Connecting to the Future
Student Text Page No. 1: "...with New Goals"
Chongqing... The sun is a pale disk in the sky, and the wind sweeping up from the Yangtze River promises snow. Hauling bags stuffed with gifts for their families, the three young friends race through the depot to catch a bus to their ancestral village. It's the Chinese New Year! And it's their first holiday since arriving in Chongqing months ago, to work in a factory....
Workers like this trio have played a big role in China's recent economic history. Just 30 years ago, China was struggling to recover from a century of invasions, wars, and famine. Then, in 1981, its government launched a five-year program to modernize the nation's economy and produce more goods for export. Factories quickly mushroomed in China's east-coast cities. And those factories became magnets for low-income farmers and unemployed rural workers.
Growing fast. The number of job-seekers moving to China's coastal cities kept rising. Over time, more than 200 million made the journey. The toys, laptops, steel girders, and airplane parts that they pushed through assembly lines found markets on every continent. Other industries — mining, construction, transportation — also prospered. Result? The economy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) grew by leaps and bounds. By 2010, China had the world's second largest gross domestic product (GDP) — second only to the USA's. Meanwhile, China's engineers were building highways, bridges, and dams. Its scientists put men into space. And farms thrived. Today, China produces enough food to sustain its 1.3 billion people.
Staying alert. International experts agree: China's transformation was awesome. Within just two generations, a traditional agricultural society had become a modern-day industrial giant. The nation's urban population jumped from 20 to 50 percent. Average incomes rose, and a new middle class emerged. People bought homes and cars. More than half of China's people used mobile phones. Most important: At least 600 million Chinese had escaped dire poverty. Still.... Other challenges lay ahead.
In 2008, some of China's overseas trade partners were hit by a serious recession, and trade with China slumped. To help its economy adapt to those events, the PRC created a $585-billion job-stimulus fund. The fund worked. But the cost of living began to rise, and the income gap between China's wealthiest and poorest people widened. Such trends troubled those who prize social harmony — that very deep respect for order which has characterized Chinese culture since the Confucian Age.
Setting new goals. In March 2011, leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) gathered in the capital city, Beijing, to address these concerns. The outcome? A set of guidelines for the next five years (2011-2015). Among them: China would produce more goods for its own consumers. The government would encourage new industries — in the field of green energy, for example. It would provide affordable housing for low-income workers and urge employers to pay such workers higher wages. Achievable? In China's socialist market economy, the government can influence the industries it owns (banks, for example) and private businesses, too. So the odds were good that the guidelines would take effect.
Log On.... But China's leaders saw other ways to shape the future, too. In March 2011, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao observed that public officials should be evaluated by how much they budget for education and hi-tech research. Said Wen: "I believe ... [those two goals] are more important than GDP" to China's future. Someone was listening. In May, Guangdong province announced 100 scholarships for young workers who dream of studying at top-ranked Peking University. They won't even have to travel to Beijing. They can stay in Guangdong and take their courses online....
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Learning Enrichment, Inc. Content last updated: October 2011. Page last
reviewed: December 2011.