The Future of China : LUSENET : China : One Thread

What will China be like in 50 years time?

-- Elizabeth Birrell (, May 24, 2001


Some things are inevitable, others depend on decisions taken now. Barring a nuclear war, China will have a larger population than now, though its growth rate will be low. It will also be an old population, with a high dependency ratio, so that those of working age will have to support more retired people. Provided state-owned enterprises have been reformed (better still, eliminated) and well- regulated capital markets developed so that people can invest their savings in mutual funds, the pensions crisis that is now looming may be avoided.

A major worry is environmental degradation. If current policies are unchanged, even more cropland will dry up and major infrastructure projects like the Three Gorges dam, which has been undertaken without a full environmental impact assessment, will wreak havoc in ways that are difficult to predict.

Chinese society will be very different. Even if--and it's a big if-- the Chinese Communist Party retains power, it will only do so by allying itself with diverse interest groups as civil society continues to develop on the basis that is now being laid. Many institutions, including government and law, will have become less tightly controlled by the Party. It is conceivable that dissent on the part of those made unemployed by economic reform, including the 150 million floating population resulting from the rural reform of the early 1980s and those laid off in state-owned enterprise reform in the cities, will force the Party to step down. The resulting system will not necessarily be democratic, and even if it is it will not necessarily be benign towards the outside world.

-- Ken Davies (, May 25, 2001.

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