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This unit tells the story of the PRC's effort to modernize and, in particular, the impact of Deng Xiaoping's Four Modernizations. After along and costly succession of half-starts and failures, China's leaders had to deal not only with a century and a half of neglect; they had also to confront the legacy of Mao Zedong and his ruinous Cultural Revolution.


The Four Modernizations of Deng Xiaoping were not new. First proposed by Zhou Enlai in 1964, the modernizations (of industry, agriculture, science-technology, and the military) were essentially the same objectives for China's leaders since the Self-Strengthening Movement of the 1870s, when Li Hongzhang and others started building railroads and arsenals. However, it took the "communization" of China under Mao to establish order and to unify hundreds of millions of people, with their different languages and customs, into one country.


But Mao's later failures were as gigantic as his early successes. When China recovered from the excesses of the 10-year Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Mao's successor, Deng, set the country on a pragmatic course, placing economics ahead of ideology. Yet the entrenched power of Deng's own communist bureaucracy proved to be a major obstacle to modernization.


Unlike the social convulsions of the Cultural Revolution, which went on behind a curtain of isolation from foreigners, China's post-Mao drama has been played out on a relatively public international stage. While Deng's policies were remarkably successful in "opening" China to the outside world, the events in Tian'anmen Square in 1989 tarnished his image and left the nature of his legacy very much in doubt.


Even in times of isolation, China has exerted a strong influence on the nations around it. But since the beginning of the 1980s, trade and investment between China and the other Pacific nations has soared to unprecedented levels. This has created a new relationship between Pacific Asian countries, particularly those of ASEAN, and China as the latter becomes a stronger competitor and a major customer.


Politically, Deng's China was welcomed in the region. A peaceful (if nationalist) China is seen as a force for stability in a region where its influence was once disruptive. Yet in trying to engineer an economic revolution by common consent, Deng and his aging cohorts faced daunting social and political problems. The economic progress he championed inevitably brought with it political ferment, demands for political freedom, and growing economic inequality.




After reading Chapter 10, you should have a basic understanding of the following concepts.


1.  Traditionally, Chinese leadership has not tolerated public criticism; the idea of a "loyal opposition" political party is unknown in China.

2.  Chinese leadership requires consensus among the elite, and has no institutionalized method for incorporating new interest groups. However, internal competition among the political elites is fierce and involves a degree of factional competition.

3. In the PRC, economic modernization is paramount.  Democracy and political reform will be sacrificed for economic development.

4. As China's economy has become increasingly integrated with the world economy, the policies that have facilitated this cannot be reversed without serious economic hardship and political cost.

5. China's biggest challenges continue to be overpopulation, environmental degradation, economic inequality, and social stability.

7.  Imbalances between coastal development, promoted by the Open Door policy and Special Economic Zones, increased the contrast with China's traditionally poor interior.




Beijing Spring

Cultural Revolution

Deng Xiaoping

Four Modernizations

Gang of Four

Great Leap Forward

Hu Yaobang

Hu Jin Tao

Jiang Qing

Mao Zedong


One-Child Policy

People's Liberation Army

Red Guards

Soviet Model

Tian'anmen Square/Massacre

Zhao Ziyang

Zhou Enlai








1.  Compare and contrast the economies of China with those of the NIEs, ASEAN, and Japan. For example, examine the industrial and agricultural components of each country's economy. Confirm regional differences through map review and exercises.

2.  Referring to Chapter 4, compare and contrast the Tian'anmen Massacre and the Korean March First Movement. What do these events have in common? What makes them different?

3.  The Iraqi leadership justified the 1990 invasion and annexation of Kuwait by claiming that Kuwait was a "traditional" part of Iraq. What action of the PRC in 1950 parallels that event of 1990?

4.  There are "Chinese" areas which are not part of the PRC. What are they? Where are they? Are there plans to incorporate any of these areas into the PRC?

5.  Some of the scholars cited in Chapter 10 virtually predict the downfall of the CCP and the demise of the PRC. Why would they make such a prediction? What do you think?

6.  What are the features which characterized China's economic and political policies during the 1980s? How do those features compare with the policies of the 1970s? the 1990s?

7.  To which Chinese emperor has Mao Zedong been compared? Why?

8.  The Chinese family has traditionally valued boys over girls. Why? How has the one-child policy affected the traditional Chinese outlook on the family? How has the one-child policy affected family itself? Has the one-child policy affected all groups in China equally?

9.   Traditionally, intellectuals have been accorded the highest status in Chinese society. However, under Mao, China became strongly anti-intellectual. Intellectuals were derided as a "stinking ninth category" of counter-revolutionaries, and many intellectuals were sent to work in the fields during the Cultural Revolution. Are intellectuals treatedwith any more respect in post-Mao China?

10.  In the Chinese view, culture defines the nation. How has this affected the CCP's propagation of its ideas of culture? How does such a view contrast with other nations' concepts of nationhood?

11.  The PRC has long been averse to Western cultural influences, yet was founded on Marxist-Leninist principles. Is this contradictory? If so, why? If not, why not? Explain.

12.   In the 1980s, the Chinese government brought foreign experts to China to teach a broad range of subjects, from foreign languages to economics, from the organization of religious institutions to the political  process. Does this development have any historical parallels? Does this indicate a desire on the part of the Chineseleadership to Westernize China? Explain.


China's Long March Toward Modernization


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