Sunday, February 3, 2008

Altantic Monthly article about Poverty in China

Since I plugged Half the Sky, it's fitting I do an entry about poverty in China. In the current Atlantic Monthly, there's a detailed article about why much of China lives in poverty...with some disturbing correlations with rich American lifestyle. In a possibly oversimplified summary: China has a ton of money in their national savings...but the public never sees it in infrastructure or care of the population. To keep national growth from running away uncontrollably, they invest their savings largely US Treasury notes. Here is the article:

...and here are some interesting quotes:
"Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China. "

"Some Chinese people are rich, but China as a whole is unbelievably short on many of the things that qualify countries as fully developed. Shanghai has about the same climate as Washington, D.C.—and its public schools have no heating. (Go to a classroom when it’s cold, and you’ll see 40 children, all in their winter jackets, their breath forming clouds in the air.) "

"Better schools, more-abundant parks, better health care, cleaner air and water, better sewers in the cities—you name it, and if it isn’t in some way connected to the factory-export economy, China hasn’t got it, or not enough. ...The average cash income for workers in a big factory is about $160 per month. On the farm, it’s a small fraction of that. Most people in China feel they are moving up, but from a very low starting point."

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