Chinese Economic Development

China has grown to become the second largest global economy in the recent past. In 2010, the Gross Domestic Product placed the country at the second position and among one of the middle-income economies in the world. Since then, the country has continued to perform well economically. For instance, per-capita GDP in 2011 was USD 5432 and in USD 6100 in 2012. China has experienced speedy economic growth supported by political willpower from the leaders.[1] The legitimacy of the authoritarian government in communist China played an important role in the success of the country. The Chinese economic model has taken a different path compared to other economies in the world. For example, political stability has been an important factor in the growth of the country. While the speedy expansion of China can be explained using various political and social factors, the post-Mao market reforms played a significant role in the growth of the Chinese economy.

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The Key Preconditions of China’s Development

Chinese rapid development is an interplay of various political factors that created stability in society, and hence, economic development. The post-Mao market reforms are among the most important factors in the progress of China as witnessed in the last ten decades or so. The era was marked by the entry of Hua Guofeng as the chairperson of the Chinese Communist Party, the leading political party in the country. Hua’s was initiated major changes in the society as he attempted to model the government using the political rhetoric of his predecessor. His primary aim was to transform the Maoist era’s policies. While the previous regimes had focused on cultural liberation, his new policies included market reforms modeling Western capitalism.[2] Hua’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, became even more effective based on the political support he enjoyed. The new leader propelled the country further in terms of reforms, political, and economic development.

The economic growth in China has shown that leadership plays a critical role in reforming a society. The evidence is real when considering the role of Deng Xiaoping in creating positive changes in China. The leader succeeded in setting standards for the governance in China, shifting the focus from the pro-communist and limited bureaucracy towards achieving the four modernizations. Unlike the previous leaders who were not keen on the role of modernization in the development of the country, Deng Xiaoping considered the importance of, among other factors, technological improvement in the changing the society to a more developed nation.[3] The reforms achieved improvement in the efficiency of industry, agriculture, military, and research. Such a focus instead of social development played a significant role in developing the economy and even sustaining it in the long term. The Maoist era’s reforms would not have achieved the level and speed of development witnessed in the country during the Xiaoping’s regime.

Besides technology, the Xiaoping’s regime implemented another critical policy reform that further propelled the country’s economy. For the first time, the government implemented an open-door policy that would see the country promote trade and foreign investment in the post-Mao era. The country became the main actor in the global economic system.[4] In Maoist China, the leadership led the society to believe in self-reliance, which made it hard for the country to relate to the outside world. As a result, the Hua Guofeng’s policies led to a considerable increase in the pace of foreign investment in the country. In addition, the foreign investors brought in technology and capital. Instead of the cultural changes that were evident before, the country would witness the impact of the global capitalist market and neoliberal market reforms.[5] Factors such as access to cheap labor and the chance to make quick profits motivated new companies, especially in the coastal region. The policy reforms opened doors for productive investment that led to significant changes in the economic landscape of the country.

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China needed a major change to achieve the kind of economic development that was experienced in the years leading to 2010. The post-Mao market reforms took a complete change in society, including the undue focus on agriculture to complete industrialization. The Mao’s era was characterized by prevention of rural to urban migration of farmers who had to remain on the farms to produce agricultural products for their communities. They would also provide food for those living in urban communities. However, such structures would not allow the achievement of the “Chinese Dream.”[6] Therefore, critical changes were necessary and achieved during the post-Mao era with the government focusing on developing big cities, downsizing the medium-sized ones, and encouraging the development of small towns.[7] Although the country has retained the policy of preventing excessive migration to control the population of the urban areas, altering the social stratification has played an important role in the positive changes experienced in China, regarding economic development.

The post-Mao market reforms created lasting changes in the country. The focus towards society shifted to building the country’s economy. The decollectivization that has taken place during the post-Mao China has allowed the people to take an active part in building the country. The current society differs from the Maoist era that created considerable inequality in the country due to the social stratification. Although the post-Maoist era has led to different social groups, they are similar to those found in various other countries across the world since it is not possible to find an absolute equality in any society. The elite took advantage of market reforms, including the privatization of land use as well as foreign direct investment to create wealth, which contributed to the growth of the Chinese economy. Although the country experiences inequality, the challenge has not stopped it from continued development.

