olivier laude
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the new china

China's path towards a full market economy continues to pick up momentum and strength ever since its inception over a dozen years ago by Deng Xiaoping. If China can manage to control its growing social problems she will become the fourth largest industrialized power in the world within 25 years. In doing so China will achieve one of the world's most momentous economic and social transformation ever witnessed. The next century could very well turn out to be the Chinese century.

Before this happens, China will have to radically transform an economy still mired in the Great Leap Forward and focus on development: By building an adequate infrastructure capable of ferrying goods and services throughout China and the world, control a population threatening to spiral out of control, and distribute its potential wealth more evenly to all its 1.3 billion citizens to prevent large scale social conflicts.

None of this is new to those who turn a curious eye towards China, but what makes this an interesting time are the upcoming events that are facing the Chinese people and their government. China is at a crossroad and the next five years will show the world China's real intentions. China now faces two of its most difficult hurdles in half a century: The decentralization and restructuring of 80% of its economy and the goodwill and trade relations it builds with the rest of the world. These events in turn will bring about social changes dwarfing those of the last 15 years and turn China into a cultural powerhouse as well as an economic one.

Somewhere in between, China has managed to substantially raise the standard of living of it's people and to give them opportunities that were unthinkable 10 years ago. Despite the many trials that face China, the majority of China's people are feeling optimistic and are looking forward to improving their lot. For the first time in 175 years China is proud of herself and its achievements. The pendulum has started to swing away from despair and political struggle and towards economic prosperity. If allowed to change unimpeded China will become the next economic fire fueling the world's economy.

This photo essay begins to explore these issues; how the past 15 years have shaped The People's Republic and tries to look at what might be expected to happen to China as a whole. These photographs were taken in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, two of China Special Economic Zones where most of China's economic growth is now concentrated. This work was done between assignments in China in June of 1995. I hope to return to China soon and finish documenting these momentous changes in greater depth.

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