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The Enigma of China's Economic "Miracle"

The People's Republic of China is a country in precarious transition from one political/ economic system to another. Monumental contradictions abound. Indeed, probably no nation of global significance has more unresolved issues concerning its ruling principles and structures. But what really makes forecasting China's future so difficult is not only that recent developments have so often defied prediction, but that virtually opposite, if logical, scenarios are plausible.

China emerged over the past decade and a half as a paradigm of economic energy, determination, and progress. Few other areas in the world have been deemed an "economic miracle" for so long. Through thick and thin, China has managed to maintain impressively high economic growth rates.

In 1989, China rose from the ashes of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. In the early 1990's, it weathered the implosion of the Japanese economic miracle, and maintained a steady course through the Asian economic crisis later in the decade. In 2003, it came through the SARS epidemic with banners flying. Now it seems to have repelled US efforts to force it into revaluing its currency.

Anyone who has visited China's large cities over the past few years must be impressed by the energy, pace, and scale of development. The sheer number of projects--from highways, ports, railroads, and airports to skyscrapers, housing developments, telecom infrastructure, and industrial parks--leaves even skeptics gasping in awe.