Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, China has carried out a range of socio-economic reform and a policy of increasingly opening the door to the outside world. In the next century it is anticipated that China will play a more active and important role in the international community and particularly the Asia-Pacific region. In the process of China’s modernisation, distance higher education has made a special contribution to both higher education and more generally to socio-economic development. This chapter provides a broad overview of China’s distance higher education and some major implications for Chinese society.
Since the end of the 1970s, China, unlike Russia, other newly independent states of the former USSR, and Eastern European countries, has entered a new historical era of modernisation under the leadership of the Communist Party. In 1978, at the Third Plenary Meeting of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the centre of the Party and national agenda moved from class struggle and political movement to economic construction and social development. Since then, China has achieved significant progress in its process of modernisation. In 1997, at the Fifteenth National Conference of the Party, Secretary General Jiang Zeming presented a report entitled To Comprehensively Take the Cause of Socialist Construction with Chinese Characteristics into the 21st Century by Holding High the Great Banner of Deng Xiaoping’s Theory. The Report has set an overall goal for social-economic development for the first half of the next century; by the middle of the twenty-first century, China will reach the medium level of developed countries and achieve the rejuvenation of Chinese civilisation (Jiang 1997). In fact, from 1978 to 1996, the Chinese GNP per capita has doubled twice over. This had been the principal aim of social-economic development for the last two decades of this century and was achieved four years earlier than the expected target year of 2000.
According to The Governmental Working Report, presented by former