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Susan L. ShirkGifford's book is an account of a two-month trip he took along Route 312, which spans the country from east to west like an oriental Route 66. He draws on the extensive knowledge he acquired during six years of reporting from Beijing for National Public Radio. Although not as adventurous a traveler or as vivid an observer as Colin Thubron (whose Shadow of the Silk Road covers some of the same route), Gifford weaves into his travelogue a crash course in Chinese history, geography, economy and society. To him, China is a land of contrasts, and "for every fact that is true…the opposite is almost always true as well, somewhere in the country."
—The Washington Post