The Business Environment of China: Challenges of an Emerging Economic Superpower
China is one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world, with organized society existing for more than 10,000 years. Although the country has a complex and dynamic past, the scope and pace of change in China within the past 25 years have been unprecedented in the nation's long history. Since 1979, when China's reform era began, the country reduced the number of its citizens living in poverty by 200 million and achieved a sixfold increase in per capita income. China accounted for nearly 4% of the worldwide gross domestic product in 2004 and had become the sixth-largest economy and the leading recipient of foreign direct investment. While these results are impressive, this is only the beginning for China. As the most populous nation in the world, China needs to create 100 million new jobs by 2013 and quadruple its GDP by 2020 to achieve and sustain a reasonable standard of living for its people. To do so, the country must further open itself to foreign investment, trade, and the market-oriented ideas that will stimulate domestic productivity and build its competitiveness as a nation. As Michael Porter asserts, "National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country's natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency value. A nation's competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade." Over the last two and a half decades, China has proven its ability to capitalize on its innate advantages and make meaningful reforms. Whether the country can build on these successes to create a lasting competitive advantage under competition remains to be seen.