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As China Grows Wealthier, Must it Also Grow Fatter?

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McDonald's comps grew 6% in April, thanks in no small part to the fast food giant's China operations.

Yum Brands now has 3,800 KFC and Pizza Hut locations across the Chinese mainland.

Wendy's is "actively pursuing" opportunities in China.

China analyst Paul French says, "In the West, obesity has become a problem of the poor. In the US and UK, places like McDonald’s have become middle-class no-go zones; it’s really about poor people and their diet. Here in China though, it’s about middle class and wealthy people. So in that sense it’s turned on its head.”

He continues:

Sedentary lifestyles are another problem. Chinese culture at the moment is that the more sedentary you are the higher your position in society. People don’t really jog here. The idea is to get off a bicycle not on one.

In October, the Los Angeles Times reported that an "estimated 200 million Chinese adults are considered overweight and of those about 75 million are heavy enough to be categorized as obese, according to health experts. While not as severe a problem as in the United States, where estimates place more than 60% of adults as overweight or obese, experts say China increasingly faces a population coping with heart disease, diabetes and other weight-related illnesses."

That's why the Chinese have brought back "radio calisthenics."

A little background from China Daily:

In 1951, under the direction of the central government, selected experts designed a set of calisthenics for ordinary people, and the newly formed nation popularized the exercises over the radio.

Following the first broadcast, the whole country soon adopted the calisthenics with enthusiasm. Everyday at 10 am and 3 pm, when the broadcast was aired, people would stop everything to do the calisthenics.

Presses would publish books illustrating the moves and distribute them across the country. Records were produced for remote areas where the broadcast was not available. All the major newspapers would also spare a whole page for the illustrations.

In 2007, China stopped broadcasting the calisthenics programs in lieu of Olympics coverage -- and it never returned. Last year, it was re-introduced to the masses, and this year it became mandatory.

As China becomes more like us, there are a few things we might consider picking up from China.

Like the jumping jacks, for starters.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.