Friday, January 27, 2006

China: Some Big Questions about the World's Fourth Largest Economy

Well, those of us at the Bow and Grimace Paris Bureau will be celebrating the Chinese New Year tomorrow and the 5th of February. Though the tradition goes back at least a millenium to another time when China had far surpassed Europe in technology, administrative organization, and philosophy, the present celebration comes on what could be a new era for China. An era in which they regain their standing as (one of) the world's most powerful nation(s).

We've been trying to keep track of all the developements, and we'd like to offer some of the biggest questions that could, if unanswered, empede or break China's present romp to the top:

Child Theft Racket Growing in China

Some of the stolen children are babes in arms. In July, 52 ring members were convicted in the southern region of Guangxi after 28 baby girls, none older than 3 months, were found drugged and bound in nylon duffel bags on a long-distance bus. One died; the rest were taken to an orphanage.

The reasons for the terrible growth industry in child trafficking are as varied as they are disturbing. In a country that earns millions of dollars a year from foreign adoptions, some children end up abroad. Others remain in the country, especially in rural China, where having a son is still seen as a must for inheritance, carrying on the family line and tending relatives' graves. But girls are also in demand in areas where men significantly outnumber women, as wives, caregivers for older relatives and for families that already have boys...

...The government has another incentive to downplay the problem: lucrative overseas adoptions. The United States and other Western countries refuse to allow adoptions involving baby-selling.

China Lowers Its HIV/AIDs Figures

China now believes it has about 650,000 people living with HIV, according to a joint statement by the health ministry, World Health Organization and UNAids.

In 2003 the government estimated that 840,000 people had the virus.

But with 70,000 new HIV infections last year, the crisis shows no signs of abating, the statement said.
New Struggle in China: Keeping Up With the Chans

"Things have gone from all ideology and no materialism to all materialism and no ideology or values," notes veteran China watcher Laurence Brahm, owner of the Red Capital Club in Beijing. "Expectations are a big phenomenon. The '80s were about idealism. Now the talk is 'what brand are you using?' Urban China is about keeping up with the Joneses, or the Chans, in this case."
Too Fast in China?
Yet the news also increased concern that China could be growing too fast, despite measures aimed at cooling the hottest parts of the economy. Aggressive investment has produced too many factories, heightening trade tensions with the United States as China exports surplus wares such as steel, depressing prices globally. Chinese officials worry that unneeded plants could deliver a crippling era of deflation -- falling prices -- which hurts profits and reduces incentives for companies to invest. Such a syndrome kept Japan mired in recession and unemployment for much of the past 16 years.
Research: Pollution Limiting Sunny Days in China
China's skies have darkened over the past 50 years, possibly due to haze resulting from a nine-fold increase in fossil fuel emissions, according to researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy.

We're not trying to detract from the incredible feet the Chinese seem to be pulling off. We're just saying that this change is going to offer China so much, including a whole set of new problems it didn't expect. China is still largely imbalanced, with most of it's wealth along the coastal cities in the East, while most of the western areas of the vast country are impoverished and uneducated. Pollution, until recently, was considered a Western manipulation, created to hold China down.

Societal mores still keep Chinese from honestly talking about AIDs and other STDs, and -- last we saw -- some 60% of Chinese don't know that smoking is unhealthy.

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