Forty years ago, the People’s Republic of China embarked on an economic program that has transformed the country and the world. Deng Xiaoping’s decision to embrace the market through “reform and openness” launched China on a trajectory that made it the second-largest economy in the world and it is slated to overtake the United States as No. 1 in a few years. Today, however, there are growing doubts about Beijing’s commitment to market mechanisms, and remarks by President Xi Jinping last Tuesday only compounded that concern.

Some observers credit Deng’s October 1978 trip to Japan with inspiring him to adopt market reforms. During that visit, he saw first-hand the fruits of a modern economy — he rode a bullet train and visited auto, steel and electronics plants — and pushed the Communist Party to adopt the “reform and opening up” policy at its central committee meeting that convened Dec. 18 that year.

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