China, a country of 1.3 billion, a country with an economic
miracle taking place where economic growth exceeds 10%, the country which hosted
the 29th Olympiad, the country which builds 50 tower blocks per day, the country
which boasts the fastest train, which boasts the highest commercial train
route...the list goes on. It is difficult not to be impressed or indeed afraid
of such a powerful nation, but is China really ready for superpower status? Has
it achieved it already? This article aims to dig a bit deeper and understand
that despite these impressive claims, China is not yet as advanced and perhaps
as powerful as you might imagine.
China is only a market of 1.3 billion if you sell rice. What this really means is that despite China being home to some of the wealthiest people on the planet, some 200 million Chinese are still living on a dollar a day. It is easy to be impressed by the skylines of major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and be fooled into thinking that this is representative of China as a whole. It is not. In such cities, there are large swathes that are essentially slums, without running water or indoor toilets. These are home to the ever increasing number of migrant workers from the countryside that come to the bright lights in search of employment and a better quality of life.
The countryside in China is rarely a scene of idyllic repose and landscaped hillsides. Life in the countryside is often harsh, living conditions basic and exposure to disease and the elements is greatly increased. Conditions approach third world level standards in some of the more remote western provinces where there is little unemployment and little motivation for investment.
This disparity between rich and poor can only undermine China’s progression towards superpower status. As exports slow due to an economic downturn in the U.S. and Europe, China may start to feel the pinch. If conditions worsen for the nation’s poorest, who knows what unrest may lie in store for China’s leaders. Can a regime survive such a climate given the current economic miracle and the amount of liberties that have been recently granted to the average citizen?
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