On track to be a superpower
China’s economy continues its fast growth and its leaders appear firmly committed to continuing reform, as the country prepares for entry into WTO which may attract further substantial foreign direct investment. But the past 20 years of reform have been comparatively easy, having been imposed by an all-powerful central government on a closed economy. Now China must begin to compete globally and to cope with political tension at home arising from the uneven distribution of the benefits of reform. Phillip Moore reports
Stephen Roache, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's chief economist, wondered if jet lag was clouding his judgement. It was June, and his ninth trip to China in 27 months. But this was a visit with a difference. There was unmistakably more openness.
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Roache was one of 500 participants invited to a forum held once every Five years by the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), although of the 500 only 30 were foreigners, only three were American and Roache was the only representative of a US investment bank. "It's usually a very inward-looking conference that is closed to outsiders," says Roache. "The theme this year was economics and globalization and was very outward-looking, which in itself tells you something about China today."
Even more telling was what was originally billed as a 15-minute "courtesy meeting" with president Jiang Zemin for the foreign participants in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square.