What Does a Big Push Look Like?


On the ground, here in Zouping County, Shandong Province, the
development has been rapid. A Big Push might have occurred here, if something that looks (new building everywhere with the broadband connection that is providing me access to the information superhighway*), acts (people slapping each other on the back and smiling even before the inevitable drinking begins), and tastes (good food and no health problems (yet)) like a Big Push is a Big Push.

财政总收入 (County Finance Bureau Gross Revenues): in nominal million yuan

2001: 560
2002: 730
2003: 1,080
2004: 1,500

And this is including reforms of agricultural taxes which drastically cut revenues from that source.

The gist of the story is that Weiqiao (魏桥) built a massive textile factory in the Economic Development Zone in the county which now employs something on the order of 100,000 people. Then the businesses which supply the giant, e.g. food services, chemicals, dyes, etc., follow. Eventually everyone starts working in increasingly better jobs, consuming more and becoming more productive.

But there are a number of problems with this story as a microcosm of the Chinese experience. First, economic protectionism within the country still persists and manifests itself in that a rather large percentage of all of the goods that I consume in the county come from Zouping. While this is fine for a successful industrialized county in Shandong, localities without such industries will be left behind (often literally as their young men and women leave on the next train for Beijing or Shanghai or Zouping). Second, I cannot keep from feeling as though at some level it is all for show and not real. Underneath my sink there look to be some cabinets, yet when I investigated, the façade fell down and the exposed pipes were all that remained. [Then again, when learning a language, and maybe promoting economic development, faking it until one really has it is a good strategy.] Third, the people of Zouping are not the only or even primary target for the goods produced here. Weiqiao and others make for the export market. Are factory workers really earning more and consuming more? The condition and number of old and young people walking around on the streets during the middle of a weekday make me think that there are clearly still (1) distributional issues and (2) that consumption and quality of life still have quite a ways to go before Zouping can be considered developed. Fourth, and related to the second, the state still has its hands in everything.

* I have access to most of the web. Searching for Shengyou village where there were recently riots against state contractors by peasants will with 100 percent probability “time out.” More central to this enterprise, I cannot actually see my blog as access to blogger.com and blogspot.com are restricted as well. (Emailing in posts seems to be successful, or so I hear; although I am pretty sure that my posts are more coherent and thoughtful before the email transformation.) Also, and this is just annoying, I have no access to translate.google.com even though I can use essentially the same service on Babel Fish on AltaVista.

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