Key events of China’s reform and opening up in past 45 years

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China’s reform and opening up that started 45 years ago was the start of the country’s endeavor to achieve its own development as well as closer ties with the rest of the world. 

Here are some of the key events in the past 45 years.

In 1978, one of China’s most significant basic policies, reform and opening up, was adopted under the leadership of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, also known as the chief architect of the reform and opening up.

Two years later, the 15th meeting of the Standing Committee of the fifth National People’s Congress, the national legislature, approved the establishment of special economic zones (SEZs) in Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou in Guangdong Province and Xiamen in Fujian Province.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

In 1984, China opened 14 coastal cities. Four years later, the tropical island of Hainan became a province and a special economic zone. In 1990, China started to develop and open up Shanghai’s Pudong, which has now become an investment heaven for foreign firms.

To support the opening up of Pudong in Shanghai, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council decided to open a stock exchange there.

In 1990, the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) was established, making it the first Chinese stock exchange since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

After years of development, the Shanghai Stock Exchange has become one of the world’s most important stock exchange markets. By the end of 2022, there have been 2,174 listed companies on the SSE, with a total market value of stocks of 46.4 trillion yuan (around $6.5 trillion).

In early 1992, Deng paid an inspection tour to south China, during which he delivered a series of remarks that reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to further reform and opening up.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

In the same year, Shanghai’s Pudong New Area, China’s first such new area, was established to boost international competitiveness of the Yangtze River Delta region. Nowadays, it has become an investment heaven for foreign firms.

On December 25, 1993, the State Council issued the Decisions on the Reform of the Financial System. The goals of the reform include establishing the central bank macro-control system that can implement monetary policy independently under the leadership of the State Council and establishing a unified and open financial market system with orderly competition and strict management.

On January 11, 1994, the State Council announced the decision on further deepening the reform of foreign trade and put forward the tasks of China’s foreign trade system reform, which includes open management, equal competition and self-responsibility for profits/loss. 

While stressing closer ties with the rest of the world, China in 1999 put forward the West Development Strategy to help the underdeveloped western regions catch up with the more prosperous eastern areas.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

The country’s vast western region covers 12 provincial-level regions including Guizhou, Chongqing, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Xizang and Xinjiang.

In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization and became its 143rd member. This was a milestone in China’s integration into economic globalization, marking a new historic stage of reform and opening-up, said the white paper titled “China and the World Trade Organization,” which was released in 2018.

On January 1, 2006, China abolished agricultural land tax, marking the end of an ancient tax that had been in place in China for over 2,600 years. Besides, China has also introduced and enacted a series of poverty alleviation policies, which greatly eased the burden on farmers and stimulated their enthusiasms to grow more grain.

In 2010, Shanghai World Expo opened on the night of May 1. It marked the first such global event hosted by a developing country. It attracted around 246 participating countries, regions and international organizations and 73 million visitors.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, China has continued to deepen reform and expand opening up. In late 2013, the CPC set up the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform, an institution chaired by General Secretary Xi Jinping — who is also Chinese president — and tasked with steering forward China’s reform endeavors.

And in the same year, China’s first free trade zone (FTZ) was set up in Shanghai. Since then, China has boasted 21 FTZs and the Hainan Free Trade Port.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

From the coastal areas to the central inland regions and border provinces, the FTZs have become pacesetters for the country’s high-standard reform and opening up.

Also in the same year, China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative. So far, more than 150 countries and over 30 international organizations have signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements, with the initiative extending from the Eurasian continent to Africa and Latin America.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

In 2015, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank was established. Tasked with financing infrastructure projects that prioritize sustainability, the bank has since grown to 109 approved members worldwide, three of whom were newly approved at this year’s annual meeting. 

On November 5, 2018, the first China International Import Expo, the world’s first import-themed national-level expo, kicked off. With the slogan “New Era, Shared Future,” the CIIE sets to strengthen business ties, open China’s market wider and garner support for free trade.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

Since its debut in 2018, the CIIE has become a showcase of China’s new development paradigm, a platform for high-standard opening-up and public good for the whole world.

In 2019, China rolled out revised negative lists for foreign investment market access, introducing greater opening-up and allowing foreign investors to run majority-share-controlling or wholly-owned businesses in more sectors.

In 2020, China signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The RCEP groups the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, covering roughly 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and population.

Also in the same year, China released a master plan to build the whole of Hainan Island into a globally influential and high-level free trade port (FTP) by the middle of the century.

Key events of China's reform and opening up in past 45 years

Since then, a slew of favorable policies have been issued to support the development of the Hainan FTP, including zero tariffs and easing market and foreign investment access.

At the end of 2020, China achieved the goal of eliminating extreme poverty – nearly 100 million people in rural areas who had lived below the poverty line shook off poverty and all 832 designated poor counties, mostly in the central and western regions, stepped out of poverty, according to a white paper titled “Poverty Alleviation: China’s Experience and Contributions,” which was released in April 2021.

Today’s China has become the world’s second-largest economy, the largest trading nation and a major magnet for global investors.

Data from the World Bank showed that from 2013 to 2021, China’s contribution to global economic growth averaged 38.6 percent, higher than that of the Group of Seven countries combined.

At the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November, President Xi Jinping said during his speech that as China celebrates 45 years of reform and opening up this year, it will continue to pursue high-quality development and high-standard opening up.

During his recent inspection tour in Shanghai, Xi stressed that Shanghai, as the forefront of China’s reform and opening up and an international metropolis with close links to the world, should comprehensively deepen reform and opening up from a higher starting point so as to advance its driving force for development and competitiveness.

(With input from Xinhua)

(Cover: Containers at Yangshan Port at the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, Shanghai, China, August 29, 2021. /CFP)

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