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CASE 3-2: The Fruits of Economic Progress Mei-ling and Yi Cheng and their four children live on a farm in China located near the large city of Shanghai. Life on the farm today is unlike it was when they were younger. Less than 10 years ago, the family was quite poor and lived in a run-down small home with no plumbing. There were seldom good times. Raising enough food to eat and to sell barely made ends meet, and the economy was not at all like today’s, with the GDP growing so rapidly. Many people have moved to the city in order to earn more money and to learn new skills while working in new or growing businesses. Some of the factories are owned by foreign firms such as those based in Germany, Japan, and the United States. Yi travels to the city each day to work in one of the new plants, whereas Mei-ling runs the farm with her oldest son and other children when they are not in school. The family cannot afford to live in the city. During the last few years, the Chengs have made improvements to their small home, adding indoor plumbing, a telephone, and a small television. Yi even has a cell phone that he uses with pride when bicycling the seven miles to and from work. The days are long, but life is getting easier. If things continue to improve, Yi may consider buying a motor scooter. The children want a computer but even a used one is an unaffordable luxury for now. The Chengs have learned that good times do not last forever. They must save for bad times, for the children’s education, and for retirement. There is no social security system to depend upon when Yi retires. And if someone becomes ill or injured, the government can provide only limited help. Yi is also concerned that his foreign employer might leave China because of government regulations that are often unfair to foreign competitors. For now, the happy times continue for the Chengs, who consider themselves somewhat well-off for a rural family.

 THINK CRITICALLY 1. How does the current life of the Chengs compare with that of the average American family? By American standards, would they be classified at the poverty level? Explain your answer. 2. Do the Chengs live more under a capitalistic or a communistic system? Explain your answer. 3. Using the library or the Internet, find out whether the Chinese people who live in large cities have a better quality of life than do people like the Chengs who live in rural areas. Report your findings to the class. 4. What conditions exist or could occur that would cause Yi’s employer to leave China? Obtain information from your library or the Internet to make a report to the class.


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