After Mao’s death in 1976 initiated a struggle for power between moderate and radical CPC leaders. Premier Zhou had died the same year in January and Deng Xiaoping has been moved from any political charge. Hua Guofeng became premier and party chairman, but his prominence lasted only one year when the party reinstated moderate reformer Deng Xiaoping.
He had to deal with many struggles partisan, but by 1978 Deng was in firm control of the government. Deng focused on reducing the poverty through economic growth and "open door" policy. He promoted a great modernization of agriculture, technology, industry and defense.
Deng established households to replace the collective economy and the governmental restrictions, allowing to the peasant selling surpluses on an open market. He began a massive industrial modernization with decentralized production. Factories could contract with each other instead of with the state and was permited to acquire foreign technology. Special Economic Zones (SEZ) were created to develop the commerce with Western.
All of these decisions improved rapidly the national production, principally in the coastal provinces, where business opportunities were biggest. Deng’s policies brought an economic explosion that increased considerably the revenue of the Chinese people in few years. However, the economy changes have created new social divisions, between city and country, coast and interior, rich and poor people.
The rising living costs, agricultural mechanization and the shortage of basic services in the country, have originated a massive migration of the working class to the cities, where most remain unemployed or are hired by the day as laborers. Several Chinese, especially Maoist, think that the price of modernization has become too high - corruption, crime and unemployment, have increased radically.
The biggest problem of China has been the huge population of over 1.2 billion, pressing the limits of its resources. In 1979 began “The one child” policy to confront the need to control population growth. The government has promoted one-child families through financial incentives and bureaucratic regulations and has severely punished to the families which has not complied with the law.
Greater tolerance of the government resulted in a change of the people's conduct: new novelists, poets, reporters, philosophers and filmmakers appeared in the 1970s. In the 1980s, television became common with fewer restrictions in its contents, producing that many young people adopted aspects of Western popular culture, principally the music, hairstyles, and prominence on individualism, despite the periodic campaigns of the CPC conservatives.
But the communist government has ever maintained a rigid control on political criticism, though its relative openness in the cultural and economic aspects. Several protests occurred in many cities during the 1970s and the 1980s. The most numerous protests happened in Tian'anmen Square at Beijing in April 1989. Students initiated a series of protest against the general corruption, rising inflation, low wages and lack of freedom. Almost a million people had joined to the students when the morning of June 4, armored troops killed hundreds of unarmed civilians at the center of Beijing.
The most serious human rights abuses have been perpetrated in Tibet, where separatist ideas are cruelly suppressed and Tibetan culture have suffered the destruction of Chinese migration; and in the Chinese gulags with fourteen million prisoners kept in punishing conditions and used as slave labor.
During the 1990s China had become the only remaining world power with a communist government. Jiang became president in 1993 and continued the economic liberalization iniciated by Deng. When Jiang died in 1997, Hong Kong reverted to China from United Kingdom and two years after, Macao reverted to China from Portugal. In 1999 China signed trade agreements with the United States and the next years China secured similar bilateral agreements with other countries.
In March 2003, the actual chairman of China Hu Jintao was elected president instead of Jiang. Jintao have continued the Deng’s politics and currently the private sector accounts a third of the national, foreign funded ventures account for over half of the country's exports. In 2004 the Chinese Congress approved the first legal protection of private property along with other important laws and the reorganization of the central bank. China also have began an ambitious space program with significant achievements.
Unless the state can control efficiently the increasing inflation, corruption, regionalism from the wealthy eastern coast, rural discontent and the demands of the people for affluence and democratic freedoms; the government will be riskily vulnerable. Perhaps we are now seeing the last years of a decadent dictatorship about to collapse under internal tensions - as so many Chinese dynasties have in the past - or perhaps it is the beginning of a prosperous nation, which destiny is to become the most powerful country of the world.