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Rob Gifford explains Chinese economy

Rob Gifford, author of “China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power,” speaks at the Global Education Center on Monday.

Rob Gifford was reporting in China when he came across someone interesting.

The Shanghai correspondent for National Public Radio met a man who had given up a stable government job for a more lucrative opportunity as a representative for a large marketing company — in the Gobi Desert.

Gifford said this episode was symbolic of an often ignored issue for China — the willingness of its citizens to pursue economic freedom, whatever the cost.

“The view from the bottom up shows that the people of China have been rather anonymous,” Gifford said.

In a talk to about 250 people Monday at the FedEx Global Education Center, Gifford highlighted the declining legitimacy of the communist government and the growing gap between urban and rural China.

Gifford, who received an $8,000 honorarium for the speech, is the author of the book “China Road,” which chronicles his 3,000-mile journey across China.

Raymond Farrow, executive director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, said he was excited for UNC students to have an opportunity to explore the foundations of a country as internationally relevant as China.

Gifford said he found it was difficult to stay unbiased with so many opposing forces while writing his book.

He said the one thing he wanted the audience to take away from the talk is the knowledge of China’s complexity.

“China is full of contradictions,” he said. “It’s more than just black and white.”

Brittany Campbell, a senior Asian studies and business major, said she was interested in widening her perspective.

“Coming from the West and being an American, we have preconceived notions of what China is supposed to be,” she said.

Carrie Kim, a junior Asian studies and international studies major, said she thought Gifford put too much emphasis on the Chinese people and not the politics.

Gifford concluded the speech by expressing doubts about China’s future as a world power.

“China is more fragile and brittle than it looks,” he said.

“I can’t help but be worried about its future.”

He said it would be useful to look to China’s past in order to chart its future.

“Chinese history has seen a lot of reuniting and collapsing,” he said.

“Why should the future be any different?”

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