rickety vehicles ply Route 312, which parallels the old Silk Road, carrying traders who deal in cell phones rather than silk and spices, and construction workers heading toward government-funded projects farther west.

Part Six: Talking Politics with a Truck Driver
Rob Gifford hitches a ride with a truck driver across the Gobi Desert; Photo: Liang Yan for NPR Aug. 9, 2004 · Chinese people have never had a say in the way their country is governed. But that doesn't mean they don't have strong views about the way it should be. Gifford gets an earful from a truck driver during a 12-hour drive across the Gobi Desert. The 30-year-old trucker is torn between a love of his country and anger at the corruption that plagues it.

Part Seven: The Far West, Journey's End
The new middle classes of Urumqi and the rest of China have taken to bowling; Photo: Liang Yan, for NPR Aug. 10, 2004 · On the other side of the Gobi Desert, Gifford finds the last thing he would expect: a bowling alley. It's a symbol of the regional capital's new middle class, and the result of the government's effort to raise western China's standard of living. The aim is to make the Muslim minorities less likely to revolt. Gifford's journey on Route 312 ends at the Kazakhstan border, in a town populated by souvenir sellers and moneychangers.

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