The economic reforms in 1978 brought in different foreign entities possessing of ideologies that were not the same as the uniform principles that the people of China had been raised under. Thus, this created a newfound avenue for political discourse on issues that were once considered taboo. Although some critics argue that this was what led to the massive student protests that culminated to the Tiananmen massacre, that event was nonetheless a step forward to political maturity. After the massacre, the government was highly criticized by the international community, such that it eventually had to loosen some grip on its strict prohibitions with regards to political activism of its citizens.
Although China still remains to be one of the most limiting governments in terms of press freedom, the entry of newfound technologies because of the developments brought about by the economic reforms enabled its people to express their views in various forms of modern media. It has also allowed them to be exposed to ideologies outside the Maoist principles that they’ve been used to, thereby widening their political perspectives.
Because of the abandonment of politically motivated labour in favour of financial incentives for production, the citizenry of PRC began to realize their true value as workers. They were rewarded for exceptional work and the multinational corporations that entered the Special Economic Zones provided a diverse array of jobs for them to choose from. The stereotype of the bored, technologically backward, and poorly compensated Chinese worker was diminished as Chinese per unit GDP and purchasing power shot up.
Allowing the entry of foreign products meant exposure of the citizenry to the vast innovative commodities that outside technology has to offer, from MAC Tiger notebooks to Research In Motion’s state-of-the-art BlackBerry. Since the PRC owned manufacturers acquired access to these technologies, they were able to reengineer their own versions of them to offer to their citizens at much lower costs such as in the case of the RedBerry, a much more affordable version of BlackBerry released several months before RIM’s product in the Chinese market.
The improvements on standard of living were not limited to salaries and gadgetry. After 1978, better nutrition improved Chinese public health despite of the obsolescence of free public health services which gave way to fee-for-service private health care institutions. This was because the new health care institutions were motivated by competition to provide the best health care programs at the most affordable prices contrary to the defunct free service centres which were usually had poor equipment and unsanitary facilities.
Also, the rising purchasing power of the Chinese worker made it possible for him to adequately avail of fee-for-service healthcare. As a result of improved health care, life expectancy increased from a frightening 32 years in 1950 to a ripe 73 years in 2006. Infant mortality rates also went down from 300 per 1000 in the 50s to only 23 per 1000 in 2006. By this time, the World Health Organization estimated that only 12% of the PRC’s total population were malnourished.