China: The Years Ahead

By Szonyi, Michael | International Journal, July 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

China: The Years Ahead

Szonyi, Michael, International Journal

THE AGE WHEN PROFESSIONAL CHINA WATCHERS could only peer over the border from Hong Kong is long over. Western analysts now have access to much more and much better information about the People's Republic of China. But does this necessarily translate into better informed or more rational analysis or analysis that is taken more seriously? In Canada, much of the discourse on China continues to be shaped by a curious admixture of grandiose expectation, exclusionist alarmism, and racial stereotyping. In this brief, short-term forecast of developments in China, I focus on what I consider some common misperceptions in current understandings of China. Specifically, I explore the changing domestic economic and political situation in China; the likelihood of aggressive Chinese military activity, especially against Taiwan; and the ongoing problem of illegal emigration to Canada.

China has now been under reform for almost as long as it was under Mao. But the legacy of the Maoist era lingers, and the course of reform has been far from smooth. In the 1980s and early 1990s, just about everyone gained from the decollectivization and decentralization reforms, and household incomes across China rose. The situation has changed dramatically since the mid-1990s. The productivity of Chinese agriculture skyrocketed after individual farm households started to make their own decisions and reap the benefits of their own hard work. But without mechanization and economies of scale, further gains will be difficult. Rural incomes have begun to stagnate, even to decline. On the industrial side, the collectively owned Township- Village Enterprises (TVEs), which drove much of the growth of the earlier period by expanding low-end manufacturing, are now finding that they too have reached the limits of what can be accomplished without larger scale and more advanced technology. As a result, the Chinese economy is becoming more and more capital intensive. Growth in output is increasingly elastic with respect to employment; growth no longer equals job creation. This means that further reform can no longer absorb the surplus of China's ever-growing labour force, and unemployment is rising rapidly.(1)

At about three per cent, official unemployment in China is remarkably low. But this figure is misleading because rural unemployment or underemployment is notoriously difficult to measure, and large numbers of urban workers have been laid-off (xiagang) but remain on the administrative rolls of their employer. Some analysts estimate that the number of real urban unemployed is as high as twenty million. To this estimate must be added the tens of millions of rural migrants - China's so-called floating population - who have come to the cities looking for work, but are captured by statisticians only if they find work. As further reform means losses to some as well as gains to others, Chinese society is becoming increasingly unequal across the urban/rural divide and across regions. The disparities are already striking. The World Bank reports that urban households earn on average 2.5 times what rural households earn. When benefits such as housing, pensions, and insurance are included, the ratio rises to four times. There are serious and growing regional disparities. Per capita gross domestic product in Shanghai and other coastal regions is ten times that of the poorest provinces in the interior. Real unemployment is also unevenly distributed across regions; the highest levels are in the northern provinces, where the economy continues to be dominated by loss-making State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).(2)

Enterprise reform has given rise to the other serious problems confronting China's leadership: corruption, inefficiency, and the erosion of social welfare. In the 1980s, decentralization of management of collectively owned enterprises created all sorts of opportunities for the personal enrichment of managers and local officials. Then, in the mid-1990s, the state authorized the partial privatization of enterprises, both TVEs and SOEs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

China: The Years Ahead


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.