China Under Reform, 1978–2000

  • Tony Saich
Part of the Comparative Government and Politics book series (CGP)


The reform programme launched under Deng Xiaoping’s tutelage in 1978 has affected every aspect of life in China and left no institution untouched. The reforms have led to a significant liberalization of previous regime practice in terms of party control over the economy and society. However, it has not been the intention that this liberalization would lead to democracy and Deng and his followers have preferred to combine the introduction of market forces in the economy with tight political control. While the reforms have left the pillar of one-party rule untouched, they undermined the other main pillar of a centrally-planned economy with predominant social ownership of the means of production. While Deng and his successors have all stressed the need to continue strong one-party rule, even here there has been adaptation in the party’s role and some have begun to question whether it is viable for the long-term future. Certainly by the end of the 1990s, this strategy has appeared to be a success in economic terms, with the economy averaging 9 per cent output growth per annum leading to significant rises in incomes. However, the reforms have been deeply contested by those opposed on ideological grounds, or groups that have felt disadvantaged by the reforms, or by those who have felt that the reforms have not progressed swiftly enough. This chapter reviews the progress of the reforms (see Box 3.1) and the opposition they have generated.


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© Tony Saich 2001

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  • Tony Saich

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