This year marks 70 years since Mao Zedong stood in Tiananmen Square in Beijing and declared the beginning of the People’s Republic of China. To the outside world, China’s transformation from a poor agrarian society into one of the world’s most powerful economies is nothing short of miraculous.
“If you think about what China was 70 years ago, essentially a country that had fought its way through two wars and was on its knees and battered – the idea that in 70 years it would be the second biggest economy in the world… and a major global player would have seemed very unlikely indeed,” said Rana Mitter, a professor of history and politics of modern China at Oxford University.
But for those who lived through these years, the pace of change has been dizzying and at times jolting. Almost no other country has experienced shifts as dramatic as China has – almost as if each generation has lived in an entirely different country.