Friday, 2 May 2008

China's economic development in pictures

This month the National Geographic has a "China Special". The photographs are always of the very highest quality and the story is a good one.

There is a surprising amount of economics in the text and correctly so.

China's Journey [National Geographic]

My students wrote essays on paper so cheap and thin that it felt like the skin of an onion. The brittle pages tore easily; if held to the light, they glowed. The English was flawed, but sometimes that only gave the words more power. "My parents were born in poor farmer's family," wrote a young man who had chosen the English name Hunt. "They told us that they had eaten barks, grass, etc. At that time grandpa and grandma had no open minds and didn't allow my mother to go to school because she is a girl." Another classmate described his mother: "Her hair becomes silver white, and some of her teeth become movable. But she works as hard as ever." Those were common themes—my students valued patience and diligence, and they liked to write about family. National events often left them perplexed. "I'm a Chinese, but I feel it difficult to see my country clearly," wrote a woman named Airane. "I believe there are many young people are as confused as I'm."

Most telling from an economic perspective is the final paragraph in response to a questionnaire sent out to the authors old students:

I asked what worried them the most. Several mentioned relationships; one woman wrote: "The marriage is not safe any more in China, it is more common for people around here to break up." A couple of respondents who now work far from home were concerned about their status as migrants. "I am like a foreigner in China," Willy wrote. But the most common source of worry seemed to be mortgage payments. "Ten years ago, I worried that I could not have a good and warm family," Belinda wrote. "Now I am worried about my loan at the bank." None of her classmates expressed concern about political reform, foreign relations, or any other national issue. Nobody mentioned the environment.



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