After more than two decades of rapid development, China has transformed itself from a technological backwater into an economic powerhouse with a thriving industrial sector. The textiles, plastics and leather goods churned out by countless factories on the mainland are exported to countries all over the world, bringing in much-needed hard currency to boost the mainland's economy. While a booming export industry and technological advances bring China wealth and prestige, its increasing clout on the international stage is worrying many countries. These nations accuse China of destroying their economies and over-exploiting the world's resources. The United States, which has a record trade deficit with China, is especially wary of the mainland's expansion. With cheap mainland exports swamping American markets, US manufacturers have been badly affected and thousands of jobs have been lost. The US claims that the undervalued yuan has given mainland exporters an unfair advantage in global trade. To bridge the yawning trade gap, US officials are pressing Beijing to let the yuan rise faster and have threatened to slash quotas for imports from China. The persistent trade woes have strained relationships between the two countries and destabilised the global economy. Besides creating suspicion and hostility among foreigners, China's rapid progress has brought misery to millions of mainlanders who have been left out of the economic boom. Farmers and labourers in inland provinces have to endure environmental degradation and are easily exploited by profits-driven developers. With skyscrapers and shopping malls springing up across mainland cities, many villagers are driven out of their homes. Violent protests sparked by land seizures have caused instability in rural China. Forced out of their land, villagers claim that compensation provided by the central government has been embezzled by corrupt local officials. One such serious dispute took place in Taishi village, Guangdong, last year. In a bid to oust their corrupt village chief, people took to the streets and went on a hunger strike. The three-month stand-off between locals and security forces left dozens of villagers injured. Large-scale dam construction projects have also displaced millions of residents and caused environmental damage. The US$22.5 billion Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River - the largest hydroelectric project in the world - will have displaced more than 1.4 million people by the time it commences operation in 2008. While President Hu Jintao has pledged to promote social harmony and narrow the wealth gap, the complex mainland political system means that the edicts from high-ranking government officials are often ignored by authorities at provincial level. Corruption cases involving leading Chinese officials have made headlines around the world, tarnishing the country's image. Former Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu 's downfall has shocked overseas politicians. Chen, along with a handful of other Shanghai officials, is implicated in the mismanagement of the city's 10-billion-yuan pension fund. Though China enjoys unprecedented economic growth, many corruption scandals, human rights abuses and environmental destruction serve as a stark reminder that the nation still has a long way to go before it can be regarded as a genuine superpower. State leaders have to strive for social and economic reforms to ensure that ordinary people - not only the political and business elite - can also reap the benefits of modernisation. Think about 1. Is the yuan undervalued? Is an undervalued yuan the source of US economic woes? 2. What can the communist leaders do to strike a balance between economic development and maintaining social harmony? 3. Can you think of any other problems faced by China? Statistics China has become the fourth largest economy in the world by the value of gross domestic product last year. It has become the world's third largest exporter this year and is forecast to become the world's biggest exporter by 2010. According to Xinhua, China posted a trade surplus of US$23.3 billion last month. According to Chinese police, more than 17,500 demonstrations were reported nationwide up to last month this year. Word Power Match the following words with their meanings on the right 1. backwater 2. churned out 3. prestige 4. swamping 5. embezzled 6. standoff 7. edicts A. deadlock; failure to reach an agreement B. orders C. flooding (of cheap, imported goods) D. money used in an unlawful or fraudulent way to benefit oneself E. produced in great numbers F. backward place G. honour; good reputation Fill in the blanks with the words you have learned 1. The products ________ out by the plant are sent overseas. 2. The town is far away from the city centre and has few facilities. I don't want to live there since it is too much of a ________. 3. The railway workers ignored the ________ of the management and went on strike. 4. The ________ between bank robbers and the police made headlines the following day. 5. The club's treasurer has allegedly __________ HK$3 million and is now facing court charges. 6. Winning an international design award brought much _______ to the company. 7. The hurricane is _________ roads and fields in remote villages. Language Focus The word 'though' is used to introduce adverb clauses to show contrast. Here is an example from the passage. Though China enjoys unprecedented economic growth, many corruption scandals, human rights abuses and environmental destruction serve as a stark reminder that the nation still has a long way to go before it can be regarded as a genuine superpower. Use 'though' to rewrite the following sentences as shown in the example. Eg. Mary is beautiful, but she can be quite a brat sometimes. Answer: Though Mary is beautiful, she can be quite a brat sometimes. 1. David has a lot of money, but he is a miser. ______________________________________ 2. Janice studied hard for the exam, but she got only 20 marks in the end. _____________________________________________________ 3. China's development has brought prosperity to businessmen, but many peasants and labourers are left out in the cold. ________________________________________________________ Answers: Pages 6 and 7: Word Power: 1. f, 2. e, 3. g, 4. c, 5. d, 6. a, 7. b Fill in the blanks: 1. churned, 2. backwater, 3. edicts, 4. standoff, 5. embezzled, 6. prestige, 7. swamping Language Focus: 1. Though David has a lot of money, he is a miser. 2. Though Janice studied hard for the exam, she got only 20 marks in the end. 3. Though China's development has brought prosperity to businessmen, many peasants and labourers are left out in the cold.