China's top 370 leaders huddled together for a long weekend and then finally emerged to produce a communique promising economic reforms that the Chinese media hailed as "a new historic starting point." Global Times, the English-language newspaper, claimed that the reforms agreed at the meeting would prove just as historic as those ushered in after 1978 when Deng Xiaoping came to power and opened the country's doors to the outside world.

Evidence of this, all the eager China-watchers declared, was the promise that the role of market would be "decisive," a clear upgrade from the previous guidance that the market role was "basic."

Skeptics abounded, especially since the document was opaque about what would actually happen. As if stung, China released a fuller account, listing 60 reforms that answered some of the skeptics and seemed to justify the optimists.