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China’s Decade of Sweeping Economic Change

The changes China’s economy has undergone over the last decade are sweeping, unprecedented, and essential. The world would be far better served by an effort to understand them than by attempting to prove that the country’s achievements are less impressive than they are.

SHANGHAI – For the West, the year 2008 marked the beginning of a difficult period of crisis, recession, and uneven recovery. For China, 2008 was also an important turning point, but one followed by a decade of rapid progress that few could have foreseen.

Of course, when the US investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering a global financial crisis, China’s leaders were deeply worried. Their concerns were compounded by natural disasters – including severe freezing rain and snow storms in the south in January 2008 and the devastating Sichuan earthquake five months later, which killed 70,000 Chinese – as well as unrest in Tibet.

At first, China’s fears seemed to be coming true. Despite hosting an impressive Olympics in Beijing that August, its stock market plunged from its 2007 high of 6,124 to 1,664 in October 2008, in what amounted to a record-breaking crash.

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