The technological and industrial history of the People's Republic of China is a long one. China's industrial sector has shown great progress since 1949, but in the late 1980s it remained undeveloped in many respects. Although the country manufactured nuclear weapons and delivery systems and could launch domestically-produced satellites, many of its industries used technologies of the 1950s. Although China was one of the world's largest producers of fuel in the mid-1980s and had the world's largest hydropower potential, frequent energy shortages caused lengthy factory shutdowns. Despite massive coal reserves in north China, transportation deficiencies necessitated coal imports to south China. Research institutes developed sophisticated industrial technologies, but bureaucratic and political obstacles impeded implementation.
To solve these and other problems, the Chinese leadership initiated sweeping economic reforms in the late 1970s. Although specific industrial reforms were not clearly defined, broad goals included loosening bureaucratic controls on enterprises and managers to promote a decentralization of authority. Other broad goals were to increase worker productivity by offering incentives; to give market forces greater influence on output mix, purchases, sales, and hiring; to make enterprises operate more efficiently and be responsible for profits and losses; and to restructure the price system to reflect supply and demand more accurately.
Another major goal of the reform program was development of light industry. Beginning with the First Five-Year Plan (1953–57), China adopted the Soviet model of economic development, stressing a heavy industrial base. However, this emphasis seriously strained China's resources and capital and led the leadership in the late 1970s to shift to development of light industry. Because light industry is labor intensive, this
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