This article provides a general coverage of political decisions in China to undertake, continue and extend its economic reforms and its goal of opening up to the outside world. It also considers the consequences of Chinese policies. The period leading up to the decision in 1978 to begin the reforms is considered first, particularly the period beginning in 1976, the year in which Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong died and the Gang of Four were arrested. Hu Guofeng succeeded Mao Zedong a Chairman of the CCP but did not propose any new ways forward for China. By 1978, however, Deng Xiaoping was able to exert substantial influence on the policy choices of the CCP. As discussed, the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the CCP held in 1978 adopted his blueprint for economic reform and modernization of the Chinese economy. It was decided that the reforms would begin with agriculture and the rural sector. Towards the end of 1980, Hu Guofeng was requested to step down as Chair of the CPC because of his leftist leanings. This consolidated Deng Xiaoping’s position. In 1984, it was agreed that the reforms would be extended to the whole economy particularly the urban economy. Many important decisions about China’s future economic structure were made, including the decision to establish a rational price system using economic incentives as levers and to strongly promote economic openness. These policies continued to be applied by China’s new leaders in the later part of the reform period, namely Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. However, as discussed, changed circumstances also required adjustments to the reform policies as new issues emerged even though the overall aim of the CCP was still to undertake reforms to increase significantly the well-being of the Chinese people. There is no doubt that China has made remarkable economic progress as a result of its reforms and some indications of its achievements are presented. The systematic gradual (but not slow) and pragmatic approach taken in bringing about China’s economic reforms has provided a pillar for China’s economic achievements. The main purpose of the reforms was said to be to create socialism with Chinese characteristics and there is some discussion of what this means. While the basic objective of the reforms remains unaltered, some variations in focus have become necessary as circumstances have changed and further changes in emphasis can be expected in the future as conditions continue to alter. The social and economic change that has occurred in China is unlikely to be reversed in the foreseeable future. China has now achieved the status of being a top global leader and resource-user and this will bring with it new challenges.


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