China: Lower Profile for Mother-in-Law

New economic reforms bring reality to cities and factories

"Hello, Banana? Change money?" That sales pitch, unusually direct for China, was routinely delivered last week by jeans-clad youths outside Peking's Jianguo Hotel. The bananas, mostly imported from Ecuador, were the vendors' customary, and legal, merchandise. The offer to trade currency was neither normal nor legal—especially since the trade was 150 Chinese renminbi for 100 of the foreign-exchange certificates issued to non-Chinese that are officially valued at 1 to 1.

Yet Chinese authorities seemed willing to let the money-changers operate. It was a further signal of their determination to shift from a planned,...

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