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Is The Reward Worth The Risk?

Since the 1400's, Beijing's old forbidden city has stood as a symbol of China's resistance to change. But in the eastern part of the country -- especially in the big cities -- the change of just the past two to five years has been truly breathtaking.

The streets, once filled to capacity with the quiet parade of two-wheelers, are now bumper to bumper with automobiles, which fill the air with fumes as never before.

Also filling the air -- and the skyline - are the sights and sounds of construction.

This country is in a race against time to modernize and build, buy, make money, and buy more. In many ways the fight for freedom and democracy has been slowed for the fight for market share -- with 1. 2 billion potential customers at stake. Like it or not, American business can't afford to be left behind.

The cellular phone market is one example. The capability has only been in place in China for a few short years, and already millions of Chinese own cellular phones. By some estimates, as many as 100 million Chinese will own them by the year 2000. Motorola, an American company, is in position to sell millions more.

Motorola opened a new headquarters in Beijing last week, despite going through difficult times and downsizing at home. Business is indeed booming in China.

Just an hour and a half outside of Beijing, through a countryside that looks more like the 14th century than Silicon Valley is Motorola's latest hi-tech plant.

"There was not a market for paging and cellular telephones when we brought that technology and manufacturing skills to this market," says Rick Younts, president of Motorola in Asia. "Today it is one of largest bases and markets for cellular telephone paging in the world."

The best of modern telephones require the best of modern American technology, including the microprocessors that drive them, the satellites that transmit the signals, and the launch vehicles themselves.

That is where a complicated question comes in for a company such as Motorola and for our country.

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The question is: Should a government such as the one here in China, so long mistrusted and scorned by the U.S. for the way it treats its own people, have access to the best of modern technology?

The Motorola designed "Iridium" cellular satellite phone system relies on 66 satellites to enable users to call from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. It also relies upon foreign partners including a Chinese company.

"That doesn't suggest tht we would in anyway compromise our position or the position of the U.S. to achieve it," Younts says.

However, the technology can be used for military purposes as well as to further peaceful commercial aims.

Motorola is also investing in Chinese society -- by putting up apartment complexes for its workers, and even allowing them to buy their homes. Through a program called Project Hope, Motorola is also building schools and helping to educate China's next generation. But it's all done with a sense of caution.

However, Younts says that the reward is worth the risk. And it's the same kind of balancing act President Clinton has to consider as he discusses American business with the Chinese.

Is the reward worth the risk?

Reported By Dan Rather
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