Premier Zhou Enlai and Chairman Mao both died in 1976, precipitating a struggle for power between moderate and radical leaders within the party. As a compromise, Hua Guofeng, an administrator without close ties to either faction, became premier. About the same time, he was named to succeed Mao as party chairman. Hua then concentrated on stabilizing politics, aiding recovery from massive earthquakes that had struck Tangshan, near Beijing, in July 1976, and fostering economic development.
Hua’s prominence was short-lived. In 1977 the party reinstated moderate reformer Deng Xiaoping to a leadership post, making him first deputy premier. (Deng had returned to public office as China’s vice premier in 1973 but then had been purged again by the Gang of Four in 1976.) By 1978 Deng was in firm control of the government. Deng focused on the problem of relieving poverty through economic growth. As his guiding slogan, he promoted the “Four Modernizations” of agriculture, industry, technology, and defense. In agriculture, Deng sanctioned steps toward dismantling the commune system.
He instituted a so-called responsibility system under which rural households were assigned land and other assets that they could treat as their own. Anything a household produced above what it owed the collective was its own to keep or sell. The state encouraged sideline enterprises, such as growing vegetables and setting up small businesses, and the income of farmers rapidly increased, especially in the coastal provinces, where commercial opportunities were greatest.
Deng imported foreign technology to help modernize industry. He also abandoned Mao’s insistence on Chinese self-sufficiency and began courting foreign investors. Guangdong Province, on the border with Hong Kong (which had become one of Asia’s leading financial centers) was especially well situated to benefit from foreign investment.
Deng reinstated examinations as the means of selecting college students in 1977, and Chinese students began to be sent abroad for advanced technical and management training. In the late 1970s and early 1980s China revived and expanded the system of military academies, which had been obliterated during the Cultural Revolution. Deng’s policies set in motion an economic boom that led to a tripling of average incomes by the early 1990s. With its population of more than 1 billion already pressing the limits of its resources, China began to confront the need to control population growth. The state set targets for the total numbers of births in each place and then assigned quotas to smaller units, down to individual factories and other workplaces. Young people had to get permission from their work units to get married and then to have a child. Women who became pregnant outside the system faced strong pressure from birth-control workers and local party officials to have an abortion. The government promoted one-child families through financial incentives and bureaucratic regulations. In the cities, one-child families became commonplace.
In the countryside, families with two or even three children remained common, because families who first bore a girl were usually allowed to try again for a boy. Because of a preference for boys, families that could only have one or two children often would take extreme measures to get a boy, such as aborting female fetuses. This created an unbalanced sex ratio. "China" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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