The most Intriguing Aspects behind China’s Success Story

The Chinese success story is unique in various aspects, including the source of rapid growth in a formerly conservative society. It was surprising that a country could achieve such a considerable change in such a short time. The Chinese government was highly concerned with cultural and social development. It was surprising how the nation managed to move from the excessive focus on the management and development of social classes to achieve the high level of success witnessed during the post-Mao market reforms. The Xiaoping’s government realized that the social structures were not adequate for the country to achieve a high level of economic growth. Considering the future prospects, it is expected that China will continue to improve economically.[8] The country needed to learn from capitalist systems, such as the United States to create a major change in the economy. However, the fast reform would only be possible with the kind of leadership that abandoned ideals based on conservatism.

It is interesting how the country has managed to achieve economic development amid the underlying social issues, such as the unbalanced aspects of economic growth. The country experiences inequality in society, including a major gap in income where a relatively small group of elites earns more than other social classes created during the post-Mao era. On the other hand, a large proportion of the country’s population lives in poverty. From such a perspective, the economic development model of China is very unique. The country has a high GDP, but remains a developing economy and has a high percentage of its people living below the poverty line.[9]  However, the answer lies in the sociological theories, including social conflict, symbolic internationalism, and structural functionalism. According to the theories, the inequality is an inevitable nature of society, and hence, the Chinese society is not an exemption.

The Most Urgent Lessons for China

It is important for the country to maintain its economic development ideals to maintain progress and remain productive. Hence, there are critical lessons, which leaders should cultivate to ensure that the country does not lose the achievements made in the last few years. One of the most important lessons is the role of leadership in achieving economic development in the country.  Leaders established the most critical structures to achieve development of the country during a time when economic development prospects were insignificant due to the focus on social and cultural development at the expense of other forms of growth, including technology. Hence, China should learn that it is possible to lose economic gains made if effective leadership aspects to continue improving the structures necessary for continued growth are not cultivated. Therefore, the leadership should address social inequality to sustain the economic growth that has been experienced in the past few years.

Besides the economic gains experienced in China, it is imperative to ensure that the country is making social strides to match the development and avoid reverting to the conditions experienced during the Maoist era. An important lesson for the country is the dangers of focusing on one aspect of development and ignoring others. For example, during the Maoist era, the focus was on social development at the expense of economic growth. During the post-Mao era, the emphasis has been on the trade and industry improvement, while ignoring the effects on the social dimension. While the unequal social structure is expected in any society, it is significant for the leaders to address social inequalities to prevent the same mistakes that led to revolutions. Such revolutions would destroy the progress that the country has already made. As such, the government should implement policies that will enhance equal development towards all citizens.


The economic development of China has remained an intriguing feature of the global economic landscape. China rose from a developing country to achieve the second position in terms of the global GDP in a relatively short time. Beside other factors that led to rapid economic development, the post-Mao market reforms changed the economic landscape of the country. The Maoist regime had focused on social and cultural transformations at the detriment of economic development. However, leaders that took over, Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping, implemented practical changes that improved the Chinese economy. While the country still faces some challenges such as inequality, its economic performance has remained impressive. However, the current government should still work on social inequality to ensure sustainability of economic gains made over the last decades.


1 David L. Shambaugh. China goes global: The partial power. Vol. 111. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, 14


2 W. Wong, “Shenzhen’s Model Bohemia and the creative China Dream.” 2016, 206


3 Feng, Michael XY. “The ‘Chinese Dream’Deconstructed: Values and Institutions.” Journal of Chinese Political Science20, no. 2 2015, 164


4 David Shambaugh. China’s Future, pp. 137


5 W. Wong, “Shenzhen’s Model Bohemia and the creative China Dream’.” 2016, 206


6 Winberg Chai and May-lee Chai. The Meaning of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream. American Journal of Chinese Studies. Vol. 20, pp. 95-97


7 Samuel Y. Liang. Remaking China’s Great Cities: Space and Culture in Urban Housing, Renewal, and Expansion. Routledge, 2014, 131

8 David Shambaugh. China’s Future, pp. 160.


9 David L. Shambaugh. China goes global: The partial power, 24

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