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Big Changes In China

Just back from a trip to China. With President Clinton about to go on his trip to that country, perhaps you'll be interested in a few impressions from a traveling reporter -- who has been to China many times over the years but does not claim to be any expert:

First of all, China continues to change so rapidly that it is breathtaking. Even since your reporter's trip to China last year, changes -- big changes -- are noticeable.

One of them is the success of at least some American businesses in China, operating for China's benefit as well as their own. Motorola, for example, whose big plant manufacturing pagers and other electronics equipment north of Beijing is a marvel of efficiency, low wages -- by U.S. standards -- big profits and what appears to be a big future. For Motorola and the Chinese leaders who are working hand in glove to insure the company's success.

Other changes: Beijing is even more crowded with automobiles than before. Automobiles have quickly squeezed out bicycles in the Capital City. Among other things, this has made Beijing's environmentally polluted air even more so. The city is literally choking in fumes.

Both women and men in China's easternmost cities -- such as Beijing and Shanghai -- are dressing ever more fashionably and ever more Western. It hasn't been so long ago that everyone in China had to wear the old unisex Mao suit. Long gone. Women in shorts, men in three-button suits are common now. But, note that this is in the prosperous big cities -- along or near China's coast, where these are boom times.

In the countryside, and especially in China's vast interior, only a few stirrings from the boom are in evidence. And this is China's biggest problem: the race against time to have the benefits of a kind of free market economy permeate deep into the whole country -- not just along the coast.

There is much discontent in China. The communist dictatorship of a government keeps it suppressed, but it's there. China is not free. It does not have a rule of law, basically, it still has a rule of men. It does not have a government accountable to its people, and such freedoms as those of speech, press and religion do not exist.

President Clinton's trip has been designed by the Chinese government to be a "feel good", replete with photo opportunities and press spinning galore.

The trip is designed to further entrench the present Chinese dictatorship and its ways.

And China's leaders are very pleased that they are getting their wishes for this trip.

Reported by Dan Rather
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