In 1949 China was one of the poorest and most undeveloped countries in the world. About 90% lived in the countryside and most of them in poverty.
In 1956, 99% of China's economy was owned by the state. Most of the population lived in the countryside and worked in agriculture. Although the government tried to push industrialisation, productivity was very low.
China only started to prosper after major reforms in 1978. One of the changes was to allow foreign investment. In 1980, Coke was one of the first companies to set up a joint venture in China.
Incentives were introduced for farmers to become more efficient. This led to more food being produced, allowing more people to work in other industries - like factories and small businesses.
Special economic zones were created by the government to encourage factory production. Shenzhen was transformed from a fishing village of 30,000 in 1984 to a city of 8 million inhabitants in 2007.
More and more Chinese have moved from the countryside to the city. In 1950, less than 13% lived in cities. It is now about 40% and is expected to reach 60% in the next two decades.
China became 'the factory of the world'. The economy has grown on average at 10% per annum over the past 25 years. In 2001 the country was seen as open enough to join the World Trade Organisation.
The huge demand for Chinese goods left the country hungry for energy to power its manufacturing. China became a net oil importer in 1993. It is expected to match the US's demand by 2030.
However industry has grown faster than regulation. The EU estimates that 80% of pirated goods come from China. Chinese authorities also introduced new safety measures after a number of scares in 2007.
The economy continues to grow but it has not escaped the effects of the the global economic slowdown. Thousands of factories closed down and many workers left the big cities to return to their villages.
China's economy overtook Japan's to become the world's second biggest in 2010. Experts suggest that if it continues to grow at the current rate, it could leapfrog the US to become the biggest in as little as 10 years time.
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