NEWS

In Brief

The great imbalance On the Bund, Shanghai’s central street, where the city’s colonial era buildings look up at the glittering skyscrapers on the opposite bank of the Huangpu River, a mother and her young child chase after a group of visitors returning to their hotel after a night on the town. The two have Mongol-like features and the child holds a cup in which a coin rattles. The sound echoes through the night’s silence. A little before the big hotels, with their views of Asia’s Manhattan, the chase stops. On the «British side,» the mother and son turn around and disappear. Until early in the last century, Chinese were not allowed to enter this area without being accompanied by their employer. Today divisions are based on money. The rift between China’s East and West, its urban and rural population is the problem that concerns officials most and casts a shadow over the economic miracle. The imbalance between the poor rural areas of central and western China and the economic development enjoyed by Beijing and the major cities of the east is the greatest challenge that the Communist Party of China faces. Dong Yunhu, vice minister of the State Council Information Office and a professor of philosophy, is especially sensitive to this issue. He notes that China managed to create wealth, thanks to Deng Xiaoping’s declaration that not everyone will get rich at the same time. Now Dong believes that it is time for the rest of the country to catch up. «What President Deng did was great, but what we are trying to do now is just as great,» Dong said. There are worrying signs, with millions of university graduates looking for work. A huge reservoir of cheap labor is hoping for work in urban areas. According to Dong, the solution lies not in further development of the urban centers but through the improvement of life in the countryside and incentives for people to remain in small towns and villages and contribute to their development. For this reason, the Party is focusing on innovation and scientific development, in a bid to improve conditions for everyone. XENIA KOUNALAKI Dynamic shipbuilders On our visit to China we met many senior and midlevel officials at Cosco. I was especially impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of the engineers who run the company’s shipyards in Nantong, a city just north of Shanghai. I remember the pride with which they described their shipyards’ diversification into the construction of highly specialized offshore drilling platforms, the direct way in which they replied to difficult questions and their knowledge of Greece. Their dynamism sums up the image of today’s China: proud and open to the world. KATERINA SOKOU The real estate bubble «Twenty years ago, five of us – mother, father and three children – lived in one room. Now everyone has his or her own apartment,» says a senior company official. Acquiring a home is the dream of every Chinese person and a symbol of social advancement. And so the whole east coast is a huge construction site. Skyscrapers are springing up everywhere. The dream has created a huge real estate bubble. In Shanghai, apartments with a view of the river sell for 16,000 euros per square meter. PASCHOS MANDRAVELIS Sense of a time gone by The ride with a ramshackle tricycle (not usually used by tourists) and the driver’s smile when I gave him 20 yuan instead of the 10 he had asked for (and which comes to less than 3 euros) … The walk in the small town of Boao on the island of Hainan, with its provincial atmosphere, its tiny stores, and that humble restaurant with its extremely cheap frozen beers and minced meat pies…. Fishermen on their boats, waving from afar. And everything else that brings to mind a time gone by… GIORGOS TSIROS Investing in the future China’s miracle is only at its start… The very significant development that has already been achieved is there to serve future growth. Infrastructure of the highest level (including very fast trains, airports and highways) create conditions for the development of a huge domestic market. In education, too, the investment is most significant: In the past decade, the number of tertiary education institutions has more than doubled from 1,022 to 2,263, while more than 1.4 million students have studied overseas since 1978. There is always the danger of a shock from the bursting of the real estate bubble; but even if this happens, the infrastructure and education of a large number of people will continue to drive growth.