Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

2018 is the 40th anniversary of the launch of China's reform and opening policy. Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party are making a very big deal of the anniversary.

What we're hearing: I spoke with Julian Gewirtz, an expert in modern Chinese history and author of a book on China called "Unlikely Partners," on the current state of China's market and Xi's plan for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

1. What is reform and opening and how is has it changed over the last 40 years?

Above all, “reform and opening” means the policies of market-oriented change and international trade and investment that facilitated China’s extraordinary growth. It conventionally marks the new path taken under Deng Xiaoping after Mao Zedong’s death, and the official anniversary celebrates the Third Plenum of 1978 as miraculously transformative. But the new economic policies were introduced gradually and were highly contested—witnessing dramatic ups and downs in how the leadership handled major tradeoffs between the market’s scope and the Party-state’s control, as well as questions such as political reform and intellectual openness. And new changes are underway today.

2. What is Xi's vision for China, and if he is successful what will China look like in the next 10-20 years?

Xi envisions China becoming a superpower with the Party firmly in control over all aspects of life. If he succeeds, China will be the world’s largest economy, a global leader in technological innovation with a modernized military, and the major force in Asia and beyond. He sees this as restoring its historic stature, “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” that only the CCP can produce. Of course, we don’t know yet if he will succeed.

3. Some experts now say that [economic] reform is dead under Xi. He and the Party of course say both reform and opening are moving forward with urgency. Who is right?

The malleability of reform and opening explains some of this disconnect. Xi uses this term to mean not market-oriented liberalization prioritizing the private sector but rather strengthening China’s system on his terms: promoting more “balanced” growth with a powerful state sector enduring, and modernization led by the Party. That isn’t the direction that many analysts would wish for, nor does it fully reflect the factors that have enabled China to succeed thus far — but it’s the clear trend over the past several years.

4. What are the politics around planning celebrations in this anniversary year?

Xi will dominate this anniversary, and the backward-looking appearance of celebrating an anniversary will be used to glorify Xi’s “New Era” and the path forward. Domestically, it presents an opportunity to crystallize which elements of reform and opening Xi wants to keep — and which he is discarding, such as more open intellectual debate or greater limits on the Party’s authority. Internationally, amid serious trade conflict, the anniversary gives the Party an opportunity to remind countries that they’ve benefitted from China’s growth over the past 40 years and to advocate for a form of globalization with “Chinese characteristics.” So the anniversary will be deployed to serve the interests of Xi and the Party today. History will be used for present purposes.

Go deeper

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:45 p.m. ET: 19,282,972 — Total deaths: 718,851 — Total recoveries — 11,671,491Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:45 p.m. ET: 4,937,441 — Total deaths: 161,248 — Total recoveries: 1,623,870 — Total tests: 60,415,558Map.
  3. Politics: Trump says he's prepared to sign executive orders on coronavirus aid.
  4. Education: Cuomo says all New York schools can reopen for in-person learning.
  5. Public health: Surgeon general urges flu shots to prevent "double whammy" with coronavirus — Massachusetts pauses reopening after uptick in coronavirus cases.
  6. World: Africa records over 1 million coronavirus cases — Gates Foundation puts $150 million behind coronavirus vaccine production.

Warren and Clinton to speak on same night of Democratic convention

(Photos: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton both are slated to speak on the Wednesday of the Democratic convention — Aug. 19 — four sources familiar with the planning told Axios.

Why it matters: That's the same night Joe Biden's running mate (to be revealed next week) will address the nation. Clinton and Warren represent two of the most influential wise-women of Democratic politics with the potential to turn out millions of establishment and progressive voters in November.

Trump considering order on pre-existing condition protections, which already exist

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump announced on Friday he will pursue an executive order requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, something that is already law.

Why it matters: The Affordable Care Act already requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration is currently arguing in a case before the Supreme Court to strike down that very law — including its pre-existing condition protections.