Economic and Social Situation

Economists predict that Japan and Korea will be dwarfed by China’s industrial output in the near future, just by the sheer power of her work force. The average age among these billion people is only 25. China cannot be ignored. The secular community has seen the potential of this sleeping dragon. Thousands of businessmen from our country and many European nations have swarmed to the Orient to get a “piece of the action”. Currently, China’s annual revenue from tourism tops the 10 billion-dollar figure. No nation on earth has undergone such major changes in such a short time.

The Chinese economy—now the sixth largest in the world—has raced ahead to become the world’s fourth-largest industrial producer after the United States, Japan and Germany. The prosperity is beginning to spread. In 1979, there were no millionaires in China. Now the top 100 richest people in China have an average wealth of $230 million. Another 10,000 or so are worth at least $10 million each.

China produces over 50 percent of the world’s cameras, 30 percent of its television sets and air conditioners, 25 percent of its washing machines and almost 20 percent of its refrigerators. This year, together with Hong Kong, it is expected to produce more than half of the world’s DVD players, more than a third of its personal desktop and laptop computers and about a fourth of its mobile phones, personal digital assistants and car stereos. China is also the biggest market for cell phones, with 300 million in use and growing by an average of 2 million per month.

Astonishingly, almost 90 percent of urban Chinese own their homes. And there are color TVs in almost every urban home, washing machines and refrigerators in over 80 percent, air conditioners in half, microwaves in almost a third and computers in 20 percent. Moreover, in 1989 there were fewer than 5 million fixed phone lines. Now there are 397 million. As recently as 2000, fewer than 9 million accessed the Internet through personal computers. Now more than 69 million log on through their cellular phones! More than 200 million Chinese households have cable television—the world’s largest cable market.

China’s large economy is offset by its population, meaning the real gross domestic per capita is still at the level of a developing country. While overall income is rising, the wealth is not equally distributed. In a state accustomed to equal wages for all, this has been a source of contention between average people. Still, successful and honest entrepreneurs are respected, even in rural areas. About 61% of the population is still employed in agriculture. The economy grew rapidly in the 1990s. To help maintain the growth, the government is investing heavily in the public infrastructure. In the early months of 2000, growth was nearly 8%.

China’s transformed economy has been called a miracle by some, and China has been labeled the world’s factory floor. In 1982, Chinese exports were only about $22 billion. By 1992, they were almost $85 billion. Then exports took off and shot up to over $325 billion in 2002, and skyrocketed to over $438 billion in 2003.

In education, 65% of children will finish elementary school. Girls are least likely to be enrolled. Only 5% of all people attend college. Generally, China’s extensive health care network concentrates on prevention. Malaria and Cholera remain problematic. Water is not potable and open sewers are common. Traditional Chinese medicine is combined with Western medical techniques in treating illness and injury. Pollution, corruption, crime, and rising unemployment are serious problems in many parts of China.

Standard Chinese Putonghua (usually referred to as “Mandarin), the national language. It is the native language of more than 70% of the population. However, people might also speak the dialects or languages of their geographical regions. Discounting its ethnic minority languages, China has eight major dialect groups: Putonghua (Mandarin), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan and Hakka. With more than 27 million Internet users, China may be the most wired nation in the world. Internet cafes are springing up like summer weeds all over this mammoth nation—even in some rural areas.

In China’s group-oriented society, the family is more important than the individual. Family ties survived the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution and loyalty to family is still a hallmark of Chinese society. Family-planning policies include mandatory birth control, fines for violators and other pressure tactics. The elderly are still highly respected.

Chinese are noted for their hospitality and reserve. While atheism is the official party line in China, Confucianism, still influences attitudes and encourages a group consciousness, even today. This is especially true in rural areas. Guanxi, or “relationships”, is the underlying principal of how the society works in practicality as friends and associates are committed to do what they can for each other when called upon. To violate guanxi is to lose face (lose reputation or honor). Children are expected to uphold the family “face”.

Currently, 129 domestic airports handle the third-largest passenger volume in the world. By 2004, the Civil Aviation Administration of China expects to carry 100 million passengers a year. Over the next five years, China will buy 400 additional planes and build 43 airports, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

It took the United States and Western Europe 200 years to go through the Industrial Revolution. Nations such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan took about 25 years to become industrial nations. The Chinese city of Shenzhen? Try six months. That’s how long it takes for a non literate farm worker to migrate to the city and start working on some of the most sophisticated machinery in the world. Twenty years ago, Shenzhen was all rice paddies and salt ponds—with a population of 20,000, at best. Today, Shenzhen has a multi million population churning out products at breakneck speed.

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