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Economic Euphoria or Inferno?
by Valerie Sartor
2008-05-13 08:00:18
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China's progress into the international economic community has not been simple or linear despite the fact that Chinese businesses are currently enjoying enormous economic success.

The western world has been hurt job wise by the very factors contributing to Chinese success, notably outsourcing. Anger is directed at of unfair trade practices and protests have been lodged (in vain) over the blatant piracy of western intellectual property, ranging from advanced computer technology and military secrets to entertainment music and videos.

Yet China's economic boom has brought down the prices of many manufactured goods globally. Low retail prices initially led to lower US interest rates and promoted a temporary real estate boom a few years back.

Unfortunately at present the cycle has now swung downward with global recession and inflation on the rise. The world is feeling China's appetites, especially poorer nations, with food riots in Haiti and Bangladesh. But most significantly China's environmental impact upon the world has only just begun.

With 1.3 billion mouths to feed China has great influence on global politics, culture, economics and environment. More now than ever before a clearer understanding of the PRC's demographics is needed.

Many Chinese economists view their economy as an "elephant riding a bicycle" because the huge population unduly influences government policy. Population presents a constant problem. Not only food and energy issues must be addressed but also jobs must be provided to prevent social unrest. China is currently experiencing an endless employment crisis; 24 million new jobs are needed each year. This pressure on economic planning and strategy prevents the leadership from accommodating the needs of foreign trading partners and creating ecological guidelines.

China's basic paradox is population because people serve as the country's greatest strength and greatest weakness. The vast citizenry provides massive sweatshop labor, graduates more university students per year than the USA and the expanding middle class now lures foreign investors.

Ironically as one of world's largest economies the PRC remains one of the world's poorest nations and it has no effective environmental protection. Although not publicized labor and social unrest occurs frequently throughout the country, with much of it focused on ecological issues. Yet unregulated expansion continues because Chinese leaders understand that if growth drops dramatically then unrest would rise.

Chinese political culture is not aimed toward a people's democracy and never has been. Historically human rights have been ignored, government remains authoritarian and absolute and the concept of independent media and courts has never existed. Basically China has never been governed under the will of the majority of the citizenry; rather it is a self-selected and self-perpetuating rule of elite men that have made all the decisions behind closed doors.

Historically, emperors, the "Sons of Heaven", understood the delicate balance between food and population. The population succumbed to absolute power, sporadically revolting when famine and disaster hit.

Furthermore, China has had a glorious history but the country has never really interacted, cooperated or respected and honored any other culture so Chinese behave poorly among international circles. Certainly they've offered the world a great deal: silk, bronze and metalworking, gunpowder, porcelain, and printing are well known gifts. Chinese also gave the world the windmill, lock gates, gear wheels, mechanical clocks, astrological devices, ship rudders and technology. China's golden ages, the Tang and the Ming, lasted from the 10th through the 13th centuries and the 14th to the 17th. By the 18th century China lost her technological lead, possibly due to population pressures and consequent deforestation, with wood being a primary energy source. Chinese culture also had a strict examination system that inhibited creative thought and social mobility.

The rise of Communist China brought a slight paradigm shift; during the Communist era Mao advocated the rise and power of the proletariat masses. He killed off the rural elite – over 2 million landowners, identified with rural peasants and urban masses – and ignored basic agronomics. Mao was hostile toward nature and didn't recognize any authority higher than his own, just like former emperors.

Significantly, Mao drastically upset the delicate balance that had existed for centuries between agricultural land availability and population growth. Chinese texts quote him as saying that Chinese people could always produce more than they could consume because they had 2 hands and only one mouth. His policies resulted in horrendous famines coupled with a ruinous population explosion. By the 1980's the Chinese government was forced to enact their one child policy program that is still enforced today.

Communists ruling after Mao have also ignored the consequences of high consumer populations and their effect on nature. Chinese people are paying a tremendous price for their current prosperity: their economy booms while their environment dies at record speed. Erosion and sandstorms plague northern regions, the Yellow River has run dry several times, water and air pollution are increasing cancer exponentially and strange diseases are on the rise.

Deng Xiao Ping initiated the boom by allowing fundamental economic changes to occur. Ironically, his initiatives were triggered by a payments crisis: Deng had a ten-year plan that included importing 22 complete industrial units to stimulate national production. His scheme cost 12 million bucks and was supposed to be paid for by oil. Unfortunately little oil was actually discovered and the state coffers were bare so in 1979 Deng allowed farmers to alter the state communal system but required that the land remain state owned; the farmers went further, creating secret, family plots that generated dramatic surges in grain harvests and meat production.

Similar activities occurred in business enterprises. Citizens formed official state owned companies and collectives that were operated by private individuals under capitalist lines. These deceptions, called "donning the red hat", evolved into the fastest growing economic sectors in the 1980's, followed by thousands of unregulated "development parks" in the 1990's. Corporate investors followed, enticed by lush packages of illegal incentives.

Hence, Deng's spectacular economic success actually arose from clever civil disobedience. His famous phrase: "some people should get rich first and then they help the rest" remains the cornerstone of countless rags to riches stories throughout China. In 1992, during his famous southern tour Deng admonished the nation to "be bolder, go faster" and the Chinese responded wholeheartedly, engendering even more growth and wealth. Deng's reforms transformed China from a moribund insular economy into a vibrant international superpower.

Unfortunately, environmental policies have not been implemented to keep pace with economic progress. Ecological responsibility has been lost in the race for profits and resources. Communists have never respected the environment or considered a "Green GDP". Neglect regarding business practices, overstaffing, combined with careless industrialization and the inability to enact economic plans has led to environmental woes, weird diseases and cancer.

The lack of political accountability has led to 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities being in China yet the country has an increasing appetite for resources and energy. Acid rain, rural areas full of toxic waste, intercontinental air pollution and illegal global deforestation are serious global issues, which, combined with China's enormous consumer population, have grave consequences in the near future for the entire world.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-05-13 09:08:30
Indeed, man does not live by bread only; bread and circuses will distract the people and keep them happy for some time while they are robbed of their freedom. Eventually the chickens come home to roost and the people rebell or the whole profit or real estate oriented enterprise goes under. Look at Rome, look at any Empire.

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