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China: Eyeing the U.S. with suspicion. (World).

On April 1, after a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea, tensions between the two nations escalated. The Chinese fighter pilot was killed. The spy plane, with 24 crew members, made an emergency landing at a Chinese air base on Hainan Island (see map, p. 13).

In China, the incident touched a raw nerve.

"America just does as it pleases," says an elderly man selling newspapers in a Beijing subway station. "It spies on us, runs into our fighter plane, kills the pilot, then refuses to apologize. We should have been tougher with Bush!"

President George W. Bush says the U.S. has a right to patrol the skies over international waters and has ordered the spy flights to resume. Moreover, U.S. officials claim that the Chinese fighter pilot flew recklessly and tried to force the U.S. plane down.

All this causes trouble for relations between the U.S. and China. The two countries are major trading partners, and U.S. businesses don't want to jeopardize (endanger) that relationship. But the two governments remain deeply suspicious of each other.

"What if the situation were reversed?" asks one college student in China. "What if China had spy planes flying up and down the Florida coast, and one collided with an American fighter plane and killed the pilot? Suppose China refused to apologize? Wouldn't Americans be angry?"

After President Bush said the U.S. "regretted" the incident, China released the U.S. crew and agreed to return the plane--in boxes. But the ill feelings continue.

Olympic Dreams

Many people in China right now are more interested in the Olympics than in U.S. relations. Beijing, China's capital, has worked hard to win the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

Thirteen-year-old Li Qin (Lee Chin) is excited that her country may play host in 2008.

"The Olympics are something that almost everybody in China has gotten involved with," Qin told JS. "I'm really excited about showing people all the improvements we've made in Beijing. We've built parks, started recycling centers, and converted [changed] taxis to clean natural gas. Now we're building more public transportation."

Past Time

Beijing had hoped to host the 2000 Olympic Games. But the Olympic committee chose Sydney, Australia, instead.

The Chinese feel it's past time for their country to host the Games. With 1.26 billion people, China is the world's most-populous country. Its athletes are among the world's best.

China is one of the world's oldest civilizations. It dates back thousands of years. The first imperial dynasty (ruling family) came to power about 1766 B.C.

In 500 B.C., the philosopher Confucius developed a system of moral values that has guided China for most of its history. Confucius emphasized the importance of human relationships, such as those between a parent and child, as the foundation for a peaceful society.

A number of important inventions came from China, including the compass, the printing press, reading glasses, paper, fine porcelain (which is still called china), and silk weaving.

Innovations like these, together with irrigation, efficient farming, and a vibrant (lively) culture open to new ideas helped make China one of the world's great powers for centuries.

Foreign Domination

But by the mid-1800s, China had become weak. Britain, France, and other Western nations used force to get what they wanted in China. By 1900, it seemed only a matter of time before China would be carved up by foreign powers.

In 1931, Japan invaded China, eventually killing more than 11 million Chinese. Japan's World War II defeat in 1945 ended more than 199 years of foreign domination in China.

Communists Take Over

After World War II, China was torn by civil war between the Communists and Nationalists. In October 1949, the Communist Party, led by Chairman Mao Zedong (mow dzuh-dung), took power, forming the People's Republic of China. The Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan (see map).

The Communists said that the country's peasants and workers should own China's land and factories. The Communist government seized control of farms, factories, and businesses.

In 1959, farmers were forced to join communes (collective farms). Mao's policies and three years of natural disasters led to famine. Some 20 million Chinese died. In 1966, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to rid the Communist Party of his opponents and achieve his vision of a Communist society. A million people died.

More Economic Freedom

After Mao died in 1976, new Communist leaders took over. They reduced government control of the economy. Today, Chinese people can sell their own crops and open their own factories and businesses.

In the last 15 years, China's economy has grown, and the lives of its people have improved greatly. Much of that improvement is due to China's expanding trade with the U.S. and other Western countries.

Last year, the US. bought nearly $84 billion more goods from China than it sold to China. Why does the U.S. buy so much more than it sells?

Critics point to high Chinese tariffs (import taxes) on U.S.-made goods. U.S. officials hope these tariffs will be reduced when China joins the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO makes rules for international trade, including setting tariffs.

China is expected to join the WTO this October. But even then, change will be gradual. The average Chinese worker makes only about $783 per year, so China's leaders want to protect its farms and factories from US. imports.

Strict Political Control

Even though it allows more economic freedoms, the Communist government maintains strict political control. In 1989, hundreds of people died when the army fired on student demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Today, freedom is still restricted in China. Critics can be jailed for speaking out too strongly against the government.

The Communists say that Western-style democracy won't work in China. It's more important, they say, that the government makes sure people get the basic needs of food and shelter.

China's rapidly growing population is a major problem. That is why the government adopted a one-child per family rule. Families with more than one child must pay for benefits that are otherwise free.

The Lucky Ones

China's 160 million teenagers, especially those who live in the cities, are optimistic about the future. Li Qin. for example, enjoys a life that teenagers a generation ago would have envied.

As the JS reporter said good-bye, Qin said, "Don't forget to tell the kids in America to come visit me in Beijing if we get the Olympics, OK?"

Then she added, "Tell them to come even if we don't get the Olympics."

Key Word

Communism: A system of government based on the idea that the state should own all land and means of production. The Communist Party runs the government and the economy, allowing no opposition.

POPULATION

CHINA: 1,264,500,000

U.S.: 281,421,926

Your Turn

Word Match

1. jeopardize

2. commune

3. dynasty

4. vibrant

5. tariff

A. ruling family

B. lively

C. import tax

D. endanger

E. collective farm

Think About It

1. Do you think the Chinese have a right to be angry with the U.S. over the spy-plane incident? Why or why not?

2. Is President Bush's China policy too tough, too soft, or just right? Explain.

Word Match, p. 12

1. D

2. E

3. A

4. B

5. C
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Young, John
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Sep 3, 2001
Words:1235
Previous Article:Running out of time: Kids today are busier than ever before. Are they being pushed too hard? (USA).
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