Dragon Rising by Jasper Becker

138). Despite the contribution these SEZs have made to the Chinese state, Becker cautions that such meteoric growth is probably not sustainable over the long-term. For instance, Becker points out that, “Technology is changing assumptions about the future of industrial labor needs. Recent studies suggest that the link between high growth and job creation may not continue forever. In the 1980s it took a 3% increase in economic growth to produce a 1% increase in employment. By the 1990s, it took more than twice as much growth — a 7.8% increase — to achieve the same result. (2006, p. 154).


How has all of Chinas modernization affected rural China in places as Fengyang?

While the major urban centers of China have enjoyed spectacular growth in recent years, less prosperity (or none at all) has flowed to the countrys rural regions such as Fengyang. Fengyang stands out because it was one of the first regions where the rural reforms were initiated by the Chinese government following Maos death in 1976 (Becker, 2006). Moreover, despite their candor and outspokenness, Becker emphasizes that the citizens of Fengyang remain isolated from much that transpires in the capital or elsewhere in the country. For example, Becker reports that, “These rural people have almost no voice in China. Although rural China is vast — some one billion people scattered over a million villages in an area the size of the United States — not much news about their lives reaches the outside world” (2006, p. 164).

Furthermore, the developmental initiatives sponsored by the Chinese state to date have not been overwhelming in their scope or the planning that went into their construction. In this regard, Becker notes that, “In Fengyang, the biggest boost to the local economy seems to have come from a new gravel pit, and big trucks carrying the rocks were the only commercial traffic on the road. In other parts of the province, some chemical factories had sprung up, but with mixed blessings. The pollution from chemical factories had ruined the Huai River, killing off the fish and spoiling the crops” (2006, pp. 165-166). Given the enormous population in these rural regions of China, it is clear that the lions share of the prosperity realized through modernization has been localized to urban centers rather than rural regions such as Fengyang. As Becker points out, “It is radical, even shocking, to suggest that a century of modernization has changed little for most Chinese” (pp. 167-168), but official records from the Chinese state support this conclusion.


Why was the one child policy introduced and what has been some of its effect?

Because resources are by definition scarce and Chinas population appeared to be spiraling out of control, the Chinese leadership felt compelled to put the brakes on this population growth through the one-child policy. According to Becker, “To ensure sufficient food supplies, Deng Xiaoping introduced the one-child policy — in which having one child was promoted as the ideal; while the limit is strictly enforced in urban areas, couples in the countryside are permitted to have two children if the first is a girl” (2006, p. 177). The one-child policy was an enormous success from a strictly pragmatic perspective, with birth rates dropping from six children for every Chinese family to just 1.7 children by 2001 (Becker, 2006). The impact of this dramatic policy initiative has been profound. While the policy has been met with fierce resistance by some quarters of the population, by and large Chinese people abide by the policy and the countrys population growth has slowed and is expected to reach negative growth levels by 2050 (Becker, 2006). For instance, according to Becker, “No other society in history has reduced fertility so sharply in such a short period, the results mean that Chinas population will stop growing and start declining by 2050” (pp. 177-178). Another effect of the one-child policy has been a significant increase in the number of males vs. females, a trend that may be attributable to an increased incidence of infanticide for girls. In this regard, Becker quotes a well-respected American demographer who emphasizes that, “This is huge. This is the most extreme case on the planet, more extreme than India by a considerable margin” (quoted at p. 178). In addition, human trafficking has increased and a growing market for Chinese babies has developed (Becker, 2006).


In chapter 7 the author states “the environment poses one of the gravest threats to the political stability of the country . . .” (p. 199). Why? Give examples touching on various environmental issues.

Like the Soviet Union, in their rush to industrialize their country during the latter half of the 20th century, the Chinese leadership essentially ignored the environmental consequences of their efforts and pushed ahead with developmental initiatives that would prove to be disastrous for the environment. Because the environment touches all Chinese citizens in important ways, these politically motivated economic developmental initiatives have contributed to a potentially destabilizing situation for the current Chinese leadership. Of particular concerns are the countrys water supplies that have been polluted by the toxic emissions from industrial facilities, but there are significant other problems as well. For example, Becker reports that, “Major cities across the country are grappling with [environmental] threats, and water is only one facet of a crisis that, if unchecked, could overwhelm the whole modernization project. The origins can be traced to a mixture of inherited problems and new ones; in both cases the root causes are political” (2006, p. 199). Likewise, deforestation and air pollution have become major concerns in recent years in a process that Becker suggests could spell the same end results for China as they did for the Soviet Union. According to Becker, “The environment poses one of the gravest threats to the political stability of the country because it lays bare for all to see the failure of the political system. Environmental protest movements and failures like the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant spurred the downfall of the Soviet system in the 1980s. It is remarkable that so far nothing similar has happened in China” (2006, p. 199). In fact, environmental issues represent one of the biggest threats to the current Chinese political leadership because they serve as a focal point for political dissidents and the evidence in support of their claims is readily apparent in spite of aggressive efforts by the Chinese government to hide the awful truth about the countrys environmental problems (Becker, 2006).


How is Chinas rise affecting the world, not just the west? And how is it affecting China?

With one out of every four humans on the planet being Chinese, it is clear that what transpires in China will ultimately have an effect on the rest of the world, an assertion that is supported by Beckers observation that, “The impact of Chinas entry into the global economy can already be measured: consumer goods have become ever cheaper and commodities ever more expensive. [by 2050], China will move from a predominately agricultural society to a suburban, knowledge-based economy” (p. 251). While the Chinese people continue to flood the worlds marketplaces with cheaper consumer goods, the countrys demand for natural resources has become acute. Chinas demand for energy has driven up prices in the international market and the countrys numerous coal-fired power plants continue to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that drive the global warming process unabated.

The countrys demand for natural resources extends far beyond just energy, though. For instance, Becker emphasizes that, “Chinas seemingly insatiable hunger for natural resources has left almost no corner of the world untouched. The trucks carrying heavy loads of teak logs from Myanmars virgin forests into Yunnan Province are only part of the story” (p. 248). A billion-and-a-half people require a lot of provender and the Chinese are also exhausting the worlds oceans. In this regard, Becker adds that, “Chinas fishing fleet, the worlds largest is accused of over-fishing not only the coast around China but elsewhere, causing tensions with the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. A drop in world fishing stocks and a fall in global catches are blamed on China” (p. 248). Based on current conditions in China, Becker suggests that it is reasonable to conclude that these processes will continue well into the foreseeable future.


What did you learn about Chinas history and its impact on Chinas present and future?

The first-hand accounts and anecdotal information developed by Becker provides a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of this “Dragon Rising.” The snippets of interviews and empirical observations by the author provide a colorful and intriguing assessment of Chinas eventful history and how it has shaped.

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