China marks 40-yr economic rise as clouds gather

19 December, 2018 12:00 AM printer

BEIJING: China celebrates on Tuesday the 40th anniversary of its transformative "reform and opening up" policy, which turned the world's most populous country into an economic juggernaut that now faces slowing growth and a stern US challenge.

The brainchild of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, the programme was ratified at a Communist Party conclave on Dec 18, 1978, breaking with the chaotic policies of his predecessor, Chairman Mao Zedong, reports Xinhua.

The reforms ditched Maoist-style collectivisation that left the nation impoverished and backward, launching a new era which led to double-digit annual growth that pulled millions out of poverty and turned China into the world's second biggest economy.

China now boasts the most dollar billionaires in the world with 620, according to Shanghai-based magazine publisher Hurun Report. But the economic transformation has not brought changes to the Communist Party-controlled political system, with authorities harshly cracking down on the Tiananmen protests in 1989 and activists complaining of a deterioration of human rights in recent years. "Reform and opening up let the Communist Party maintain its dictatorship and let it keep its rule from collapsing after the Cold War and survive," Beijing-based political analyst Wu Qiang told AFP.

"I think China now is state capitalism under a one-party dictatorship, or party-run capitalism," he said.

President Xi Jinping - who has become the country's most powerful leader since Mao and secured this year a potential path to lifelong rule - will deliver a speech to mark the anniversary at the imposing Great Hall of the People off Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The commemoration comes as China is locked in a bruising trade war with the United States in which the two sides have exchanged tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods.

The rivals have agreed to a 90-day truce as they seek to negotiate a solution, with the United States seeking a reduction in its massive trade deficit as well as deeper reforms in China to stop the alleged theft of intellectual property.