Paths to Modernity (02:33)
After closing to the outside world in the 17th century, China experienced colonial oppression, Japanese invasion, and civil war. Mao's revolution brought famine and economic failures; the Cultural Revolution attacked traditional culture and society.
Deng Xiaoping (03:05)
Deng was exiled to the countryside for criticizing Mao. In the 1970s, most Chinese people were peasants. In 1976, Deng returned to reform the rigid ideology that had damaged China's economy—while continuing to support a one-party system for political stability.
Educational Reforms (04:44)
The Cultural Revolution closed universities and sent young people to the countryside for "re-education." On Professor Wen Yuankai's recommendation, Deng reinstated examinations open to all Chinese citizens in 1977.
Increasing China's International Outlook (04:45)
In 1978, Deng began the process of socioeconomic reform. Gu Mu observed positive aspects of capitalism in Western Europe. Deng was impressed by Japan's bullet train, robotics technology, and electronics. Chinese television crews filmed how ordinary Japanese people lived.
Xiaogang Village (07:17)
In 1978, the collective agricultural model was failing. One fifth of Fengyang County had died in the Great Famine. Desperate and starving, local farmers made a pact to divide their land among households and sell their surplus.
Determining China's Agricultural Future (04:09)
Chinese conservatives feared opening the market would harm the revolution. At Beijing's Xinshe Hotel in 1978, Deng urged delegates to reject ideology and embrace modernization. The U.S. secretly negotiated to break relations with Taiwan and establish diplomatic relations with China.
Normalizing China-U.S. Relations (03:37)
In 1979, the U.S. recognized the PRC. Deng traveled to Washington and solicited developmental aid. He asked the U.N. to finance the first stage of economic reforms; Jack Fensterstock lent technical assistance in organizing scientific, health, and industrial data systems.
Guangxu's Commercialization (03:03)
The southern city had languished since 1949; Deng designated it a testing ground for economic reforms. Many young men had drowned attempting to swim to Hong Kong. Guangdong leader Xi Zhongxun advocated greater local economic autonomy.
Special Economic Zones (04:37)
The first foreign investment since 1949 was for a Shenzhen ship breaking yard. Hong Kong moved production to the mainland for cheap labor—a model that expanded regionally. Wenzhou entrepreneur Zhang Huamei obtained the first small business permit.
Investing in Labor (03:18)
Deng's pragmatic reforms combined capitalist enterprise with the communist command economy. Chinese students studied business management in U.S. universities. Beijing also improved primary and secondary education—especially for girls.
Responding to Consumer Demand (02:16)
Rural populations moved to cities, increasing productivity. Small enterprises started in the 1980s, including a Wenzhou shoe factory that now sells to international markets. China's agriculture, industry and education rapidly reformed and modernized.
Economic and Political Contradiction (03:03)
A pragmatist, Deng embraced economic liberalization but rejected political liberalization or Western style globalization. While socioeconomic conditions improved with foreign investment and open trade policies, the CCP retained absolute power.
China's Middle Class (02:13)
Large Chinese companies like the Alibaba Group have embraced globalization. Economic liberation has facilitated 400 million people that adapt new technology, value education, promote national prestige, and develop new products in a relatively unregulated market.
Catching Up to the West (02:51)
China has imported knowledge and technology to develop its own programs. It has the largest high speed train network worldwide, and plans to expand internationally via the Belt and Road Initiative.
Balance of Power (04:18)
China's political and cultural influence is growing with economic power. Data from a large population and foreign-educated scientists are contributing to developing an AI sector to compete with Japan and the U.S. Chinese corporations are also leading in green technology.
Future of China (03:19)
Some Western commentators believe China's unwillingness to adopt democracy will impede economic progress. The one-party system delivered high living standards and relative consumer freedom to the middle class.
Credits: How China Got Rich (00:50)
Credits: How China Got Rich
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