Too Big and Too Complicated?

Kris reflects on today's China Business Forum at the Wosk Centre: “This is the perfect way to spend the day before my first ever business trip to Beijing... I'm learning a lot and it's calming my nervousness about the trip. There sure does seem to be a lot of opportunities to companies looking to grow into new markets, but I'm looking forward to hearing people talk more about the social and environmental impacts of China's explosive growth and rise to power. ¶ Can the massive amount of wealth being generated by this boom be used to promote positive change in China and around the world? How will China keep the gap between rich and poor from widening? Will the ultimate cost of the environmental degradation that is taking place as part of this growth ultimately be its downfall?”

Some of the issues not addressed in the forum were environmental and social pressures China faces as it moves its huge rural population into urban centres. Alan Carrol came close, mentioning environmental remediation as a growth area for the Chinese economy twice in his presentations and, in a general sense (though only very briefly relating it to China) calling the world's water shortage a more urgent problem than global warming. (I wonder if some people think he's off message by calling it "global warming" and not "climate change".) The social pressures from daily demonstrations by factory and mine workers, the almost complete lack of political rights weren't on the minds of the participants, or were brushed off: one speaker said China is "too big and too complicated" for human rights, and another said "the chaos [in China] is quite wonderous". Granted this was a forum about doing business in China, not a forum about the country's problems and solutions, but few of the speakers even paid lip service to the problems.