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Two years after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 it became apparentto many of Chinas leaders that economic reform was necessary During histenure as Chinas premier Mao had encouraged social movements such as theGreat Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution which had had as their basesideologies such as serving the people and maintaining the class struggleBy 1978 Chinese leaders were searching for a solution to serious economicproblems produced by Hua Guofeng the man who had succeeded Mao Zedong asCCP leader after Maos death Shirk 35 Hua had demonstrated a desire tocontinue the ideologically based movements of Mao Unfortunately thesemovements had left China in a state where agriculture was stagnantindustrial production was low and the peoples living standards had notincreased in twenty years Nathan 200 This last area was particularlytroubling While the gross output value of industry and agricultureincreased by 810 percent and national income grew by 420 percent between1952 and 1980 average individual income increased by only 100 percentMa Hong quoted in Shirk 28 However attempts at economic reform inChina were introduced not only due to some kind of generosity on the partof the Chinese Communist Party to increase the populaces living standardsIt had become clear to members of the CCP that economic reform wouldfulfill a political purpose as well since the party felt properly it wouldseem that it had suffered a loss of support As Susan L Shirk describesthe situation in The Political Logic of Economic Reform in Chinarestoring the CCPs prestige required improvingeconomic performance and raising living standardsThe traumatic experience of the Cultural Revolutionhad eroded popular trust in the moral and politicalvirtue of the CCP The partys leaders decided toshift the base of party legitimacy from virtue tocompetence and to do that they had to demonstrateThis movement from virtue to competence seemed to mark aserious departure from orthodox Chinese political theory Confuciushimself had posited in the fifth century BCE that those individuals whobest demonstrated what he referred to as moral force
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