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【双语分析】中国经济:一路骑行,繁华似锦

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Special report: China's economy
特别报道:中国经济现状


Pedalling prosperity
一路骑行,繁华似锦


China’s economy is not as precarious as it looks, says Simon Cox. But it still needs to change
中国经济不像看上去那么不稳定,西蒙·考克斯评论道,但仍亟待变革。



IN 1886 THOMAS STEVENS, a British adventurer (pictured), set off on an unusual bicycle trip. He pedalled from the flower boats of Guangzhou in China’s south to the pagodas of Jiujiang about 1,000km (620 miles) to the north. He was disarmed by the scenery (the countryside outside Guangzhou was a “marvellous field-garden”) and disgusted by the squalor (the inhabitants of one town were “scrofulous, sore-eyed, and mangy”). His passage aroused equally strong reactions from the locals: fascination, fear and occasional fury. In one spot a “soul-harrowing” mob pelted him with stones, bruising his body and breaking a couple of his bicycle’s spokes.


1886年,一位英国探险家,托马斯·史蒂文斯(见右图),开启了一段不平凡的自行车旅程。他从中国南方广州的花船上出发,一路向北,一直骑行到两千里之外(620英里)的九江宝塔。他既为沿途的风光所折服(广州的郊外当时是一片美妙的田园),也深深厌恶所见的肮脏穷困(他看到一个镇子上的居民们“面带病色、眼睛红肿、衣着肮脏”)。托马斯的造访同样在当地人中引起了强烈的反响:心驰神往者有之,畏惧害怕者有之,有时也会招致愤怒的回应。沿途某处,一位“灵魂深受伤害”的暴民向他掷石子,石子擦伤了他,还打坏了自行车几根辐条。


A century later the bike was no longer alien to China; it had become symbolic of it. The “bicycle kingdom” had more two-wheelers than any other country on Earth. Many of those bikes have since been replaced by cars—one obvious sign of China’s rapid development. But even today the bicycle looms large in the battle for China’s soul.


一个世纪之后,自行车对中国来说早已不再陌生;它已经成为了中国的象征之一。“自行车王国”所拥有的双轮脚踏车比世界上任何一个国家都要多。现在,很多自行车正为汽车所取代——这也是中国快速发展的显著迹象之一。但即使在今天,在中国的灵魂之役中,自行车仍然显得尤为突出。


For China’s fast-diminishing population of poor people, bikes remain an important beast of burden, piled high with recycled junk. For China’s fast-expanding population of city slickers, the bicycle represents everything they want to leave behind. “I’d rather cry in the back of your BMW than laugh on the back of your bicycle,” as China’s material girls say. Some dreamers in government see a return to the bike as an answer to China’s growing problems of prosperity—pollution, traffic and flab. The country’s National Development and Reform Commission wants government officials to cycle to work one day a week, though only if the distance is less than 3km.


对中国迅速减少的贫困人民来说,自行车仍旧是重要的运输工具,后座上还会高高地堆着回收垃圾。对中国快速扩张的城里人来说,自行车则代表了他们想要甩在身后的一切。正如中国的拜金女们所说的:“宁可在宝马车里哭,也不在自行车后座上笑”。面对中国繁荣背后越来越多的问题——污染、交通不畅、肥胖人群壮大,一些政府的空想家们把回归使用自行车当作解决的答案。中国发展和改革委员会希望政府官员每周能有一天骑车上下班,尽管这只是在通勤距离小于3公里的情况下的要求。


Even if it is a fading symbol of Chinese society, the bicycle remains a tempting metaphor for its economy. Bikes—especially when heavily laden—are stable only as long as they keep moving. The same is sometimes said about China’s economy. If it loses momentum, it will crash. And since growth is the only source of legitimacy for the ruling party, the economy would not be the only thing to wobble. From 1990 to 2008 China’s workforce swelled by about 145m people, many of them making the long journey from its rural backwaters to its coastal workshops. Over the same period the productivity of the workforce increased by over 9% a year, according to the Asian Productivity Organisation (APO). Output that used to take 100 people in 1990 required fewer than 20 in 2008. All this meant that growth of 8-10% a year was not a luxury but a necessity.


