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Talking Points, May 21 - June 3, 2009

The USC U.S.-China Institute's weekly enewsletter with information about China-focused events and exhibitions across North America.
May 22, 2009


USC U.S.-China Institute Weekly Newsletter

Talking Points
May 21 - June 3, 2009

Recession drains Social Security (New York Times, 5/12/2009)
Alarm sounded on Social Security, Report also warns of Medicare collapse (Washington Post, 5/13/2009)
Report: Medicare fund is 8 years from insolvency (Los Angeles Times, 5/13/2009)

Rising unemployment is slowing the flow of payroll taxes into the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, but the biggest challenge for these programs is the retirement in the next decades of the baby boom generation. The budget pressures generated by the aging of the American population are immense. But challenges imposed by the demographic transition China confronts may be still greater. China is the first country to “go gray before it goes green,” that is, China is the first country to have a rapidly aging population before it becomes affluent.

In 2005, the median age of the Chinese population was 33. In the U.S. it was 36. Roughly 8% of China’s 1.3 billion people were over age 65, while about 12% of America’s 302 million were at least 65. By 2030, it is projected that China’s median age will reach 41, passing America’s 39. Because of the ongoing effect in China of the one child family policy and lengthening life spans, the share of China’s population over age 65 will have doubled to 16%. In the U.S. it will have risen, but not as dramatically, to 19%. The charts below show these patterns (click here to see larger versions at our website).

 Data from the United Nations, World Population Prospects 2008 Revision.

After three decades of remarkable growth, China’s economy is now the world’s third largest. Few countries have lifted living standards as widely or significantly as China has managed over the past generation. But on a per capita basis, China is much poorer than the U.S. The World Bank put China’s per capita gross national income in 2007 at $5,420. The figure for the U.S. was roughly 8 times higher at $45,840. (These calculations use the purchasing power parity method, the gap using the Atlas method is much greater: $2,370/$46,040.) China’s population is aging more rapidly than America’s and it will have to care for its elderly with much fewer resources than exist in the United States.

Chinese are hyperconscious of this and they prepare for old age by saving at a much higher rate than do Americans. Chinese leaders want people to spend more, but most people, especially those in rural areas, are reluctant to do so because existing pension and health insurance systems are inadequate and in some places non-existent. A massive health care system reform has just been launched and efforts are also underway to improve spotty pension coverage. Such government pledges have been made before and, for the moment, most Chinese are weaving their own safety nets.

USC U.S.-China Institute scholars in economics, gerontology, social work, public policy, and architecture are working with Chinese colleagues on the challenges posed by this demographic transition. And USC students are traveling to China to immerse themselves in these problems as well. For several years, students in social work have studied and carried out field work in Beijing. Last summer, architecture students worked on designs for a retirement community in Hainan province. Additional information about much of this research and many of these training programs is available in the news and china@usc sections of our website.


USC’s Nicholas Cull, author of the definitive study of the Cold War role of the U.S. Information Agency, recently testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on the scope and impact of China’s recent public diplomacy efforts. Click here to read his testimony. Public diplomacy efforts don’t come any bigger than last summer’s Beijing Olympics. Click here to watch presentations from our conference assessing the domestic and international impact of the Games.

Finally, we note President Barack Obama’s appointment of Utah governor Jon Huntsman to be America’s ambassador to China. Huntsman, comes from one of America’s richest families. He earned a degree in business from the University of Pennsylvania, learned Chinese, and served as a Morman missionary in Taiwan. He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to be ambassador to Singapore when he was just 32. Huntsman also served in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Huntsman, a Republican, was first elected governor in 2004. He received 77% of the vote in winning reelection last fall. He should be readily confirmed by the Senate. Huntsman will succeed Clark “Sandy” Randt as ambassor. Randt spoke at the U.S.-China Institute last spring. China is expected to name a new ambassador to the U.S. soon.

Thanks, as always, for sharing Talking Points with others.

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute
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07/27/2009: 2009 Summer Residential Seminar at USC
USC, Davidson Conference Center
Los Angeles, CA 90089
For more information please visit:
An intensive nine-day equivalent of our "East Asia and New Media in My Classroom" professional development seminar for K-12 teachers employed outside of the greater Los Angeles area.

