What are the effects of economic reforms

Thanks to Deng's economic reforms, China is about to break through to the top of the world


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His successes as an economic modernizer, on the other hand, are undisputed: under the modest auspices of reform and with the clear vision of the strategist, Deng set a real revolution in motion. The economic dynamism has not only created a broad middle and upper classes in China's cities, but has also lifted 200 million rural Chinese out of abject poverty. Economically, technologically and scientifically, China is about to break through to the top of the world.

At the same time, Deng's reforms have set in motion shifts in the social fabric, the consequences of which are now a huge challenge for China. The country has not only experienced a rapid upswing since the late 1970s: social and regional inequality is also growing.

At the same time, values ​​and lifestyles have strongly differentiated, expectations of future increases in prosperity are high, and more and more information is becoming accessible to more and more people through new media such as the Internet - an explosive mixture that Deng's successors in the party and state leadership are trying to defuse. By introducing social security systems and government redistribution measures, they try to take the explosive power of social tensions away. The more recent social and environmental policy programs therefore always contain an implicit distancing from Deng's policy, which had forced "economic growth at any price" without thinking about the social and ecological consequences. Today's Chinese government has to deal with a host of new economic, social and environmental challenges at home and at the same time faces growing global economic risks. Under these conditions, it seems uncertain whether China's international rise will continue to advance as rapidly and steadily as was possible in the two decades after Deng Xiaoping's "South Journey" in 1992.

Sebastian Heilmann, born in 1965, is Professor of Politics and Economics in China at the University of Trier

Continue reading: Sebastian Heilmann / Dirk Schmidt: "Foreign Policy and Foreign Trade of the People's Republic of China" VS Verlag, Heidelberg 2012