The Moment

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A construction worker builds permanent residences for quake survivors at the Xiange Village in Dujiangyan of Sichuan Province, China

What's in a number? If it's $586 billion — about 20% of China's GDP in the first three quarters of 2008 and the size of a giant economic-stimulus plan for just the next two years — then the number is a figure of considerable value, real as well as symbolic. The money, Beijing announced on Nov. 9, would go mainly to new infrastructure, homes, schools and clinics, especially in the country's poorer regions. Taken together with the recent alleviation of taxes plus changes to the rural-land law that will allow farmers to lease their land and free them to...

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