In terms of things hadn’t been changed, as Blecher wrote, “the Dengist leadership adhered to the same Leninist principles of democratic centralism and the party’s political monopoly within the state and over society.” As long as people remembered how the government dealt with the June Fourth Incident, it would remind us how hard to reform political institutions, though it’s called a structural reform period and leaders were determined to change from the Maoist period.
But there were many actual changes, which at least made hope and optimism alive. I believe the most important one was the thought liberation, which emphasized on practice and being pragmatic. At that time, not only leaders, but most Chinese felt that we must get away from class struggle or non-stop fighting in ideology. When the editorial of People’s Daily came out with the saying “practice is the sole criterion of truth (实践是检验真理的唯一标准),” people knew that the change was coming. It’s just like a second spring to China, pushing it back to a normal track.
The change of attitude from above definitely contributed to the economic reforms. Since everything depended on practice, all methods could be used, regardless of their ideological labels. With an effective method, hard-working people, and national or collective ownership, it wouldn’t be too big a surprise for the economic boom.