When the Communist Party came into power in China, it was a very poor country, cut off from the world. It had no trading partners and no diplomatic relationships. China was relying on self-sufficiency.
Mao Zedong's attempt to rapidly industrialize China's peasant economy failed. One of the worst famines in human history led to the deaths of 10-40 million people. Mao then launched the Cultural Revolution to rid the Communist party of his rivals, destroying much of the country's social fabric in the process.
'Workshop of the world'
Following Mao's death in 1976, his successor Deng Xiaoping began to reshape the economy. Peasants were granted rights to farm their own plots, improving living standards and easing food shortages. China invited foreign investments, and in 1979 the US and China re-established diplomatic ties.
Through the 1990s, China began to show rapid growth rates. It joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. Trade barriers and tariffs with other countries were lowered and soon Chinese goods flooded world markets.
By the twenty-first century, China had become the world's largest trading nation in goods.
Poverty rates tumble
The economic reforms improved the standard of living for hundreds of millions of Chinese. The country is on track to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020.
At the same time, education rates have risen. By 2030, around 27% of China's workforce will have a university education.
The economic success hasn't been evenly spread across China's population of 1.3 billion people. Examples of extreme wealth and a rising middle class exist alongside poor rural communities. Inequality has deepened, largely along rural and urban divides.
Source: China anniversary: How the country became the world's 'economic miracle'
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