Waking Up to the Future

China during the past three decades has been characterized by a relentless dynamism. Economic growth was fueled by a young and very willing workforce and Western markets eager for cheaper goods. A nascent legal system struggled to keep up with widespread structural transformation, but guanxi remained key to striking a business deal or securing a favorable legal decision. China’s one-child policy was acknowledged as bringing about irreversible social change, yet in the faces of a generation of “little emperors” its far-reaching effects were yet indiscernible.

Market forces quickly replaced ideology as the guiding factor in political and business relationships; Deng Xiaoping’s dictum “to get rich is glorious” was taken to heart and corruption became a way of life. Economic gain was pursued with little thought given to the long-term human or environmental cost. Hunger for Western technical expertise and much-needed fluency in English caused China to open its doors wide to almost anyone from abroad who was willing to come.

Turning another page in history and attempting to peer into China’s uncertain future, what becomes clear is that many of the assumptions of the past three decades will soon need to be reconsidered.

As the writers in this issue of ChinaSource point out, the seeds of change that were sown at the turn of the last century are today beginning to bear fruit in some unanticipated and even surprising ways.

A thoughtful appreciation of China’s changing demographic and social landscape today will help organizations that seek to be relevant into the future to better position themselves for effectiveness in the coming decades. Opportunities may be found in each of the changes ahead, whether one considers the “graying” of China’s population, the growth of China’s domestic consumer market, a gradual but persistent move toward rule of law, China’s potential leadership in the area of alternative energy, or any of the numerous other significanttrends outlined in this issue.

This particular issue of ChinaSource is itself a sign of the times. This will be the last print edition of this journal; beginning next quarter ChinaSource will be delivered only in electronic format. Although the format is changing, our readers can continue to expect cutting-edge analysis of the trends shaping China and thoughtful insights from those who serve there. In addition, our subscribers will also begin receiving the monthly ChinaSource Online, and will have access to the entire archive of past issues of the ChinaSource journal.

If you need assistance in accessing the journal electronically in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us at info(AT)chsource.org. As always, we are grateful for your support and welcome your comments and suggestions.

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Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio