The funny thing about China is you can never really understand the magnitude of it if you just listen to the Western media.  I can’t even begin to imagine the havoc that the international economic crisis is wreaking over there.  The BBC reports that Chinese factories are hemhorraging jobs: enough to send the migrant workers who’ve flooded the cities back to the countryside.

It makes me wonder what Beijing looks like now.  The city’s actual population was almost twice its official population while we were there.  It makes me wonder what the migrant worker schools, hospitals and daycares look like today.  I wonder if the streets seem oddly empty?  Maybe not yet, but maybe soon.

Of course, the other thing that China’s government is worried about is civil unrest.  I think it’s interesting that they think that keeping people employed and paying them as little as a quarter of what they originally made is going to keep them from being cranky.  Granted, for those factories that are retaining all their workers but paying them less than half their normal wages, workers are probably still making more than they would back in the home village.

Nevertheless, I think that the Chinese government is going to be entering some interesting territory the next few months.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens, because now that they’ve let the market in, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away.  Also, I’m fascinated by this new take on “economic freedom makes us free,” a mantra that I heard all over Beijing while I was there.  Maybe this attachment to the market is going to make China free, but not in the way many Chinese initially thought?

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