It was 40 years ago this week that China opened its doors to the world and launched a series of ambitious reforms that would create one of the world’s largest economic engines and expand China’s power in the world.
“China is now the world’s second largest economy, the biggest manufacturer, top trader of goods, and the second largest consumer of goods and recipient of foreign investment,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a speech in Beijing celebrating the 40th anniversary of the landmark reforms.
“December 18, 1978, was an important day to be remembered in the history of the Chinese nation,” Xi added, saying that it marked the “start of a great journey of reform, opening-up and socialist modernization.”
But unlike Deng Xiaoping, who helped launch the country’s reforms 40 years ago and wanted to reduce the power and influence of the Communist Party over civil society, China’s current leader believes in the absolute power of the Party and wants his government to exert control over every aspect of Chinese life.
Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has severely cracked down on human rights, religious freedom and freedom of expression. Christians are experiencing some of the worst persecution in decades.
“Under President Xi, the government has further tightened control over Christianity in its broad efforts to “Sinicize” religion or “adopt Chinese characteristics,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “In other words, to ensure that religious groups support the government and the Communist Party.”