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China in the Ozarks: Part One: Olympic Changes in China

All eyes are on China as it prepares for the Olympic Games.

As part of our on going series Global Citizenship, KSMU is bringing you a week of in-depth reports about Chinese influences in the Ozarks.

We start our series with an interview with Dr. Dennis Hickey, a political science professor at Missouri State University. He is currently teaching as an exchange professor in Beijing, China. KSMU's Emily Nash talked with Dr. Hickey over the phone about China's recent environmental and economic changes and how they affect the Ozarks.

Nash: Dr. Hickey, what does it mean politically for china to host the Olympic games?

Dr. Hickey"The games show that China is now a fully integrated and responsible member of the world community, and it also shows the Chinese success story. How it's moved up and been able to uh, help the Chinese people to achieve a degree of wealth that uh, that surprises a lot of folks. In fact, most experts claim that nothing like this has ever happened before in human history."

Nash: What are some of the significant ways China has changed its policy or habits in order to prepare for the Olympics?

Dr. Hickey "Well Bejjing is working 24/7 to prepare for the Olympics, obviously one of the greatest challenges here is air pollution. And an entire steel factory has been disassembled and re located to another city. Also, there are a lot of people who live here, there are 14 million people in the greater Bejjing metropolitan area, and there are about three million automobiles here, so they are going to have some new regulations that allow the automobile owners only to drive their cars on alternate days."

Nash: So how many of these changes will last, once the Olympics are over?

Dr. Hickey "I think you are going to see a good number of them, as far as trying to reduce pollution. This is a big issue now. And not just in China, but in other states, within east Asia, there is more and more of an emphasis upon doing something to clean up the environment. I don't know if it is the rise in lung cancer, or if it's the winter storms like we had in Missouri, and they had terrible ones here, but people have got the message that they need to clean up the environment."

Nash: Will these changes have a global affect?

Dr. Hickey "300 million, out of the 1.3 billion people here, have risen out of abject poverty and are now in the middle class. And believe me, when I tell you, that these folks are on a buying binge. When I go to a department store on a Saturday, it is more crowded than Battlefield mall at Christmas. And I mean they are buying everything. People are really uh, on a shopping spree. We even have billionaires now. In fact I even read yesterday or day before that the eleventh richest person in the world is from China according to Forbes."

Nash: What do people in the Ozarks think about China?

Dr. Hickey "Well I think people in the Ozarks see China much like people in other parts of the world. And other parts of the United States. They see it as both a threat and an opportunity.

You know if you are unfamiliar with something, and you see a country advancing as fast as this country is, and as I noted earlier, this has never happened in world history before, that so many people are brought out of poverty and that a country moves up so quick.

But I personally view this as a great opportunity for business. I mean just remember those three hundred million shopaholics that I mentioned, and there will be five hundred million of them pretty soon.

Plus, China is very important to the United States. I think more sober assessments at home will bear that out. We need their cooperation to deal with terrorism, to deal with the environment as I mentioned, health issues, North Korea, the weapons of mass destruction, and the list goes on and on.

There are Chinese that have settled into uh, Springfield. A good number of businesses, of course restaurants we are all familiar with that. But a lot of doctors and professional people and um, just around, you will...you know just watch the local news around Chinese New Year time or Lunar New Year time and you will see that they play a very positive role in the greater Springfield Community."

Nash: We've been speaking with Dr. Dennis Hickey, Professor of Political Science at Missouri State University.