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Capitalism, Chinese style

The Story

China is at a turning point. The top-down, planned economy of the past is rapidly giving way to a gold-rush atmosphere for those who are willing to work hard and take a gamble. No longer are inefficient factories protected by the government: now they must turn a profit or it's lights-out. Chinese citizens can buy shares in state-owned companies and entrepreneurs are encouraged to go into business for themselves. CBC's Venture profiles China's evolving economy. Though the Chinese government is embracing many of the principles of capitalism, China is still a communist country. There's a widening gulf between prosperous urban Chinese and their rural counterparts, many of whom are flocking to the cities in search of their own fortune. And there are growing pains, too: inflation is up, and China must welcome more foreign investment if it wants to keep pace. 

Medium: Television
Program: Venture
Broadcast Date: June 13, 1993
Guest(s): Jock Halliday, Xide Xie, Xinhua Zhang, Qin Zhengke, Rongji Zhu
Reporter: Deborah Lamb
Duration: 15:40

Did You know?

• Before China opened up its economy in the late 1970s, most consumer goods were virtually unavailable to the average citizen. In her book Jan Wong's China, the author writes that there was just one television set for every 4,000 residents. To buy a TV in 1972, the average worker needed ration coupons and had to spend the equivalent of several years' salary.

• More consumer goods, and the industry to manufacture them, emerged as rural Chinese prospered under Deng Xiaoping's agrarian economic reforms.
• The industrial sector was reformed in the early 1980s. Workers were no longer guaranteed jobs, and entrepreneurs were permitted to start their own businesses such as restaurants or repair shops.

• In order to gain access to foreign technology, the government offered investment opportunities to foreign corporations. Joint ventures in auto-making and nuclear power were two of the earliest such experiments.
• In the early 1990s, an estimated 80 per cent of foreign investments came from overseas Chinese (citizens of other nations who were of Chinese descent).

• The Canadian government organized trade missions to China to boost Canadian investment in the burgeoning Chinese market.
• "Team Canada," as the mission was nicknamed, visited China in 1994, 2001 and 2005.
• Wading through China's vast bureaucracy and adjusting to cultural differences proved challenging for many Western businessmen.

• One of the most sensitive issues for Canadian trade missions has been that of China's human rights record. Politicians have faced pressures by human-rights groups to raise the issue, but investors have been reluctant to alienate potential business partners.
• In 1992, three Canadian members of Parliament visiting China were booted out of the country when they tried to meet with the families of Chinese political dissidents.

• Though it's sometimes easy to forget, China is still a communist nation. Most of its neighbours, such as Indonesia and South Korea, have embraced democracy, but China believes giving the vote to uneducated citizens is a recipe for chaos.

• In 1997, China regained the British colony of Hong Kong, an island it had ceded to the United Kingdom in the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing.
• The return of Hong Kong to China was negotiated in 1984. The last governor, Chris Patten, introduced some political reforms to make Hong Kong more democratic before China took over. The Chinese permitted many freedoms to remain on the territory but kept a lid on democracy.



Revolution and Evolution in Modern China more