China's economic goals are set dizzyingly high

China's economic goals are breathtakingly high. To achieve senior leader Deng Xiaoping's goal of catching up with developed countries as quickly as possible, the Chinese per capita gross national product would have to increase at least 5.5 percent a year between now and the year 2050, according to a recent World Bank report.

This is because, in purchasing power, China's GNP today is 10 times smaller than that of developed countries, which will keep on growing by 2 to 3 percent a year.

Yet, as a World Bank team headed by Edwin Lim points out, only two non-oil-producing countries expanded per capita GNP by more than 5 percent between 1960 and 1982: South Korea (6.6 percnt) and Greece (5.2 percent.) And only one country has caught up to Western nations: Japan. Brazil and Chile have slowed down, and the Soviet Union's per capita GNP remains only half that of the US.

The World Bank avoids predictions in a country as vast and unpredictable as China. But it does note the encouraging sign that, between 1952 and 1982, per capita income jumped at least 4 percent a year, despite high population growth.

Since Deng's reforms began in 1979, per capita income has grown 6.8 percent a year.

Industrial growth itself raced ahead so fast in the first half of 1985 (23.1 percent), that officials have had to slow it down to a mere 16.9 percent to avoid undue strain on energy and other resources, according to Chinese newspapers.

The overriding, unanswered political question: Will Deng make his reforms stick -- or will left-wing critics undo them after he leaves the scene?

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