Y2K in China: Unexpected Optimism

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As the long shadow of the Year 2000 bug falls over the world's computer systems, China faces an unexpected state of affairs: Things really aren't that bad. Although many of China's computers are threatened by the bug, the reality is that most Chinese just don't depend on computers very much in their everyday lives.

TIME Beijing bureau chief Jamie FlorCruz explains. "Although China is one of the world's largest economies and a leading global trader, its domestic economy is cash-based and almost computer-unrelated." And what's more, those sectors of the industrial base that have already modernized still have workers around who remember how to get things done manually if the few computers do crash. "There's a general Luddism that pervades much of China's industry," reports David Wolf, director of Claydon Gescher Associates, a Beijing consultancy. "Even in places where you have automatic processes, like banks, you've got sufficient labor and skill to go back to manual processes should the automated ones fail." For once, being less developed is an advantage -- China's rural majority isn't worried about Y2K crashing their bicycles. MORE >>