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Reform, opening-up and China's changes in the eyes of a Gabonese
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"The Beijing Olympic Games showcased China's unparalleled achievements since its adoption of the policy of reform and opening-up," said Norbert Mba-Ndong, a middle-aged Gabonese who used to study in China.

Mba-Ndong, now in his 40s, who had studied medicine twice in China, the first time from 1983 to 1990 and the second time from 1997 to 2004, has witnessed the dramatic changes that have taken place in the country during his 14-year stay there.

After getting a doctor's degree, Mba-Ndong returned to his home country to work in the Gabon General Hospital.

In his office, Mba-Ndong, a big soccer fan, told Xinhua that he was thrilled at the success of the Beijing Olympics, and ascribed the remarkable progress in China's sports industry to the country's reform and opening-up policy.

Mba-Ndong joined the university soccer team upon entering Beijing Medical University. He recalled that the school's football stadium was so shabby according to the present-day standard that when they kicked the ball, the yellow earth on the football court would surely be stirred up. And on a windy day, dust would fly.

"But when I went back to the school after graduation, I saw newly paved grass ground and larger stands for audiences," he said.

The sports facilities in China have seen notable improvement, with the athletes' overall game level greatly lifted, he added.

"Without the reform and opening up, it is hard to imagine China's sports industry can soar like this." he said.

When asked about the changes in daily life during his stay in China, the Gabonese thought of food first.

He said when he first went to China in 1983, there was usually far more vegetable than meat on the menu in the university's dinning hall; but more meat was available later as life got better.

Coupons were an unforgettable memory not only for the Chinese, but also for foreign students like Mba-Ndong at a time of shortfalls in daily necessities.

Mba-Ndong said that although they were given many kinds of coupons for purchasing cloth, food and so on, limited choices on the market was still a problem for him and his fellow foreign students, who would normally go to Hong Kong every year to shop for more fashionable clothes and home appliances.

"But during my second stay (1997-2004) in China," said Mba-Ndong, "I did not need to go to Hong Kong at all, since I could buy almost everything on the mainland market."

Speaking of his working experience in China, Mba-Ndong, who had interned in some Chinese hospitals, said Chinese patients were quite submissive to doctors in the past, with very few of them ever challenging doctors' authority.

But now, lawsuits over unsuccessful surgeries and mis-prescriptions are not unusual. Mba-Ndong said such lawsuits, though regrettable, highlight the growing legal awareness of the Chinese and will prompt doctors to work more responsibly to keep misdiagnosis and misoperations at a minimum.

In other areas of improvement, Mba-Ndong said, the medical facilities in Chinese hospitals are far better than before and the nutritional and health levels of the Chinese people have been greatly elevated over the past decades.

Mba-Ndong went to China single, but left double. In a small but nonetheless significant indication of an opening China, he met a Beijing girl, married her in 1990 and had children back in Gabon.

(Xinhua News Agency October 6, 2008)

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