05/21/2009: 2009 California-China Trade & Investment Conference: Developing Stronger Commercial Ties Between California & China
Sheraton Los Angeles Downton Hotel (Grand Ballroom)
711 S. Hope Street, Los Angeles, CA
Cost: $125 (early registration), $150
Time: 8:30AM - 6:00PM
A day long conference on how to build successful U.S.-China trade relationships.
 05/21/2009: Popular Millenarianism in the People's Republic of China during the Mao Era: Rumors and Narratives
UCLA 6275 Bunche Hall
Time:  4:00PM - 6:00PM
UCLA Center for Chinese Studies presents a discussion by Stephen A. Smith as one of five lectures in the Interpreting Rumor and Gossip series.
 05/21/2009: An Evening with Karen Han
Huntington Library, Friends Hall
Huntington Members: $25.  Non-Members: $35.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Time: 7:00PM - 8:30PM
Internationally renowned erhu virtuoso Karen Hua-Qi Han presents a captivating performance on this ancient Chinese, two-stringed instrument.
05/22/2009: China Undisciplined: Transformations
UCLA Public Policy 2355
Los Angeles, CA
Time: TBA
UCLA Center for Chinese Studies presents an interdisciplinary graduate student conference on Chinese history, government, and culture.
05/28/2009: Taiwan's Mainland China Policies and Current Cross-Strait Relations
IEAS Conference Room
2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor
Time: 2:00PM
Deputy Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, Chien-min Chao, presents a talk on cross-Strait relations between Taiwan and mainland China.
05/28/2009: Recent Taiwan Politics, Cross-Strait Relations & Taiwan Relations Act
UC Irvine
Crescent Bay C & D,
1F, Student Center
Time: 3:30PM - 5:00PM
The University of California, Irvine presents discussions by Alan Romberg and Shelley Rigger on recent Cross-Strait Relations.
05/28/2009: A New Era for Taiwan-PRC Relations
K&L Gates LLP
4 Embarcadero, Suite 1200, San Francisco, CA 94111
Time: 5:30PM - 7:30PM
The Asia Society presents a panel discussion on current cross-strait relations.
06/01/2009: Global soft power and the adaptive state: China's differing pathways of adaptation to international norms
UCLA 10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
UCLA Center for Chinese Studies presents a discussion by Titus Chen on China's adaptation to international norms.
 06/02/2009: From the Voice of God to the Self-Reflexive Voice: The Transformation of Narrative Style in Chinese Independent Documentary
UC Berkeley
Numata Seminar Room, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor
Time: 12:00PM - 1:00PM
UC Berkeley's Center for Chinese Studies presents a discussion by Luo Xianyong on the transformation in style of contemporary Chinese independent documentaries.
 North America

05/22/2009: What 'Democracy' Means in China After 30 Years of Reform
Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 628
Cost: Free
Time: 10:30AM - 12:00PM
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China presents a roundtable.


02/12/2009 - 06/07/2009: Noble Tombs at Mawangdui: Art and Life in the Changsha Kingdom, Third Century BCE to First Century
China Institute Gallery
125 East 65th St., New York , NY
Cost: $7
An exhibit featuring treasures of the Marquis of the Changsha Kingdom and his family.
04/11/2009 - 07/13/2009: Treasures through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection
Boone Gallery, The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA
An exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy highlighting works spanning 900 years
11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture.
11/14/2008 - 11/14/2009: Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective
 Seatle Asian Art Museum
1400 East Prospect Street , Volunteer Park , Seattle, WA 98112–3303
The Seattle Asian Art Museum presents an opportunity to see a collection with representative works from each dynastic period.
11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China.

02/12/2009 - 02/12/2010: Art of Adornment: Tribal Beauty
Bowers Museum
2002 N. Main, Santa Ana, CA
Cost: $5
An exhibit featuring body adornments from indigenous peoples around the world

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USC U.S. – China Institute
3535 S. Figueroa St.
FIG 202
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1262
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