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Thousands of brothels masquerading as barber shops offer more than a haircut and a shave. Karaoke bars and dance halls thump deep into the night. One eatery in the provincial capital, Canton, specializes in sauteed rat. A breakneck pace of development over the past 12 years has brought prosperity to the south, but also social crisis. One reason is that the money floating around the south has created a society of noveau riche and conspicuous consumption. Another difference is that in the south more and more workers are laboring outside the state-run system.
Hundreds of businesses routinely violate Communist Party regulations mandating one party member for every workers. In addition, with money in their pockets, many people in the south are simply less willing to accept central government policies. Millions of peasants meanwhile have flocked to the area, abandoning the moribund socialist economy in the rest of the country to gamble on the neo- capitalism of the south.
In Canton, they live on the streets, around the train station, under bridges and in abandoned buildings. Some take to crime. A recent crime wave led authorities to plaster Canton with wanted posters, an unprecedented move. Mug shots of 50 men went up in July, and more hit the streets in August. Other cities followed suit. Social evils that China claimed to have wiped out 40 years ago are returning with a vengeance. Together with his wife, they bore him eight boys and six girls.
Corruption is also widespread - from the bellboy in a fancy hotel offering teen-age girls from Sichuan to rotund party officials with bank accounts in Hong Kong. A new drug smuggling route bringing heroin from poppy-growing Southeast Asia to Hong Kong cuts through the heart of southern China.
Many of the buyers belong to the newly rich. Canton opened a drug rehabilitation center two years ago and executes dozens of drug dealers each year. The Yangcheng Evening News warned about a quack cure for drug addiction made from loquat syrup and rice wine. The nickname is a cynical take-off on divisions of the Communist army that liberated the south from Chinese Nationalist forces in In Shantou, officials estimate there are more barber shops than grocery stores.