The purpose of this article is to compare and contrast China's approaches to regional industrial development in the Maoist and post-Mao periods. By focusing on patterns of investment and regional shares of gross value of industrial output (GVIO), this article will argue that China's regional industrialization strategy has changed to one of uneven regional growth in the post-Mao period from the Maoist emphasis on eradicating regional industrial disparities through interior–orientated investments. In short, the post-Mao Chinese leadership has not only relaxed its Incantation of the Golden Hoop, or strait-jacket on the coastal region but has come to rely on the coastal region to provide the “engine of growth” for China's economic development.
For the sake of simplicity, I will call the development strategy of the 1953–78 period the “Maoist development strategy.” Though it varied in degrees in different sub-periods, the Maoist strategy dominated China's industrialization efforts until it gradually faded out in the late 1970s. It relied on heavily redistributive measures in an attempt to equalize regional economic development, emphasized- Extensive rather than intensive modes of economic growth, and allowed no foreign direct investment in China.
In contrast, the post-Mao Chinese leadership has gradually, but decidedly, reversed the Maoist model and come to adopt a new development strategy. This new strategy, which, for lack of a better term, I shall call the “uneven development strategy,” represents another attempt to bring China out of economic backwardness. Focusing on economic results, the new strategy emphasizes regional comparative advantage, accepts regional disparities as inevitable, encourages foreign investment and international interaction, and seeks to foster technological innovation.