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||Originally produced by Atma Global in 2012.
||1 online resource (1 video file, approximately 1 minute)
Under Mao, the state kept a firm grip on the country's economic activity. That grip has been loosening since the 1980s as a result of Deng Xiaoping's reforms, which introduced some strong capitalist characteristics into China's centrally planned economy. In today's model, market forces work in conjunction with state ownership and intervention. This system is commonly referred to as "a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics." The government now realizes that it can't provide all the resources needed to fuel the economy by itself and that the private sector has a major role to play in providing investment - and jobs. The country's five "special economic zones" were established in 1979 when the economy was opened to foreign investment. They offer special incentives to investors. The results of the reforms have been spectacular: China's economy has grown an average of 9 percent per year over the last 15 years and is now the second largest in the world. If it continues at this rate of expansion, pundits predict China could eventually replace the U.S. in first place. One of the most interesting facets of China's economic transition has been the rise of the middle class. Prior to the 1980s there was only a small middle class, with most people occupying the lower echelons of the economic ladder. Now it's estimated that some 300 million Chinese have entered the middle-class cohort, fueling a huge increase in consumer spending. In the past, China didn't see the environment as an issue in its race to industrialize. Now, there is an increasing sense of environmental awareness. Meanwhile, the rest of the world must get used to China's enhanced political power, which is set to grow along with the country's economic strength. In the 1990s, the seven-day workweek was progressively lowered to five days. With increased time off and longer national holidays, the average Chinese person now has more leisure time - and more time to spend money on consumer goods. Yet, despite the high rates of growth, enormous challenges remain, including marked regional inequality, an entrenched and at times inflexible bureaucracy, high unemployment, a large floating population, and environmental degradation.