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hkskyline Dec 19, 2018 12:30 PM

40 Years of Economic Reforms - Modern China in 40 Images
This year, China is celebrating 40 years of economic reforms that have transformed the country into the world's 2nd largest economy. Here is a compilation of 40 images from around the country celebrating both its history and the modernization.

1. The story begins in Shenzhen, the first economic zone set up to test reforms. Being next to capitalist Hong Kong, investors flocked across the border to take advantage of cheap labour. The world's factory, producing your everyday items, started out of here.

2. Back in 1980, this was a sleepy rice paddy-filled agricultural area.

3. The West had tried to open up China to trade back in the 19th century. Gunboat diplomacy against a weak imperial government was deadly, with foreigners able to establish concession districts on Chinese soil that blatantly ignored Chinese laws. The legacy is colonial architecture in the least likely of places that has, luckily, survived the test of time. - Tianjin

- Qingdao

6. The most famous of China's colonial architecture districts would be Shanghai's Bund.

7. A massive subway construction spree then spread across the country. Many places were unknown in the West, but with populations in the tens of millions, improving public transport was a daunting yet necessary priority.

8. Seeking massive opportunities, Hong Kong's MTR stepped into the mainland building and operating new subway lines. There were familiar logos, exit signs, and even the announcement voice.

9. One Belt One Road is meant to use China's infrastructure-led developmental model on other developing countries. Places that Western banks were reluctant to lend to became China's prime target. They marched their engineers to remote outposts to build new railways, bridges, ports, and the like quickly and efficiently. - Chongqing

10. The construction boom also spread to the residential sector, with many provinces and cities pushing ahead with huge new districts to fuel the economy. Officials were being measured based on growth figures, and with cheap credit around the world thanks to the Americans pumping money, districts of empty homes took hold.

11. Ancient dynasties have already reached towards today's western frontiers. Trading towns along the Silk Road were built to offer services and protection along the journey to the Middle East and Europe. - Jiaohe

12. With geography and the climate stacking odds against you, traders of that era were brave and bold to conquer these obstacles and vast distances. - Dunhuang

13. Relations with the Catholic Church have warmed in recent years, and there is even talk that the Vatican will finally establish formal diplomatic relations with Beijing. The church continues to be heavily regulated, although some prominent historic churches have not been razed to the ground. - Qingdao

14. Then the race began to build taller and taller. While not as bold as Dubai, massive office building projects have also taken hold in many cities. Many architectural stunners came to fruition. While some have criticized these as being "tacky", perhaps they can ask the Western architects who have designed many of these why they thought these out-of-the-box creations deserve a home in China. - Beijing

- Guangzhou

16. As people's incomes grew, domestic tourism has risen as a major economic force, especially during the week-long holidays given to spur consumption. The red-hat tour groups became a common sight across the country's key attractions. Even in the remote desert, you barely can get that patch of sand all by yourself. - Dunhuang

18. The Great Wall is one of the must-see places on any foreigner's first visit to China. We have also seen just how crowded it can get during Golden Week with bumper-to-bumper traffic. However, there are parts that remain fairly original, and deserted. However, once these sweet spots get discovered on Chinese social media, the whole situation can change overnight. - Mutianyu Great Wall

19. Tourism has also gotten quite expensive with very high admission charges once you leave Beijing. Yet, there is no shortage of customers even though the numbers are nowhere affordable compared to their incomes. - Longmen Grottoes

- Tianchi, Xinjiang

21. Security risks have grown in recent years with high-profile public attacks, some of which were attributable to the Muslim fundamentalist insurgency in Xinjiang. The eye of the police is quite visible at major train stations. - Qingdao

22. Redevelopments were a very touchy issue when corrupt local governments bulldozed their way and forced local residents out. Property development came with many conflicting interests. Property rights and the rule of law continue to be major concerns in China's legal system. Yet there is indeed a genuine need to renew some of these older neighbourhoods that lack basic facilities. - Shanghai

24. Ecological issues have surfaced thanks to outcry over pollution resulting from growth at all costs. Chinese cities tend to be well-beautified with greenery and many public spaces, but the next stage of development has to focus more on energy use, which is a major source of air pollution in the winter months. There is a massive project underway in the northeastern part of the country to move from coal heating to natural gas. - Kunming

26. Improving infrastructure was a core development strategy to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. The first wave included new ports and airports designed to with a wow factor. However, military restrictions over air space use have created severe congestion around the country's major airports.

27. Then came the high-speed trains, which is now the world's biggest network. - Urumqi

- on a CRH train

29. With so many tall buildings, finding a nice restaurant or bar with a view is not too difficult or expensive either. - Beijing

- Guangzhou

31. No matter how many new modern malls pop up, the traditional open-air market continues to survive. China has taken a major step towards a cashless society with mobile payment apps such as Wechat Pay and Alipay. You can use the app to pay your friends and even ride the subway. - Kunming

33. Provincial governments have also funnelled great amounts of money building grand new museums to showcase the country's rich heritage. Luckily, the vast majority of these ones are free to enter. - Xian

- Kunming

- Zhengzhou

- Luoyang

38. 5-star hotel prices have markedly risen in the past decade, although still very affordable by Western standards. With many international chains in the country, researching a good and cheap option with great views requires some meticulous work. - Shanghai

39. The Chinese diaspora have a history of bringing their riches back home, building stately structures that reflected architectural styles locally and from abroad. The southern provinces of Guangdong and Fujian were major sources of migrants heading offshore looking for better fortunes. Many wound up in Southeast Asia and also on North America's West Coast. - Kaiping, Guangdong

40. 39 photos later, it is time to go back to look at how this got started. Economic reforms started with the entrepreneural classes in Hong Kong who invested in the China story. First came the factories, then financial and management expertise. The capitalist experiment was exported and embraced all along the east and south coasts, and there was no turning back. How the next 40 years will work remains to be seen, but China will no longer be the widget-producing cheap labour sweatshop that the reforms grew out of. Those factories are leaving, not because of the trade war, but because China has also gotten a lot more expensive. - Hong Kong

Visit my website for more photos of China and my travels from the rest of the world :

tdawg Dec 19, 2018 2:12 PM

Fascinating and wide-sweeping post. The 21st Century really is shaping up to be the Chinese Century.

Nightsky Dec 19, 2018 4:15 PM

Fascinating pictures! China must be the country in the whole world that has changed fastest in history.

Echoes Dec 19, 2018 6:15 PM

Incredible tour. Thank you.

subterranean Dec 21, 2018 12:43 AM

The scale is just unfathomable to me. Thanks for shedding a little bit of light on a huge dark spot in my brain.

geomorph Dec 21, 2018 6:44 AM


Originally Posted by hkskyline (Post 8413738)

Not all the colonial architecture was an asset to the country!
Thank you for this well organized report.

TexasStar Dec 22, 2018 12:45 AM

Nicely Done!

begratto Dec 23, 2018 1:37 AM

Very interesting. Great post!

cityskyscrapers Dec 23, 2018 8:55 PM

Good overview of developments and current status. Thanks!

ColDayMan Jan 2, 2019 8:35 PM

Thanks for this!

mrnyc Jan 3, 2019 6:06 PM

this is a very stylish thread for sure.

muppet Jan 4, 2019 7:00 AM

Great post, thanks HK!

kool maudit Jan 4, 2019 9:12 AM


boden Jan 28, 2019 4:28 AM

Excellent thread hk.:tup::tup::tup:

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