in regions deserve fair share
the Chinese have always sought balance in all aspects of life
as can be seen with the Confucian Golden Mean. But the notion
may be more idealistic than realistic, particularly when considering
economies of China and the United States are not on an equal footing.
But it is precisely because of vast discrepancies in wage levels
and lower costs that China, with a per capita gross domestic product
(GDP) level comparable to less than one-20th of the United States,
can compete with the North American country in the world market
and be considered an equal trading partner.
all Chinese workers were to earn as much as their North American
counterparts, international enterprises would not be so keen on
buying products from China and the nation would be forced to drop
out of the world trade game.
however, has tried to steer clear of its reputation for low-cost
products what some economists might call its advantage on the
world stage through its economic reforms.
with the old...
as overseas observers have noted, and quite correctly, China moved
away from the production of lower-end products when it began building
a modern domestic transportation system, paving the way for the
domestic market system to evolve slowly.
economists in the 1980s were bickering about how to build a unified
national market, or how to better integrate the fragmentary, and
sometimes mutually conflicting regional economies.
was a time when the national economy was hinged on another kind
of balance where every region was trying to be self-sustaining.
Every city had its own brand of cigarettes and every province
had its own tractors and trucks. But those products were not hot
items on the world market.
25 years ago, the nation embarked on reforms to interface with
the world market and import capital along with international standards.
did this by lowering its exchange rate to a level where it could
conduct business internationally, and by doing so, help its immense
workforce until then locked into low value-added and even subsistence-level
farming switch over to manufacturing activities led by export
signalled an important change in the economy's landscape.
thousands of newspaper commentaries complained about how ruthlessly
foreign commodities especially brand names like Coca Cola, Toshiba
and Volkswagen were pushing local brands into the ditch, a new
industrial army was formed in China's coastal cities, able to
compete with even the most formidable international corporate
happened first in Shenzhen, Dongguan and the Pearl River Delta
in South China, then in Shanghai, Suzhou and the Yangtze River
Delta, and now in the Bohai Bay rim (in the vicinity of Beijing
and Tianjin), the Shandong Peninsula, and many small towns in
Zhejiang and Fujian provinces. Chinese companies not only learned
international standards, they realized they could also lead in
the world market.
is providing the world with products in volumes unheard of 20
years ago, including a large amount of garments, half of its shoe
supply, and 40 per cent of its timepieces.
once a sleepy agricultural town 80 kilometres east of Guangzhou
is a prime example of this economic transformation. It is now
the manufacturing base for thousands of overseas institutional
buyers, employing not only all of the local labour force, but
also 1.5 million migrant workers from other parts of China.
2003,the city's electricity demand even exceeded Guangzhou, China's
oldest port city and business hub on the Pearl River Delta. And
in 2004, the entire Pearl River Delta has been spending more than
ever on buying electricity supplies from its nearby regions Hunan,
Guangxi, Sichuan, and even Hong Kong.
the imbalance in the supply and demand of electricity is one of
the easiest to solve; by simply building more power plants. There
is news that some US suppliers of nuclear power plant technology
have studied potential opportunities and are negotiating deals
are many more imbalances that warrant careful planning by leaders
in Beijing. In the last 20 years or so, these imbalances have
remained largely unanswered as the focus of the economy changed
from a domestic economy that was not quite so competitive, to
a new one on the level of world trade.
it is an everyday phenomenon in real life, and none of the imbalances
can discredit the Chinese reform and opening up, Beijing cannot
afford to let them deteriorate either, much less let them divide
the nation into geographically defined rich and poor, have and
greatest challenge for China at this point is not trying to spread
wealth evenly between its more industrialized coastal cities and
interior cities or its better-off urban sectors. The key is letting
more people from its under-developed regions have their turn at
opportunities in the coastal areas.
instance, it is unnecessary for the government to build copies
of Dongguan in China's interior provinces and its western frontier
regions. All it has to do is be bolder in encouraging residents
from these less-affluent areas to flow to the regions and cities
already conducting business with the world market as they are
equipped with better foreign investment, transportation, and manufacturing
in this perspective, Dongguan's 1.5 million migrant workers are
still too few. There are 100 times more people in China waiting
for their off-farm assignments. China's economy can become much
stronger, both in world trade and in internal quality, if migration
flow can become more free.