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A few decades ago, China was at most considered a country starting to develop itself, but usually even a third world country. If a person 30 years ago would have heard that China nowadays would be a primary economy and would likely become the first world economy in little time, he'd likely have considered it a nonsense.

But in very little relative time it has developed economically in an extremely spectacular way, I'm no expert in history but I think there wasn't even any empire in history that grew in importance as fast as China.

Which are the main reasons it was so underdeveloped economically some decades ago, specially considering that either their workforce or social mentality coudn't change too much in so little time?

Edit: I just want a brief overview of the main causes that caused that underdevelopment. I obviously do not expect a full detailed answer.

closed as too broad by Denis de Bernardy, Jos, KillingTime, Lars Bosteen, Semaphore May 15 '18 at 9:28

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    We normally discourage topics that have book length answers. This is a question that cannot be fully answered by a four year degree or a PhD. We don't know. – Mark C. Wallace May 15 '18 at 1:30
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    You should limit the scope of your question. China was relatively underdeveloped for decades, centuries, or even a millennia depending on where your goalposts are (i.e. as far back as the Song dynasty). Are you interested in early Communist (mis)management? The failure of the self-strengthening movement? The century of humiliation? Or the Needham question? – congusbongus May 15 '18 at 1:46
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    This is not really a question, but much more an invitation for a debate. – Jos May 15 '18 at 2:02
  • This question essentially amounts to what is the economic history of China for the last 500 years (or more) which is too broad for History.SE. For an overview, please read the relevant wikipedia articles first and, if you have specific questions, you are welcome to ask them here. Note that as an "empire" or otherwise, China was always a major regional power and hugely important, regardless of its previous economic isolation. – Semaphore May 15 '18 at 9:45
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In December 1978 Deng Xiaoping an "open door policy" that allowed foreign companies to set up in China.

Prior to that, foreigners were not allowed to invest in China. Foreigners mostly were excluded, even as tourists.

China's Communist party essentially turned its back on central planning and state-ownership of all means of production and adopted a capitalist economic model while retaining a one-party political system under the control of the communist party.

The availability of an extremely low-wage workforce, led to Western manufacturers transferring manufacturing facilities and knowledge to China.

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