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30 years on, will China keep its promises?

January 7, 2009

Text: Claude Arpi

Hardly two years after the end of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (and Mao Zedong's death), a diminutive man climbed the rostrum for the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

He was to change the face of China.

On December 18, 1978, Deng Xiaoping, the new strongman of the Middle Kingdom, proposed to the Central Committee an the 'open door' policy as well as drastic economic reforms.

The new path chosen by Deng would later be known as 'socialism with Chinese characteristics'. Since then, China has maintained an average annual growth rate of 9.8 percent over the past three decades, making the developed world dream of a miracle a la the Chinese for their own economies.

Thirty years later, China celebrates what its official news agency Xinhua terms the 'decision to open up the once-secluded country and reform its moribund economy.'

On the occasion, President Hu Jintao told an audience of more than 6,000 assembled in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, 'Standing still and regressing will lead only to a dead end.'

'China,' he added, 'must continue the reform and opening-up drive, which in the past 30 years turned the once poverty-stricken country into one of the world's largest economies.'

He admitted the challenges facing his country, particularly 'a weak agricultural foundation and less-developed rural areas' as well China's inability to innovate in many domains.

More interestingly, Hu suggested that the 'reforms of the political system be pushed in keeping pace with economic reforms.'

This is a rather surprising statement and only the future will reveal what political reforms he has in mind.

Image: Deng Xiaoping with his wife Ghou Lin in Shanghai, February 7, 1994. Photograph: Reuters.

Also see: Harsh V Pant: Troubled times ahead for Sino-Indian ties

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