It's well-known to people who are familiar with China that the grand boom of the country has been achieved through the revolutionary state policy of reform and opening up. This effort has helped the nation break its economic shackles and escape the grip of poverty.
Against all expectations, this initiative was triggered by a group of starving farmers from a small village in Fengyang County, east China's Anhui Province. In the deep of winter 30 years ago, 18 households of the village signed a secret contract that divided collectively owned land into family plots. The consequent household contract system later spread throughout the country.
Just at the moment when these extremely poor farmers left their fingerprints on the contract, thousands of kilometers away in the capital of Beijing, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China was successfully held. This session was widely hailed as a turning point in the history of the People's Republic because of the adoption of the reform and opening-up policy.
Since the shift from an economic model based on rigid central planning to a market economy was launched, Chinese society has undergone profound changes. Because of this, the Chinese economy has made great leaps forward in reform-minded optimism.
China's national strength over these years has been fundamentally enhanced. By 2006, its annual economic growth had averaged 9.67 percent, far exceeding the 3.3 percent world average over the corresponding period. The country has jumped to fourth place in the world in terms of total economic volume.
During the same period, the economy, previously dominated by public ownership, has been varied and the private economy has blossomed. To date, joint-stock restructuring has been carried out in more than a half of major state-owned enterprises. The private sector now contributes to 40 percent of the growth of the gross domestic product and offers the most new jobs.
This dynamic market is allocating resources and other productive factors more efficiently. Consumer and producer products whose prices are regulated by the market currently account for 95.6 percent and 91.9 percent respectively of the total retail sales in these two categories .
China's financial industry has been fully open to the outside world as of the end of 2006. Since the country's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, an overall and multi-dimensional system of foreign trade and economic cooperation has been formed. So far, more than 500,000 foreign-funded enterprises have registered in China, with paid-in foreign capital currently exceeding $690 billion.
People's livelihood has been dramatically improved. Over the past 30 years, per-capita annual disposal income of urban dwellers has climbed to $1,611 from $46. In the countryside, farmers now earn $491 compared to the average of $18 in annual net income three decades ago.
Minds are also changing rapidly along with accelerating social development. Traditional ways of thinking about consumption, employment, aesthetics and marriage have undergone great changes to become more diversified, liberal and independent. Awareness of political democracy has been continuously raised, and the legal system has been upgraded to better protect private rights.
China's opening-up policy is a long-term one, as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said during his visit to the National University of Singapore in November 2007.
At the beginning of its opening-up drive, China assured the world that its policy would remain unchanged in the 20th century and the first half of the 21st century. But, after the mid-21st century, China will have more frequent economic interactions with the rest of the world, and the two will become even more interdependent and indivisible. This will make it even less likely for the country to reverse its opening-up policy.