NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Liberalized Trade Has Raised Chinese Living Standards

April 2, 2004

Expanded trade has lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty, says syndicated columnist Robert J. Samuelson.

China's economic liberalization has depended heavily on trade. In the past 25 years, reports economist Andy Xie of Morgan Stanley, China's economy has expanded by a factor of almost nine, but exports have grown 45 times. This economic growth has raised incomes and other indicators of societal wellbeing, according to the World Bank:

  • From 1978 to 2002, the average annual per-person income rose from $190 to $960; it's probably now above $1,000 (the U.S. figure is about $36,000).
  • Life expectancy increased from 61.7 years in 1970 to 71 in 2002.
  • Adult illiteracy fell from 37 percent in 1978 to less than 17 percent in 1999.
  • Infant mortality dropped from 41 per 1,000 live births in 1978 to 30 in 1999, compared with the U.S. rate of about seven.

However, in 2000, about 47 percent of China's population still had incomes of about $2 or less a day.

Source: Robert J. Samuelson, "Defending Free Trade: Jobs Would be Helpful," Investor's Business Daily, April 2, 2004 and Washington Post, March 31, 2004.


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