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With China's economic clout growing rapidly, Americans are accusing Beijing of every offense from currency manipulation to crooked trade policies. None of these charges has much merit, but they have increased the probability of a U.S.-Chinese trade war that would do considerable damage to both sides.
The preeminent symbol of the Chinese Communist Party's economic policies has been an unbreakable iron rice bowl, standing for cradle-to-grave social security. But with Beijing unable to keep its state enterprises -- behemoths that employ about 76 million workers -- afloat, China is teetering between economic reform and social unrest. At last count, 15 million workers were officially estimated to be redundant, and the real number may be higher. Beijing must cushion their fall to avoid a second Tiananmen Square uprising. The iron rice bowl is cracking and may soon shatter.