China West - A Breakaway Future
Still Leans on its Past

Myron Stokes/Martha Hindes

As the U.S. Congress wrangled day after day about whether to admit China into the World Trade Organization, miles of new pavement were being laid for a highway between Beijing and Shanghai.

At the same time, droves of Taiwanese business people flooded the streets of mainland cities, apparently oblivious to the near war that transpired four years ago between China and its expatriate one-time province. Money has been pouring into China during the past few years at a nearly immeasurable rate, from multinational auto companies and suppliers setting up joint ventures to quiet infusions of Taiwanese investment capital.

China, say those who are participating in its rush to join the 21st Century, is a country that no longer can be ignored by anyone.

Ignoring its Past?

To Western eyes, China on the brink of tomorrow doesn't appear to be looking back as its ancient cities and traditions make room for a booming future. And for outsiders, it's become a brass ring prize for those wanting a foothold in what assuredly will become the world's most dominant economies within a decade or two.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) approval for China last year, despite heavy lobbying from opponents, won a sigh of relief from some of America's top executives who had counted on China receiving coveted Permanent Normalized Trade Relationship (PNTR) status.

Now, as that approval waits to be implemented, those same executives say they are freer to go on the offensive for business in a country that is fast-forwarding from a sort of economic dark ages towards a spot as the new jewel of the Orient.

But as western influences hammer on the door of China for admission, the centuries-old mist that shrouds what's undoubtedly the world's most enigmatic country isn't likely to disappear at any time soon.

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