The most striking feature of the development of the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949 is the rapid and uneven pace of change. Having undertaken the most successful land reform in history almost immediately after seizing power, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders became embroiled in a power struggle over the future direction of China’s development. Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) launched the Great Leap Forward towards the end of the 1950s. However mixed in intentions the consequences were disastrous. This was soon followed by the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution in 1966–69 and the subsequent myriad of radical experiments. During the three years 1976–79, following the Cultural Revolution decade, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai died; Hua Guofeng assumed power; but after arresting ‘the Gang of Four’ Hua was himself deposed by Deng Xiaoping. Deng and his associates set about ‘reforming the revolution’: the countryside was decollectivised, the ‘open policy’ towards the outside world was adopted; and, somewhat more hesitantly, urban industrial reforms were embarked upon.
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