Sample text for The great surge : the ascent of the developing world / Steven Radelet.


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The Great Surge

PROLOGUE
November 9, 1989

ON NOVEMBER 9, 1989, THE People of Namibia in Southwest Africa Gathered in droves to wait under a sweltering sun and claim a prize for which they had fought for decades: the right to vote. A remarkable 98 percent of registered voters turned out over five days to select delegates to a constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution and set the stage for presidential elections and the formation of a new government.1

The Namibians lining up that day had no way of knowing it, but their actions would reverberate far beyond their borders and mark the beginning of a slow but steady sweep of democracy across Africa.

They could not know that exactly as they were voting, forces were under way that would bring about some of the most important changes in world history. Far to the east that same day, Deng Xiaoping was resigning as chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, his last formal post in the Communist Party leadership. Deng had transformed the Chinese economy by abandoning Mao Tse-tung’s rigid Communism and adopting a more mixed, market-based economy. His resignation marked a key political change: It effectively ended the tradition of Chinese leaders ruling like emperors until death.2 It also shifted power from a single supreme leader to the group leadership of the party and effectively marked the beginning of de facto term limits. Imperial strongman rule in China was over.

Meanwhile, that very afternoon, five thousand miles away in Berlin, the government of East Germany capitulated to overwhelming upheaval and threw open the country’s western borders for the first time in twenty-eight years. The Berlin Wall was coming down. Political relationships and systems around the world were about to undergo seismic changes—most obviously in Eastern Europe, but also in Namibia and in developing countries around the world. Dictators supported by the United States and the Soviet Union would fall. Proxy wars and conflict that had wreaked havoc in developing countries would decline. Communism as both an economic and political system would lose its last shreds of credibility. Ideas and ideologies would change. Trade would expand and technology would spread. Dozens of developing countries would adopt more vibrant and accountable political systems and more market-based and open economic strategies.

The greatest surge of progress in developing countries in world history was about to begin.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Developing countries -- Economic conditions -- 20th century.
Developing countries -- Economic conditions -- 21st century.
Economic development -- Developing countries.
Poverty -- Developing countries.
Economic development. -- fast -- (OCoLC)fst00901785
Economic history. -- fast -- (OCoLC)fst00901974
Poverty. -- fast -- (OCoLC)fst01074093
Developing countries. -- fast -- (OCoLC)fst01242969