Progress in China, Russia

What makes for the good life among Americans? Some might say owning a home or watching Hollywood movies.

But in Russia and China, such comforts are not taken for granted.

That's why it is worth noting when those two countries, which still have not shed all their authoritarian ways, make moves to allow more freedom in lifestyles.

China quietly announced at the Shanghai film festival this week that it would allow more than one company to start importing foreign movies next year. Up to now, the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television, (SARFT) has sluggishly let in only a few American movies each year - often the less-popular ones - in its monopolistic and censorship roles.

But with China's coming entry into the World Trade Organization, the government must open the film market. With 1.2 billion potential movie-goers in China, Hollywood will be able to weave its magic with nearly a quarter of humanity.

In Russia, meanwhile, the lower house of parliament voted for a land code last week that sets out procedures for the sale and purchase of private property - other than farmland. While the 1993 Constitution allows for private property, laws protecting ownership have been lacking, hurting investment and one of the building blocks of democracy.

The government also plans to end its subsidies for housing, and start to privatize all the apartments built during the Soviet era. Such moves, opposed by the still-powerful communists, are part of President Vladimir Putin's efforts at economic reform.

Both countries are eager to join the global economy, and these moves are significant milestones along the way.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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