China’s post 1978 economic reforms have frequently been described with Deng Xiaoping’s phrase about “crossing the river while feeling the stones one by one”. The phrase indicated that the leadership had no clear goal other than to accelerate the country’s economic growth by doing whatever worked. That in fact is an apt description of the economic reform process in the 1980s and the early 1990s. Opening up to foreign trade and investment, returning farming to households, and making industrial inputs available on the market leading to the township and village industry boom, were all ad hoc measures that worked brilliantly in raising the GDP growth rate. There were also negative consequences to some of these moves mainly in the form of rising inflation and corruption and that led for a time to a retreat from the ad hoc dismantling of the centrally planned command system.


Perkins, Dwight H. "Measuring China’s Economic Reform Progress." China Economic Review 53 (February 2019): 342-350.