40 Years of Reform and Opening up in China – the Importance of Perspective

By all records and opinions, China has developed quite fast over the past forty plus years. Starting in 1978 with Deng Xiaoping’s famous market reforms, the country has maintained an annual GDP growth of 9% on average. In fact, if you were to compare a modern Chinese city (commonly referred to as “first-tier”) with one from forty years ago, then you would probably have a very difficult time finding similarities.

Those living in China today can often find it hard to see the changes happening. Perhaps it’s because everything is changing so fast that it can be difficult to separate the new from the newer. That’s why understanding history is so important here. It gives one a better perspective on what’s happening today.

Today during my weekly Chinese class, the teacher showed us a very interesting article documenting China over the past forty years in text and photo. The article was titled “纪念改革开放40周年 | 40年,改革开放与我们的生活” (loosely translated as “the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up, 40 years, the reform and opening up of our lives”) and appeared on news.youth.cn.

The article is all in Chinese, but the photos can be appreciated by everyone. There are some very interesting pictures like food stamps, a state-run restaurant in Beijing’s hutongs, and Beijing’s first KFC and McDonalds.

These photos are great reminders of how economic growth has impacted normal citizens lives in China. I particularly like the photo of a group of men standing outside the state-run restaurant in the hutongs. In their loose-blue uniforms, with crossed arms and rough smiles, the men are a good reminder of just how far the Chinese have come.

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