A few years ago, the research department at the World Bank did an analysis of what kind of information people were searching for on its website. It found that the single most searched-for word was "China," more than "poverty" or any other country or concept.
It is not surprising that there is so much interest in China given its tremendous success with growth and poverty reduction. China is now the leading source of growth in the world economy, so everyone takes interest in its progress. But another reason why people are looking for information on China is that, until recently, the country had been quite isolated. One of the main reasons that China is growing so well is that it is emerging from a long period of self-imposed isolation. Even with the progress with integration made so far, there is still a lack of knowledge about China in the outside world, and a lack of knowledge about the outside world in China.
So, a key objective of this blog is promote dialogue among Chinese and non-Chinese about what is really happening on the ground and how the world views China's rise. Whose lives are getting better? Whose are getting worse? In what dimensions? What are the key development challenges? What is the government doing about it? What are civil society groups doing? What can outsiders do to help? Or should they help?
China still has the largest World Bank program in the world in terms of number of projects under implementation. We have a large office in Beijing with about 100 Chinese staff and about 20 international staff posted from our headquarters. Our projects cover all parts of the country and a variety of sectors.
So, I think that this group is well placed to contribute to and moderate a China Development Blog. I myself have worked on and off on China since first going to Taiwan as a student in 1975. Currently I live in Beijing as World Bank country director. This is my second stint in Beijing. In 1986 I taught market economics to an elite group of graduate students at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences under a Ford Foundation program. Despite my long involvement with China I don't think any outsider fully understands the country.
I start this blog with the idea that China faces three main challenges in its next phase of development:
(1) the macroeconomic imbalances that we touched on in our opening post;
(2) natural resource scarcity and environmental degradation; and
(3) growing inequality and social disparities.
But I have an open mind and I look forward to learning from the dialogue as well as contributing to it. (So do a number of my colleagues in the East Asia & Pacific region, who are starting their own discussions on region-wide topics and on other Asian countries under this same platform. Meet them here).