虽然自行车作为中国社会标志的光环渐渐褪去,但借以比喻中国经济仍让人心中一动。自行车——特别是重载货的时候——只有保持前进才会稳定。同样的话有时也用来形容中国经济。失去了前进的势头,中国经济就会毁于一旦。而因为经济增长是执政党名正言顺的唯一根源,所以到那时,不仅仅只有经济会摇摆不定。从1990年到2008年,中国的劳动力规模膨胀,增加了大约1亿4千5百万人。很多人不远旅途从农村的穷乡僻壤来到沿海的生产车间。同期(1990-2008),据亚洲生产力组织研究,中国劳动力生产率以每年大于9%的速度增长。同样的产量,过去1990年需要100个人完成,到2008年不超过20个人就可以。所有这些都意味着,8-10%的年增长不是一种难得的辉煌,而是一种需要。


But the pressure is easing. Last year the ranks of working-age Chinese fell as a percentage of the population. Soon their number will begin to shrink. The minority who remain in China’s villages are older and less mobile. Because of this loss of demographic momentum, China no longer needs to grow quite so quickly to keep up. Even the government no longer sees 8% annual growth as an imperative. In March it set a target of 7.5% for this year, consistent with an average of 7% over the course of the five-year plan that ends in 2015. China has been in the habit of surpassing these “targets”, which represent a floor not a ceiling to its aspirations. Nonetheless the lower figure was a sign that the central leadership now sees heedless double-digit growth as a threat to stability, not a guarantee of it.


但这样的增长压力在逐步减缓。去年中国处于劳动年龄的人口队伍所占比例有所回落。很快他们的人数就会开始收缩。少数留在乡村的都是老弱者。因为失去了人口增长的势头,中国已经不再需要为赶上人口增长而如此高速发展。政府甚至也不再把每年8%的增长率看作必须完成的指标。今年3月份,政府设下了7.5%的年增长目标,这一目标与五年计划(2010-2015)期间7%的平均增长率相符。中国一直习惯于超越这些“目标”,“目标”是其渴望的下限而非上限。尽管如此,下调的增长指标也是一种迹象,暗示着现在中央领导层把冒失的两位数增长看作是对国家稳定的威胁,而不是稳定的保证。


The penny-farthing theory
大小轮理论


Stevens’s 1886 journey across south-east China was remarkable not only for the route he took but also for the bike he rode: a “high-wheeler” or “penny-farthing”, with an oversized wheel at the front and a diminutive one at the rear. The contraption is not widely known in China. That is a pity, because it provides the most apt metaphor for China’s high-wheeling economy.


史蒂文斯于1886年跨越中国东南部的旅途之所以非同寻常,不仅仅在于他的骑行路线,同样也在于他所骑的车型:一辆“高轮车”或者说“大小轮车”,车前部有一个超大的轮子,后部有一个很小的轮子。这种装置的自行车在中国并不广为人知。这未尝不是一种遗憾,因为它给出了中国飞转的经济最恰如其分的比喻。


The large circumference of the penny-farthing’s front wheel carried it farther and faster than anything that preceded it, much as China’s economy has grown faster for longer than its predecessors. Asked to name the big wheel that keeps China’s economy moving, many foreign commentators would say exports. Outside China, people see only the Chinese goods that appear on their shelves and the factory jobs that disappear from their shores; they do not see the cities China builds or the shopping aisles it fills at home. But the contribution of foreign demand to China’s growth has always been exaggerated, and it is now shrinking.


“大小轮车”前轮的大轮径把车带得更远更快,超越了先前的任何东西,很像中国的经济,其成长快过先前时期,增长时间也更长。如果要说什么是保持中国经济前进的大前轮的话,很多外国评论员会认为是出口。在中国之外,人们看到的只是货架上的中国商品和从他们的国家中消失的工作岗位。他们并未看到中国建造的城市和国内商店里充足的货物。而外需对中国经济增长的贡献却一直被夸大,这种需求其实也正在缩减。


It is investment, not exports, that leads China’s economy. Spending on plant, machinery, buildings and infrastructure accounted for about 48% of China’s GDP in 2011. Household consumption, supposedly the sole end and purpose of economic activity, accounts for only about a third of GDP (see chart 1). It is like the small farthing wheel bringing up the rear.


引领中国经济的是投资,而非出口。在工厂、机器装置、建筑和基础设施等方面的投入占到中国2011年GDP的48%左右。家庭消费,按理应当是经济活动的最终的宗旨和目的,只占到GDP的约1/3(见表一)。后者很像垫后的小后轮。


 


A disproportionate share of China’s investment is made by state-owned enterprises and, in recent years, by infrastructure ventures under the control of provincial or municipal authorities but not on their balance sheets. This investment has often been clumsy. In the 1880s, according to Stevens, China showed a “scrupulous respect for individual rights and the economy of the soil”. The road he pedalled took many wearisome twists and turns to avoid impinging on any private property or fertile plot. These days China’s roads run straight. Between 2006 and 2010 local authorities opened up 22,000 sq km of rural land, an area the size of New Jersey, to new development. China’s cities have grown faster in area than in population. This rapid urbanisation is a big part of the country’s economic success. But it has come at a heavy price in depleted natural resources, a damaged environment and scrupulously disrespected property rights.


