How to reconcile our images of China? At once the world's fastest- growing market economy, it is also an old-style authoritarian state, one where almost any dissent is quickly crushed. We are constantly challenged to update our view of the world's most populous country, our focus depending on our vantage point.
On one level the picture is simple: China's economy is booming. Thirty years of roughly ten percent economic growth has seen hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty. For many, it is a golden era, the first period of relative stability and prosperity since the Opium Wars of 150 years ago heralded an end to ancient China. But these good times haven't led to complacency. Prosperity is giving people the chance to stop and think. New technologies like the Internet are putting current events in the reach of China's once information- starved masses. People are beginning to demand more--from protection against the state tearing down their homes, to an end to government corruption, which makes daily life so difficulty for ordinary citizens.
How the government reacts to this will determine its fate. Will it bulk up the security apparatus and forbid any sort of dissent? Or will it have the courage to extend economic reforms to the political sphere--to allow China's "netizens" to speak up and assert their rights? This complex interplay in China, more than anything outsiders can bring to play on the country, is the China story of the coming years.
- courtesy VII Agency
Visit the VII website to view Marcus Bleasdale's complete photo essay, as well as images by Ron Haviv of Former Utah Governor John Huntsman accouncing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination from Liberty State Park in New Jersey.