As you can see to the right, TIME‘s next cover is dedicated to China. Nothing wrong with that. “Already a commercial giant China is aiming to be the world’s next great power,” they say. “Will that lead to a confrontation with the U.S.?” Fine, as well. And what is the title of the cover story? You guessed it — “The Chinese Century.” There’s nothing wrong with the headline, we guess, other than the fact that it is grossly unoriginal (as we pointed out in the summer of 2005). Here’s why:
- On July 4, 2004, The New York Times Magazine proclaimed that we were living in, yep, “The Chinese Century.”
- On May 9, 2005, Newsweek said the 21st Century was, mmmm hmmm, “China’s Century.” That was followed closely by June 2005 cover stories from, yes, TIME and U.S. News & World Report that said basically the same thing.
- There’s even a Wikipedia entry entitled “Chinese Century” that says, “It has become a more prominent feature amongst the speeches of the key government leaders, commercial and media commentators of China in the last year.” So why would a major publication use it so prominently again?
Anyway, enough about our pet peeves. The headline does not mean the story isn’t worth reading. Here’s how it starts:
The railroad station in the Angolan town of Dondo hasn’t seen a train in years. Its windows are boarded up, its pale pink facade crumbling away; the local coffee trade that Portuguese colonialists founded long ago is a distant memory, victim of a civil war that lasted for 27 years. Dondo’s fortunes, however, may be looking up. This month, work is scheduled to start on the local section of the line that links the town to the deep harbor at Luanda, Angola’s capital. The work will be done by Chinese construction firms, and as two of their workers survey the track, an Angolan security guard sums up his feelings. “Thank you, God,” he says, “for the Chinese.”
That sentiment, or something like it, can be heard a lot these days in Africa, where Chinese investment is building roads and railways, opening textile factories and digging oil wells. You hear it on the farms of Brazil, where Chinese appetite for soy and beef has led to a booming export trade. And you hear it in Chiang Saen, a town on the Mekong River in northern Thailand, where locals used to subsist on whatever they could make from farming and smuggling–until Chinese engineers began blasting the rapids and reefs on the upper Mekong so that large boats could take Chinese-manufactured goods to markets in Southeast Asia. “Before the Chinese came here, you couldn’t find any work,” says Ba, a Burmese immigrant, taking a cigarette and Red Bull break from his task hauling sacks of sunflower seeds from a boat onto a truck bound for Bangkok. “Now I can send money back home to my family.”
Continue reading here.