In Beijing, a city of roughly 20 million (with more than enough smog for everyone), just one generation ago, many people were living on less than 10 dollars a month. Today, prices are skyrocketing even more quickly than skyscrapers are being built. I doubt this was envisioned by Chairman Mao.
While in in Beijing, our group was accommodated at the beautiful J. W. Marriot Hotel, and our last day there, rather than have my normal breakfast of two small protein bars, I decided to enjoy the breakfast buffet, where the food selection was stunning. Also stunning was the bill of 285 Chinese Yuan – just under $50.
When is the last time your breakfast bill at an American hotel reached that amount? For me, it was a first.
At one of our meetings with government officials, a top national leader explained candidly that the country’s growth has been uneven and that the disparity between rich and poor and between city and country has increased greatly in recent years, something the Communist government is working to correct.
At the same time, one can only wonder how long Communism and capitalism can flourish side by side and how long it will be before other Western values (for better or for worse) sweep through the country.
This much is clear. China has grown to the point that if Chinese investments were pulled out of America, our own economy would collapse. As reported in the China Daily, “The US came in behind Hong Kong to become the second-largest recipient of foreign investments from the Chinese mainland.
“China invested a total of $4.05 billion in the US, a 123.5 percent increase from the previous year, according to the report released in September, the Ministry of Commerce, National Bureau of Statistics and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.”
In fact, a recent article on the US Economy website (updated November 5, 2013) asked the question, “How Did China Become America's Biggest Banker?,” explaining that “China has held more than $1 trillion in U.S. debt for the last three years.”
Whatever Mao Zedong had in mind with his disastrous Great Leap Forward, it surely did not include this.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.