Major social and economic progress since reform and opening up was introduced in the late 1970s could not have been achieved without the efforts of ordinary people. Every person, family and organization who have actively participated in the historic drive to give full play to the nation's potential has a stake in its success.
This week's cover story follows the transformation of Zhili, a town in Huzhou City, east China's Zhejiang Province, from a poor village to China's manufacturing hub for children's garment over the past four decades. Beijing Review reporters traveled to Zhili to interview local business people about the journeys they have taken toward a better life.
Zhili started to develop its traditional embroidery industry following the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, but many local business people switched to the production of children's clothes in the mid-1980s in search of bigger profits. Now, Zhili has formed a complete industrial chain of children's wear incorporating design, manufacturing, sales, storage and logistics. It is upgrading the sector by cultivating famous brands and embracing e-commerce.
There are around 13,000 companies producing 1.3 billion pieces of children's clothing every year, with over a half of China's children's clothes manufactured there.
Zhili's success is not a single case but typifies the growth pattern of coastal regions in east China, with their advanced private economies. The private economy and free market have been the engine of China's reform and opening up and have greatly contributed to its success.
Zhili's case is an illustration of how China's reform and opening up relies on the emancipation of people's minds, the improvement of social management, the modernization of agriculture and urbanization.
Among the achievements made through reform and opening up, the improvement of people's living standards is the one that stands above all others. According to official statistics, the number of people in employment has increased by 9.61 million every year over the past four decades, per-capita disposable income increased by almost 23 times from 1978 to 2017, per-capita consumer expenditure increased 18 fold from 1978 to 2017 and the country's life expectancy improved from 67.8 in 1981 to 76.7 last year.
Zhili's figures stand much higher than the national average. In 2017, the town's GDP reached 20.3 billion yuan ($3 billion), and its development model can serve as an example for impoverished regions in other parts of the world.