Siberia is as large as the USA and until recently a closed zone. It has enormous reserves of oil, coal, gas, timber, gold, fresh water and soil and is targeted for major economic expansion in the 1990s. The port city of Vladivostok is planned to expand into a massive export base with a tenfold population growth from 350,000 in 1991 to three million. But the environment is already signalling major damage, with overcleared forests, eroding land, land degradation from the accelerated building of roads, oil wells and pipelines and cities, environmental pollution from unregulated industry, declining wildlife populations and the ecological catastrophe of Lake Baikal.
China in the 1990s is in a major phase of economic growth, with every province encouraged to proclaim a 'Special Development Zone'. Development is unbalanced and strongly concentrated on the coast, creating rural unemployment. Although the economic growth rate had averaged over 9% in the decade to 1992, state and private capital investment in 1992 grew by more than 40% over the previous years. More than 40,000 foreign funded projects were approved in 1992, equivalent to the total of the previous 13 years. (A significant proportion of these joint ventures are being used as fronts for smuggling money out to Hong Kong.) However, huge quantities of money have been spent on land and construction materials, which became scarce commodities. Most industrial investment went into processing and consumer goods, with a resulting explosion in internal trade which is straining the country's energy and transport resources. While industrial output was up by 23.4% in the first five months of 1993, energy only grew by 4.3% and freight capacity dropped. Economic overheating has taken the forecast inflation rate of 5% to 15.7%, and the urban cost of living index was up to 19.5%. Chinese shoppers say the real increase is more like 30-40%.
Economic growth is only valuable in so far as it reinforces social stability and increases human contentment.