Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Rise of a New Power (6)

6/20/05
(Page 6 of 6)

For all its talk about market magic, China's overpopulated state sector is a massive job bank compared with western governments, which leaves some of the Beijing's byzantine ministries woefully inefficient. One Indian software supplier, for instance, tried to sell the Chinese government a program to automate parts of the state-owned railroad industry, which employs 20 million people. The idea flopped. "Greater efficiency creates a social problem," explains an executive for a major American software company. "Yes, 20 million are inefficient, but a more efficient system lops off heads."

If China's leaders truly aim to create the Chinese century, the Communist Party itself will probably have to recede into history. One scenario outlined by the National Intelligence Council: an "Asian way of democracy" with elections at the local level and a looser central government. Some think the party is already irrelevant. "I don't think communism really exists anymore," says a former senior official at the Bank of China. "At a certain point, being a party member is a burden. If you're related to the party, you're not doing business." And if you're not doing business, you're not cutting it in China.
More from the Experts. U.S. News and the Levin Institute have assembled a group of experts to respond to your inquiries about China. Questions can go to china@usnews.com.

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