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China

One can not pick up a newspaper without seeing a story about China. Articles about Tibet, the Olympics, contaminated products and natural disasters cover the front page. But it is the stories in the back of the paper that might be more revealing about the unprecedented growth and accumulating power of this ancient and highly modern country. The full significance of this tale is not yet known because it is being written as we watch. We are witnessing a new amalgam of economic and political power, specific to this time and place yet hitherto non-existent in world history. Authoritarianism combines with market forces as both are driven by global shifts. Certainly at the core is the most striking of all of the facts about China—its 1.3 billion people comprise 20 percent of the world's population. Throughout its four thousand year history, China always has been more than a physical place but a conceptual one as well.

Debra Block, Director of Education, NBLMC

CURRENT SITUATION

WHERE

China is located in Asia and has been a dominant force in the region for centuries.

WHAT

The Summer Olympic Games begin August 8, 2008.

A devastating earthquake that killed approximately 70,000 people and dislocated millions struck May 12, 2008.

Protests against oppressive rule in Tibet have existed for decades and the most recent chapter began in March 2008.

HOW

The vast population as both producers and consumers of global goods gives China enormous power that has repercussions far beyond it borders. Its support of a country or a policy usually guarantees its implementation.

Interesting Facts:

Coal reserve: 115 billion metric tons [2005]

Percent land arable: 15%

Average wage in factory: $0.64/hour

US-China trade deficit: $256 billion (2007)

Foreign Industrial Investment in China: $83 billion (2007)

Government subsidy of gasoline: $22 billion (2007)

26% of the world's students / 2% of the world's educational resources (2004)

375 million Chinese under 18

Percentage owned of US debt: 24%

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (http://maps.bpl.org)