Courtesy Reuters

China's Quiet Revolution

Since Mao Zedong's death in 1976, and particularly since the rise of Deng Xiaoping in 1978, the post-Mao leaders of China have sought to develop a new strategy and new institutions for modernizing China. In the economy, they have sought a more decentralized, quasi-market socialist system better suited to Chinese conditions than the highly centralized, Soviet-type system they adopted in 1949. Perhaps the most significant step has been a de facto decollectivization of agriculture.

There has been a legalization of some private commerce and trade, and some private ownership, particularly in the service industries, together with a greater use of indirect mechanisms such as prices rather than output quotas and commands to influence the allocation of resources. And there has been an upgrading of light industry and the beginning of a striking "consumer revolution."

In the political sphere, the post-Mao leaders seek greater stability and reliability so that China never again has to go through the chaos of a Cultural Revolution. Younger, better educated and more professionally trained officials are slowly replacing the older generation in the Party, government and Army, and top-level Mao loyalists have been removed from power.

An ideological revolution is also under way, with Maoist egalitarianism being replaced by an emphasis on material incentives for hard work, and revolutionary zeal giving way to a pragmatic quest for efficiency and productivity. A dazzling number of new laws have been introduced and China, for the first time since 1949, is beginning to train a large number of lawyers. And there is a substantial new emphasis on developing education, particularly in science and technology; since 1978 tens of thousands of students have been sent to study abroad.

Greater cultural diversity is now tolerated within China; foreign films, plays and books which were once almost completely banned are much more readily available. There is a much greater respect for professionalism in China; intellectuals, once relegated to the bottom of Mao's revolutionary society, are being accorded a new prestige and new power.

Accompanying these internal reforms is

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