From Truthdig: Perhaps no other country has so many positive and negative trends as the home of a quarter of the world’s population.
Editor’s Note: First the Terminator, then the president – there’s no shortage of people trekking to China, filled with wonderment and doubt about the future of the world’s most populous nation and fastest-growing economy. It’s a place full of monumental contradictions. There is no one better to make sense of it all in a Dig than Orville Schell, dean of UC-Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and author of nine books on China. He has just returned from a trip to China.
When on Nov. 13 an explosion in Manchuria rocked a workshop at the No. 101 Chemical Plant at the Jilin Petrochemical Company, the world caught a glimpse of the kind of contradictions that will bedevil China’s continuous “economic miracle.” In this case, the contradiction was a particularly intractable one, namely between high-speed economic development and environmental protection.
As more than 100 tons of highly carcinogenic benzene and nitrobenzene flowed into the Songhua River, officials and the state-controlled media lied about what had happened. Only after the downriver city of Harbin (with a population of 9 million) was forced to turn off its municipal water system for more than four days, putting the city on the edge of urban panic, were the rough outlines of the disaster revealed to the public and apologies for the deception made. But no amount of apologies is capable of remedying the fact that as industrialization continues apace and generates growth rates of more than 9% every year, there is no likely remedy for this contradictory dark side of China’s economic miracle.