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China’s reform program has reached an impasse, with fundamental conflicts of interest and subtle resistance mechanisms blocking progress. Until these barriers are removed, there is little hope that China’s slowing economy — which grew by 7.4 percent in 2014, its lowest rate in nearly a quarter-century — can rely on reform to give it the push it needs.

Chinese leaders are well acquainted with how difficult it can be to implement drastic reforms. When Deng Xiaoping launched his radical program of “reform and opening up” in 1978, he faced fierce opposition — mostly from fervent ideologues and revolutionary diehards. Just as Deng’s status and forcefulness enabled him to face down his opponents and keep China’s economic modernization on course, President Xi Jinping’s determined leadership can overcome vested interests and implement the needed reforms.

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