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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
China - The awakening dragon
Shanghai skyline
China is coming of age. After years of negotiations, in 2001 it joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Here, Peter Day, for Radio 4's In Business programme, meets the new breed of entrepreneurs.

Joining the WTO has been a deliberate attempt by China to force its huge centralised economy to "modernise or perish" within the demanding competitive world.

Its membership will speed up the development of the new, commercial China, and this will totally alter the face of the global market.
Development is on every street corner

As with Britain in the industrial revolution, China is poised to become the world's manufacturing powerhouse. But only time will tell whether Beijing will embrace democracy as part of this development.

So far, the effects of consumerism and hi-tech communications have yet to be realised.


Chongqing sits some 3,000km along the Yangtze River and is above the controversial Three Gorges Dam, which is soon to displace hundreds of thousands of people.

The economy of this sprawling city is underpinned by many state-owned industries, with their foundations based on the arms industry.

And while it is part of the largely neglected southwest region of China, which receives little of the investment pumped in to the east coast, it boats its own breed of entrepreneur.
Mr Yin outside his first industrial plant
Mr Yin has made great strides since his early days

One such man is Mr Yin, who has become an almost instant millionaire at the age of 60.

Once a prisoner during the cultural revolution, he went on to become a schoolteacher and then swiftly moved to textbook publishing. But that was not good enough for him.

Just about the time of the repression in Tiananmen Square, in 1989, he moved into making motorbike engines - addressing the much-desired mobility in the country.

"The old factories had forgotten one important thing - innovation. They had been selling the same products for 10 or 20 years. So long as I had something new - I had no fear for the big factories," he says.

Mr Yin's bikes feed the Chinese appetite for transport
Mr Yin is a striking beneficiary of China's step-by-step policy of economic liberalisation.

And, like many Chinese entrepreneurs, he wants to expand. He has just taken a 60% stake in a bus manufacturing company.


Just across the river from Shanghai, is Pudong. This, as yet unfinished, financial district of Shanghai is barely 10 years old.

But it already has global industries such as Intel, Corning and Alcatel establishing themselves for the opening Chinese market.
The ubiquitous Mac

Ulysses Wang, the man heading Delta in Shanghai believes that the sheer location of the city must make it the best place to be based for trade with Japan, Hong Kong and Beijing.

Delta is one of the Taiwanese companies investing billions in the Chinese mainland, despite political differences between the two countries.

China has been astute.

It has organised highly qualified personnel to go through specific training in the US and Germany in hi-tech organisations. They return to Shanghai in a high state of readiness for future industrial progress.

China is going through a major metamorphosis.

It is emerging from centrally controlled economy to an almost free market enterprise.
Alan Qiu
Alan is one of the new breed of young Chinese investors

Alan Qiu is a typical young Chinese stock market investor in the huge Shanghai stock market. He has an equally typical father.

Whilst Alan invests and spends much of his business time in the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee shop, his father cannot understand the new wave of development, following a lifetime of allegiance to the communist way of life.

Another area of conspicuous growth has been television.

Ms Yang is the 33-year-old television presenter who regularly hosted a quiz show to an audience of 200m - the size of the whole of Europe watching one show.

After studying in America, she started the satellite channel Sun with her husband, clearly seeing a way ahead in interactive television.
Ms Yang
Ms Yang sees the future in interactive TV

Ms Yang keeps an open mind as to the "Americanisation" of China - feeling that the nation is in a state of confusion, diversity and not having such a clear idea as to the general direction of change.

China is both a huge unfolding marketplace for the world's exporters and a powerhouse of manufacturing that could swamp the developed western nations.

But as the Chinese say: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

See also:

12 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
30 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
27 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
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