China appears to be gripped by gold fever, building palaces, coating floors and decorating other historical sites with the world’s most precious metal. And along with their love of gold comes a dramatic increase in gold demand internationally.

Hong Kong’s reputed ‘golden palace’ the Swiss Horn, built using two tons of gold and costing more than HK$300 million opened to the public on September 23 with celebrities, businessmen and other visitors thronging the golden enclosure, touring and posing for pictures.

The mainland is set to follow the gold mania trend as the newly inaugurated Paradise Island Hotel, which used 270 kg of golden bullion on its floor inlay in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province and famed historical resort HuaQingchi’s taps, studded with gold and silver as well as the golden moon cake worth 30,000 yuan (US$3750) per box put the Asian power into the center of debate.

The Chinese government has promised to build China into a harmonious society, but the gold craze is seemingly dampening China’s efforts in realizing that goal. Why not put the large amount of money spent in purchasing gold towards solving China’s present social problems? Of course, businessmen are businessmen. The hefty goal for them is seeking profits rather than helping China handle its headaches.

Businessmen will think spending such large chunks of cash is rational. But the government, who offers a sound environment for them, is struggling to solve problems from home and abroad. Do these profiteers have a responsibility to help China out of its poverty, environmental woes and pressure from abroad?

With China adhering to the policy of reform and opening up since 1978 after a ten-year economic recession triggered by the disastrous Cultural Revolution, the world’s most populous nation has overtaken Britain to become the world’s fourth largest economy. But figures underline China’s challenges it will face in the near future.

As of 2004, there were 103.49 million people struggling with poverty in China, according to data released by the World Bank.

"China’s total population stricken by poverty accounts for ten per cent of the world’s total despite the fact that the total number of poor shrank 30 per cent from 2001 to 2004," World Bank Beijing office chief representative David Dollar says, according to an article on

The poverty line set by the World Bank is one dollar per day.

In addition to poverty, environmental problems have become the government’s biggest headache.

Water resource pollution has made headlines almost daily after a chemical spill cut off the water supply for millions along the Songhua River late last year

The world’s fourth largest economy, China has suffered more than 130 pollution spills nationwide since the Songhua toxic spill, a rate of one every two or three days, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

China is facing mounting problems in city transportation, air pollution, resource efficiency and water management, according to the World Bank.

The government is also facing pressure from world powers, shepherded by the United States, to hasten its revaluation of the Yuan. World giants say China keeps its currency devalued to assure an advantage in its exports.

Gold fever proves that some of China’s businessmen are indifferent to these problems that are currently facing the country.