Chinas Economic Development Since 1978

Since 1978, China has experienced staggering economic growth that has positioned the country at a pace to become the world’s largest economy. Between 1978 and 2010, the country’s gross domestic product grew at an average annual rate of 9.5% a year (Meng 2011, p. 59).

Throughout the 20th century, China witnessed considerable political, cultural, and economic change. In the early parts of the 20th century, the country experienced, perhaps, its most startling change as over millennia of the dynastic rule was overthrown and the People’s Republic of China instituted. Later in the century, Mao Zedong’s Communist forces would overthrow the Kuomintang forces (Lynch 1998, p. 101). Zedong would institute a total overhaul of the land ownership system and work towards instituting socialism. In working towards these goals Zedong implemented the Great Leap Forward, which sought to transform China from a country based on an agrarian economic structure to one of rapid industrialization and modernization (Lynch 1998, p. 101). To a large part, the Great Leap Forward is recognized as a great catastrophe and resulted in nearly 45 million deaths, as well as economic regression. This resulted in Zedong’s marginalization in the party, which then resulted in Zedong implementing the Cultural Revolution. Occurring between 1966-1976, the Cultural Revolution sought to enforce the communist rule by removing capitalist and traditional culture elements from society and to institute Maoist political rule (Lynch 1998, p. 132). While this movement reinstituted Mao Zedong to power, once again it resulted in large-scale economic failure. Following Zedong’s death in 1976, reform-minded leader Deng Xiaoping gain prominence (Lynch 1998, p. 140). Since 1978, China has experienced an unprecedented period of economic development.

After the death of Mao Zedong and the ascendency of Deng Xiaoping to power, China began instituting significant market reforms that would greatly contribute to economic growth. While the previous regimes had worked towards implementing a Soviet-style socialist system, as Xiaoping assumed power the country began to move away from this structure.