China's Growing Economy, By the Numbers

PHOTO Across the country, China is spending $100 billion on infrastructure, twice the amount President Obama has requested in the United States. The Shanghai skyline, with towering skyscrapers, was built in record time, just two decades.
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This week, "World News with Diane Sawyer" broadcasts from China to answer some questions about the country's staggering economic growth -- 10 percent in one year. What does it mean to America, and the future of American jobs? What are the secrets of the turbocharged Chinese ambition? The answers offer a picture of China, by the numbers.

Speeding Ahead

Across the country, China is spending $100 billion on infrastructure, twice the amount President Obama has requested in the United States. The Shanghai skyline, with its towering skyscrapers, was built in record time, just two decades. Large projects, like a sixteen-lane bridge, are completed in the time it takes just to acquire the building permits in the U.S. Just last week, 200 workers built a 15-story hotel in six days, using prefabricated pieces that snapped together like Lego building blocks.

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Thomas Friedman on China

Chinese engineering is speeding ahead in other areas, outdoing American efforts. By the end of next year, a train from Beijing to Shanghai will take just four hours. It will cover a distance equivalent to that between New York and Atlanta, a trip that takes Americans 18 hours.

These latest displays of engineering ingenuity have prompted responses from U.S. officials, including President Obama.

"It makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us," Obama said at a press conference after the midterm elections. "And we just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth. That used to be us."

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The Chinese are "making investments," the president said, "because they know those investments will pay off over the long term."

Other leaders say the advancements are China's way of showing strength. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "We built the biggest solar plant in 1980. Then the Chinese came and outdid us because they're always there to flex their muscles. 'We're the biggest, we're the best.'"

Tom Friedman, the author of "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," told Diane Sawyer the American political system is stalling growth in this country.

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"I think one of the problems, I think one of the saddest things going on in America is that politics has become so paralyzed, so gridlocked that we no longer believe we can get things done, so we no longer aspire to do big things," he said.

China's Growing Ambitions

America takes pride in being number one -- but China is home to the largest population on earth -- 1.3 billion people and counting -- who are ready to work as hard as it takes to get ahead. Every day, for every baby born in the United States, almost four babies are born in China.

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The government has launched a campaign to break the language barrier, and students are beginning to learn English as early as in kindergarten. Today more people study English in China than there are people in America. More Chinese are pursuing degrees -- the nation will produce more university graduates this year than India and the U.S. combined.

The work ethic doesn't stop when they leave the classroom. All across the country, people sacrifice days off and time with their families.

Li Feng, a partner at a venture capital firm who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said working in Silicon Valley was like a vacation compared to keeping up at home in China, where there are no breaks, not even for meals.

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