China and Economic Reform

Essay by Sleshaun18lUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2011

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Kentrell Manuel

Two years after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, it became apparent to many of China's leaders that economic reform was necessary. During his tenure as China's premier, Mao had encouraged social movements such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution which had had as their bases ideologies such as serving the people and maintaining the class struggle. By 1978 Chinese leaders were searching for a solution to serious economic problems produced by Hua Guofeng, the man who had succeeded Mao Zedong as CCP leader after Mao's death' (Shirk 35). Hua had demonstrated a desire to continue the ideologically based movements of Mao. Unfortunately, these movements had left China in a state where agriculture was stagnant, industrial production was low, and the people's living standards had not increased in twenty years (Nathan 200). This last area was particularly troubling. While the gross output value of industry and agriculture increased by 810 percent and national income grew by 420 percent between 1952 and 1980average individual income increased by only 10 percent Ma Hong quoted in Shirk 28.

However, attempts at economic reform in China were introduced not only due to some kind of generosity on the part of the Chinese Communist Party to increase the populace's living standards. It had become clear to members of the CCP that economic reform would fulfill a political purpose as well since the party felt, properly it would seem, that it had suffered a loss of support. As Susan L. Shirk describes the situation in The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China, restoring the CCP's prestige required improving economic performance and raising living standards. The traumatic experience of the Cultural Revolution had eroded popular trust in the moral and political virtue of the CCP. The party's leaders decided...