China, considered the next world superpower in the making,
has surpassed Japan as Asia's economic dynamo. In a seven-part series on Morning
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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.