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Book fair witnesses craze for knowledge
Updated: 2004-05-16 11:01

More Chinese are becoming crazy about books, driven by the belief that knowledge promises more opportunities for personal development and higher pay in a fast- paced society.

More than 6,000 specialists from the publishing industry are present at a national book exposition in Guilin, a scenic city in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where a record high 160,000 publications are on display.

The event, the 14th since it was first held in the nation's capital Beijing in 1980, has aroused local residents' love for books more than ever before. Large crowds of readers have flocked to the exposition to buy books they need, keep themselves updated about the book market situation or to simply share the scholastic atmosphere created by books and book lovers at the fair, which will last until May 22.

"It's been the largest book expo and has drawn the largest number of readers," said Ling Wei, from Yuelu Publishing House based in China's central Hunan Province. "It shows more people are eager to improve themselves and expand their knowledge."

The growing demands from domestic readers have helped the publication industry prosper: official statistics show China published 190,761 books and 9,165 periodicals in 2003, up 6.6 percent and 1.8 percent respectively over the 2002 figures.

Fiction and non-fiction books on philosophy, economics and business administration are among the best-selling books at nationwide bookstores.

English textbooks and literary works are also much sought after by Chinese readers and are often on display at the most noticeable sections of bookstores as most people are eager to learn a foreign language in line with the globalization drive.

Nearly all Chinese schools have included English as a mandatory course in their curricula, and people from all walks of life + including taxi drivers and laid-off and retired workers + are rapidly picking up English words and phrases in order to strike up a conversation with a native speaker when they have a chance.

Avid readers holding a book on buses, subway trains, park benches and even by the roadside are therefore familiar scenes in many Chinese cities.

China's rural population, whose average time at school is at least three years less than their urban counterparts, have also started to hit the books as the urban-rural gap continues to narrow in the country's urbanization drive.

Wu Binggang, a peasant farmer from the autonomous county of the Dong ethnic group in the outback of Guangxi, has bought at the book fair a new book about how a rural worker can find a job and protect his own rights and interest in cities.

"I didn't know much about how to protect myself when I did odd jobs in the city before and often got trapped in disputes with my employers," he said.

It is also an established goal of the Chinese government to eliminate illiteracy and improve the overall quality of the population. The nine-year compulsory education + which includes six years at primary school and three years at junior high school - - is the minimal period of schooling for each school age child.

Statistics show that at the end of 2003, an average 91.8 percent of China's school age children were at school, and 2,477 of all the 2,859 rural counties had basically removed illiteracy among the younger generation by promoting at least nine years of schooling among the children.

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