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The attainment of self-reliance (zi li geng sheng) is an important goal for China. However, approaches to achieving it have altered greatly since the People’s Republic was established in 1949. Following the split between China and the Soviet Union in 1960, Mao Zedong claimed that China could achieve this goal by promoting economic self-sufficiency at the national level as well as at subnational levels. This approach resulted in a considerable economic burden for China. While national economic self-sufficiency probably was forced on China by the hostility of foreign nations towards it, subnational self-sufficiency was not. Following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and the eventual rise to power of Deng Xiaoping, China’s market reforms began in 1978. With the introduction of the household responsibility system in agriculture, China gave up relying on communes and collectives for its agricultural production. The market reforms began in rural areas but were only slowly extended to urban areas because of some opposition to some politbureau numbers to the market reforms. The process of the market reforms since 1978 is outlined with some attention being given to the political hurdles involved in achieving these reforms. As a result of these reforms, the goal of subnational economic self-sufficiency has well and truly been abandoned and national self-sufficiency is no longer practised. These changes have brought new economic risks for China and the Chinese people. The benefit, however, has been greater economic growth and the enhanced global status of China. While economic self-sufficiency is no longer an over-riding goal for China, one part of zi li geng sheng is still very important for it nationally, namely, to control one’s destiny, that is, to be in charge of one’s own affairs, goals and decision-making.

Keywords: China ; Deng Xiaoping ; economic self-reliance ; economic self-sufficiency ; Mao Zedong ; market reforms ; political economy ; Richard Nixon ; United States.

Subject(s): International Development

Political Economy

Issue Date: 2013-01

Publication Type: Working or Discussion Paper

DOI and Other Identifiers: ISSN: 1442 8563 (Other)

PURL Identifier:

Total Pages: 13

JEL Codes: O2; P21; P31; P52

Series Statement: Social Economics, Policy and Development


Record appears in: University of Queensland > School of Economics > Social Economics, Policy and Development Working Papers

Autor: Tisdell, Clement A.


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