Chinese Economic Refrom

Chinese Economic Reform
Two years after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, it became apparent
to many of China’s leaders that economic reform was necessary. During his
tenure as China’s premier, Mao had encouraged social movements such as the
Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution which had had as their bases
ideologies such as serving the people and maintaining the class struggle.
By 1978 “Chinese leaders were searching for a solution to serious economic
problems produced by Hua Guofeng, the man who had succeeded Mao Zedong as
CCP leader after Mao’s death” (Shirk 35). Hua had demonstrated a desire to
continue the ideologically based movements of Mao. Unfortunately, these
movements had left China in a state where “agriculture was stagnant,
industrial production was low, and the people’s living standards had not
increased in twenty years” (Nathan 200). This last area was particularly
troubling. While “the gross output value of industry and agriculture
increased by 810 percent and national income grew by 420 percent [between
1952 and 1980] … average individual income increased by only 100 percent”
(Ma Hong quoted in Shirk 28). However, attempts at economic reform in
China were introduced not only due to some kind of generosity on the part
of the Chinese Communist Party to increase the populace’s living standards.
It had become clear to members of the CCP that economic reform would
fulfill a political purpose as well since the party felt, properly it would
seem, that it had suffered a loss of support. As Susan L. Shirk describes
the situation in The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China,
restoring the CCP’s prestige required improving
economic performance and raising living standards.
The traumatic experience of the Cultural Revolution
had eroded popular trust in the moral and political
virtue of the CCP. The party’s leaders decided to
shift the base of party legitimacy from virtue to

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