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Letter from the Editor
China Now Monthly Magazine is published the first of every month in print and online. Please support our effort to provide you with the best writing on contemporary China possible by subscribing now.
Dear Reader:

This is the inaugural issue of China Now.

What is China, now? Very different things to different people.

China is lauded for attracting more foreign investment in the past 20 years than any other country in history. Yet it is also demonized for the very growth this investment has fueled, and its inevitable downside as manifest in the PRC's large and growing trade imbalance with the West, lack of labor and environmental protections, dramatic inequality of wealth and widespread official corruption.

China is paradoxically viewed as both a pioneer in world revolution and the progenitor of a traditional worldview in harmony with nature. Its political, economic, and social systems have been undergoing revolutionary change for several centuries. And in the 21st century, China continues to transform faster than ever. To document this process of evolution, we are launching China Now.

China Now covers Greater China—the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan—the Tibetan diaspora, Chinese Central Asia, Singapore, Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula, and the 55-million-member overseas Chinese community.

These countries and demographic groups are linked by geography, history, language and cultural tradition. For centuries China and its contiguous countries were the center of civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences. From the rise of the Silk Road (206 BCE - 220 CE) through the end of the 18th century, China rightfully claimed the title of Middle Kingdom.

But in the 19th and early 20th centuries, China was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under Chairman Mao Tse-Tung established a dictatorship that, while securing China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping gradually introduced market-oriented reforms and decentralized economic decision-making.

Now China has a tremendous opportunity for progress in the 21st century. Its 1.3 billion-strong population represents almost one-quarter of humanity. Its economy is the most dynamic in the world, averaging double-digit annual growth for almost two decades. This boom has raised the standard of living for more people in a shorter period of time than any prior economic expansion in history. China is ripe for a cultural reawakening, and poised to reclaim its rightful place as an international leader not just in business, but in the arts and sciences as well. Indeed, many observers note striking similarities between the United States at the turn of the 20th century and China at the dawn of the new millennium.

This hopeful portrait of the region is unfamiliar to Westerners whose information about Greater China comes exclusively from the mainstream American and European media. Chinese living in the West do not recognize their country in the predominantly negative reporting on the PRC in the fear-mongering, corporate-controlled Western press. Similarly Westerners living in China see official propaganda as a caricature of their societies. And recent studies of Chinese and American perceptions suggest that both
sides' views of the other have become increasingly negative in recent years. This polarization must be resisted in order to foster a healthy world economy and environment for future generations.

The Dalai Lama is visiting the United States in September, 2003. When he and his entourage travel to Boston, scientists at MIT will utilize the most advanced Western brain-imaging techniques to monitor the neural activity of these Tibetan monks in meditation. The academics will demonstrate, through Western scientific methods, what Eastern tradition has known for millennia:that our mental state influences health and happiness.

This integration of Western technology and Eastern wisdom—for the benefit of all humanity—perfectly illustrates the ancient Chinese proverb: "Use tradition to promote progress."

This is a worthy mission for China Now.

Scott Savitt


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