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In December 1978, China began a series of economic reforms collectively termed as the “Reform and Opening Up” policy led by Deng Xiaoping, through which the country embraced “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Since then, China’s policy makers have walked a winding path towards prosperity, herding the nation’s behemoth state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and an increasingly vibrant private sector in tow. From the first tentative steps of market pricing under a rigid family unit system in 1978, to bold strides in international economic participation with China’s ascension to the World Trade Organization in 2005, the country has been striving to build a resilient economy.

This infographic maps the journey undertaken by private enterprises in China over the past 35 years, and highlights the major milestones along the way—from tax reforms, the beginnings of foreign investment and SOE restructuring.

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