Modernization begins: The road to Tiananmen Square
(MoneyWatch) The mass pro-democracy protests that erupted in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 did not spring from nowhere. They emerged from the period of rapid economic liberalization that followed the death of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong in 1976. Two years later, his successor Deng Xiaoping formally moved to encourage private enterprise and open the country to foreign investment. Under the so-called Four Modernizations, as the program was known, China instituted a number of reforms aimed at accelerating economic growth.
Yet, 24 years to the day after the protests were crushed, China has enjoyed enormous success in building the foundation for a modern and vibrant economy, lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty along the way. But the country's economic "miracle" has failed to loosen the party's grip on power.
"There are two circumstances that make it easy for the Chinese government to maintain control of the economy without need for political reform," said Jin Zhong, chief editor of Open Magazine (Hong Kong), a longtime observer of China's political scene. "The vast amount of labor available in China and the low wages that people accept there still."