Thirty years ago this month, China’s communist leaders launched an economic revolution, opening the door to free market reforms and foreign trade — though not to political change.
The new era began with agathering on Dec. 18, 1978, that endorsed small-scale private farming, the first step toward abandoning the late leader Mao Zedong’s vision of communal agriculture and industry.
China’s economy has since grown into the world’s fourth-largest behind the U.S., Japan and Germany, and annual per capita income has soared to about 19,000 yuan ($2,760) last year, up from just 380 yuan in 1978.
Above: The Shanghai skyline
Along with private enterprise and capital markets have come greater prosperity and stability than ever before.
By ELAINE KURTENBACH, Associated Press Writer
Virtually all Chinese families now have at least one television and, in the cities, a washing machine — rare items three decades ago. Some 15 million families own private cars, and many Chinese also own their own homes.
“Nowadays, we worry instead about eating too well rather than not eating enough,” says Guo Linchun, 78, retired music teacher in Beijing. “Now, living standards have improved so much, we see not only televisions, so many people even own cars.”
But with modern industries come many other modern ills: pollution, industrial accidents and product safety scandals. And ‘s heavy reliance on exports and foreign investment ensures that the uncertainties now afflicting the global economy are haunting the Chinese as well.
An ethnic Uighur sits under a poster of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on a street in Xinjiang’s famed Silk Road city of Kashgar in China’s far northwestern area.(AFP/File/Peter Parks)