The Straits Times says

Critical tests ahead for China's reforms

In the lead-up to President Xi Jinping's speech marking the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up, there was much speculation as to how he would react to the twin pressures of a US trade pushback and a faltering Chinese economy. If people expected Mr Xi to blink in the face of critics at home and abroad, they were disappointed. His strongly worded speech last week made clear that China and the Chinese Communist Party would not be dictated to by others. "No one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done," he said. "We must resolutely reform what should and can be changed, we must resolutely not reform what shouldn't and can't be changed."

There is no question about China's undoubted success in the decades following paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's move to unleash capitalist forces on what was then a command economy, where citizens needed coupons to get fish, rice and other necessities. A global economic powerhouse now - just behind the United States - China is today reaping the rewards of its transformation but also facing the problems of success. Externally, the US has imposed tariffs and threatened more retaliatory measures in response to what it calls predatory practices by China that has led to a huge trade imbalance. Separately, the European Union has stepped up a fight at the World Trade Organisation, accusing China of a policy of forced technology transfers. Internally, China is struggling to find the Goldilocks formula of keeping the economy going even as it introduces reforms for sound long-term growth.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2018, with the headline 'Critical tests ahead for China's reforms '. Print Edition | Subscribe