中国的投资,过多的份额来自国有企业。近年来,由省级或市级政府控制但却不在其资产负债之内的基建投资所占份额也过多。这一投资往往缺乏策略。19世纪80年代,据史蒂文斯描述,当时的中国表现出对“个人权利和经济土壤审慎的尊崇”。他踏着车走过的路线打了许多烦人的弯弯儿,为的是避免侵犯任何个人财产或践踏上施了肥的田地。而现如今,中国的路横冲直撞。2006到2010年,地方政府开发了高达2万2千平方公里的农村土地以进行新的发展,这些土地相当于一个新泽西州的大小。中国的城市面积扩张得比人口增长还快。快速的城市化是中国经济成就的一个重要部分。但这造成的沉痛代价就是耗尽了自然资源,破坏了环境,严重践踏了财产权益。



The imbalance between investment and consumption makes China’s economy look precarious. A cartoon from the 1880s unearthed by Amir Moghaddass Esfehani, a Sinologist, shows a Chinese rider losing control of a penny-farthing and falling flat on his face. A vocal minority of commentators believe that China’s economy is heading for a crash. In April industrial output GREw at its slowest pace since 2009. Homebuilding was only 4% up on a year earlier. Things are looking wobbly.


投资和消费间的不平衡使得中国经济看上去不那么稳定。19世纪80年代,一部由汉学家Amir Moghaddass Esfehani出品的卡通表现了一个骑自行车的中国人在“大小轮车”上失去平衡,摔了个脸着地。少数评论员的声音表示,中国的经济面临崩溃。4月,中国工业出口的增长速度降至自2009年来的最低水平。住宅建设仅同比增长4%。形势一片动荡。


But China’s economy will not crash. Like the high-wheeled penny-farthing, which rolled serenely over bumps in the road, it is good at absorbing the jolts in the path of any developing country. The state’s influence over the allocation of capital is the source of much waste, but it helps keep investment up when private confidence is down. And although China’s repressed banking system is inefficient, it is also resilient because most of its vast pool of depositors have nowhere else to go.


但是,中国的经济不会崩溃。就像高轮子的大小轮自行车能在颠簸的道路上安然前行一样,这种经济模式善于消化吸收任何发展中国家前进中的障碍。国家对资本分配的影响是造成大量浪费的源头之一,但在个体信心低靡之际,它仍能保障投资高涨。而且,尽管中国受抑制的银行体系效率低下,但因为庞大的存款群体中,大多数人无处可存,所以这一体系仍然富有坚韧活力。


Not so fast
没有那么快


The penny-farthing eventually became obsolete, superseded by the more familiar kind of bicycle. The leap was made possible by the invention of the chain-drive, which generated more oomph for every pedal push. China’s high-wheeling growth model will also become obsolete in due course. As the country’s workforce shrinks and capital accumulates, its saving rate will fall and new investment opportunities will become more elusive. China will have to get more oomph out of its inputs, raising the productivity of capital in particular. That will require a more sophisticated financial system, based on a more complex set of links between savers and investors.


大小轮自行车最终会过时,会被更为熟知的车型所取代。这一跨越可能由链条驱动的发明带来,这种驱动中每踏一下都会注入更多活力。在适当的时候,中国高速运转的增长模式也会过时。随着国家劳动力的萎缩和资本的积累,储蓄率将会下降,新的投资机遇将会更加扑朔迷离。中国将必须从自己的投入中汲取到更多的活力,尤其要提升资本的生产率。这要求中国拥有一个更成熟的金融体系,而这个体系要基于储蓄者和投资者间有一套更综合的联系纽带的基础之上。


Other innovations will also be needed. China’s state-owned enterprises emerged stronger—too strong—from the downsizing of the 1990s, but the country’s social safety net never recovered. Thus even as the state invests less in industrial capacity, it will need to spend more on social security, including health care, pensions, housing and poverty relief. That will help boost consumer spending by offering rainy-day protection.


其他的创新也是必须的。自20世纪90年代下岗裁员以来,中国的国有企业蜕变得更加强大——过于强大。但国家的社会安全网一去不复返了。因此当国家对工业生产力的投资减少的时候,它还须加大在社保,包括医疗、退休金、住房和扶贫等方面的投入。那样就相当于提供了困难时期的保护,有助于刺激消费。



Keep those wheels turning
让前进的车轮持续运转


The chain-drive was not the only invention required to move beyond the penny-farthing. The new smaller wheels also needed pneumatic tyres to give cyclists a smoother ride. In the absence of strong investment to keep employment up and social unrest down, China’s state will also need a new way to protect its citizens from bumps in the road ahead.


要超越大小轮的发展模式,所需要的发明创造不仅仅是链条式驱动。新的更小的轮子也需要充气轮胎,以带给自行车主更舒适的旅途。随着那些保障就业率、降低社会不安的强大投资消失后,中国也需要一条保护其公民不受前方颠簸伤害的新路子。

【双语分析】中国经济:一路骑行,繁华似锦文章来源头牌英语[时事热点]
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