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Identify the thesis statement in the article A Nation Apart.
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Identify the thesis statement in the article A Nation Apart. What strategies does the author use to formulate his argument? What makes the argument so compelling? The news from China in recent weeks has been dire. Violent strikes and protests are reported almost daily. Millions of workers are out of jobs. Economic indicators presage more gloom, with electricity production for industry falling 4% in October, the first time it has declined in a decade. So is China — the "fragile superpower," as historian Susan Shirk memorably termed it — about to experience the one thing its leaders have feared for years: a so-called hard landing of its economy that could spark widespread social unrest?
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The gloom-and-doom camp makes a persuasive case. Nouriel Roubini, a professor at New York University, had been warning for years of the dangers of an international financial implosion — and the current economic crisis proved him depressingly right. In a recent article Roubini has laid out a bleak scenario for China. "The risk of a hard landing in China is sharply rising," he writes. "A deceleration in the Chinese growth rate ... is highly likely, and an even worse outcome cannot be ruled out." But a clique of China specialists inside the country predicts a different outcome. They believe that a range of factors unique to China will not only preserve it from the worst of the global meltdown but also keep its economy chugging along at about 8% GDP growth in 2009.
So who's right? I'd go with the locally based economists. While the U.S. fiscal package is unlikely to add even 1 percentage point to American growth, a recent report by Merrill Lynch estimates that the $600 billion stimulus Beijing unveiled in mid-November will likely add 3 percentage points. (And that was before China's provinces unveiled their own $1.4 trillion bailout plan, which depends on a massive infrastructure-building spree to boost the economy.) Such growth would be unachievable in other economies. But China remains a special mixture of raging capitalism resting on a foundation of state domination. "People who don't follow China on a regular basis can miss some of the underlying drivers of growth," says Arthur Kroeber, a Beijing-based economist, who cites factors such as changing demographics, the adoption of new technology from developed countries and rapid urbanization.
Yes, there will be plenty of pain. Kroeber and others predict a rough next few months. They also concede that a sharp decline in exports will hit China hard, possibly cutting 2.5 percentage points off growth in 2009. There's also the strong likelihood that tens of millions of dollars will disappear into China's bridges to nowhere — or into the pockets of corrupt local officials. Still, if any government can drive change by diktat, it's the Chinese Communist Party. Doomsayer Roubini writes: "The government cannot force corporations to spend or banks to lend." In fact, Beijing can do exactly that — and is doing so now. "On the outside, China's banks do look a lot more like normal Western commercial banks," says an investment-bank analyst with a decade of experience in China. "But every single senior officer right down to the manager of the smallest branch in Inner Mongolia is a Party member. And when the Party says, 'Jump or we're all in trouble,' they say, 'How high?'" The same principle applies to state-owned enterprises, which account for about a third of the nation's GDP.
Some of the problems China now faces are a result of economic policies that are finally kicking in at an inopportune time. Concerned earlier this year about spiking inflation and a blistering yearly growth rate of 11% or more, China's economic czars set out to cool things down. They introduced tough labor laws designed to decelerate production of lower-value-added goods. It's in that sector that hundreds of thousands of workers are now losing jobs. The same holds true for the bubbling property market, where Chinese authorities conveyed to potential home buyers that they would be wise to hold off. "The government basically said, 'You'd be an idiot to buy an apartment right now because we're going to make sure that prices drop like a stone,'" says the investment-bank analyst. "Chinese people stopped buying. Now the government is telling them, 'It would be a great time to buy, and the banks will be happy to lend to you.' Of course people will start buying again."
China's current economic woes come at a momentous point in history. Dec. 18 marks the 30th anniversary of when Deng Xiaoping launched the nation into the most extraordinary burst of economic development the world has ever seen. For almost this entire period, outsiders have been predicting that it wouldn't last. And each time, China has forged ahead. The financial crisis has led the whole world into uncharted territory. But the one constant in this changing world may be China's ability to surprise once more
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