On February 6, 2009 we published the first issue of Week in China. At that point the Chinese economy was still smaller than Japan’s but gaining ground fast. As we publish this 150th issue, China’s GDP is growing at a slower pace but still rapidly enough to keep analysts guessing on the year that it will surpass the US to become the world’s biggest economy.
In our first issue we began with a quote from Lee Ang’s movie The Wedding Banquet in which a Chinese bride tells a bemused New York registrar that she promises to keep her husband “For better and richer, not poorer. Till sickness and death.”
The point we wanted to make: separated by language, culture and distance there is plenty of scope for misunderstanding between China and the rest of the world. Our goal was to try to bridge that disconnect. Each week we’ve aimed to help our readers better understand China’s fast-changing society and business environment.
In that first issue we examined China’s push into high-speed railways and looked at a subsidy scheme for sales of fridges, TVs and washing machines to rural consumers (when we wrote the article there were reckoned to be 737 million such buyers; now there are about 665 million in the countryside, the upshot of rapid urbanisation). We also assessed the prospects for solar power firms; profiled China’s richest novelist (he was just 25); and explained why Audi’s car business was booming (Chinese bureaucrats loved them).
That wasn’t all. We reviewed the country’s problematic coal industry, raised China’s need for healthcare reform, and even mentioned why Barack Obama’s brother had chosen to live in Shenzhen.
In this special issue we now look back over our previous 149 editions and trace some of the key themes that have emerged since we published our first issue.
There are many of them but we have honed in on just eight. They reveal how much has changed in China – and all in just three years.
Our next 150 issues promise to be of great interest too. Challenges abound for China as it seeks to rebalance its economy, replacing the model that helped it boom over the past 30 years. The new version will require more innovation, greater consumer spending and less reliance on exports. Additionally, the country’s leadership knows it must tackle a host of issues. Water shortages and other environmental problems are worrying. Corruption, income inequality and food safety are causing social tensions. Younger people are frustrated that they can’t afford to buy an apartment. Local governments are piling up bad loans. The list goes on.
The next 150 issues of Week in China will track Beijing’s efforts to resolve these and other challenges. China is changing fast, and how it changes will affect us all.
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