China Economic Growth

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 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 competence, and to do that they had to
demonstrate that they could deliver the goods. (23) This movement "from
virtue to competence" seemed to mark a serious departure from orthodox

Chinese political theory. Confucius himself had posited in the fifth century BCE
that those individuals who best demonstrated what he referred to as moral force
should lead the nation. Using this principle as a guide, China had for centuries
attempted to choose at least its bureaucratic leaders by administering a test to
determine their moral force. After the Communist takeover of the country, Mao
continued this emphasis on moral force by demanding that Chinese citizens
demonstrate what he referred to as "correct consciousness." This
correct consciousness could be exhibited, Mao believed, by the way people lived.

Needless to say, that which constituted correct consciousness was often
determined and assessed by Mao. Nevertheless, the ideal of moral force was still
a potent one in China even after the Communist takeover. It is noteworthy that

Shirk feels that the Chinese Communist Party leaders saw economic reform as a
way to regain their and their party\'s moral virtue even after Mao\'s death. Thus,
paradoxically, by demonstrating their expertise in a more practical area of
competence, the leaders of the CCP felt they could demonstrate how they were
serving the people. To be sure, the move toward economic reform came about as a
result of a "changed domestic and international environment, which altered
the leadership\'s perception of the factors that affect China\'s national security
and social stability" (Xu 247). But Shirk feels that, in those pre-Tienenmen
days, such a move came about also as a result of an attempt by CCP leaders to
demonstrate, in a more practical and thus less obviously ideological manner than

Mao had done, their moral force. This is not to say that the idea of economic
reform was embraced enthusiastically by all members of the leadership of the

Chinese Communist Party in 1978. To a great extent, the issue of economic reform
became politicized as the issue was used as a means by Deng Xiaoping to attain
the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Mao\'s successor, Hua Guofeng, had
"tried to prove himself a worthy successor to Mao by draping himself in the
mantle of Maoist tradition. His approach to economic development was orthodox

Maoism with an up-to-date, international twist" (Shirk 35). This approach
was tied heavily to the development of China\'s oil reserves. "When in 1978
estimates of the oil reserves were revised downward commitments to import plants
and expand heavy industry could not be sustained" (Shirk 35). Deng took
advantage of this economic crisis to discredit Hua and aim for leadership of the
party. "Reform policies became Deng\'s platform against Hua for post-Mao
leadership" (Shirk 36). Given this history