China, the planet's most populous country and home to one of its most dynamic economies, is in most respects a world away from the smaller, less influential, oil-dominated nations in the Mideast currently boiling with anti-government unrest.
But beneath the obvious differences, China faces some similar issues: rapidly rising inflation in food and other essentials, and a troubling gap between the financial and political "haves" and the far more numerous "have-nots."
These developmental issues aren't lost on China's leadership, which recently announced major initiatives to tame inflation and narrow the gap between those who have grown wealthy during the nation's remarkable rise and those primarily rural citizens who've been left behind.
Considering where China started in 1978 — without much industry or opportunity for its then nearly 1 billion citizens — its rapid ascent has been remarkable, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in a mere generation. But the same forces that turned China's economy into a juggernaut have created an enormous gap between the wealthy and the typical worker — a gap that could fuel dissatisfaction with the central government.
Charles Hugh-Smith is a markets and economic writter for 22 years.
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