China's traditionalist society is well known by most people, but the current social structure pales in comparison to the rigidity of the country in the early part of the 20th century.
As Mao took control of China in 1949, he instituted several drastic changes. Called "The Great Leap Forward", Mao believed in forcing China out of the agrarian past and into the industrial future. China had been focused primarily on subsistence farming and agriculture as the primary economy. The first major societal change was that social classes were now created, specifically a lower peasant class. This ultimately failed and millions starved to death.
In the 1960s, Mao instituted "The Cultural Revolution". Essentially, this was his retribution for those he believed were plotting against his absolute rule. This time unfortunately resulted in a very secretive society, spying on one another and shut off from the rest of the world.
Finally, with Richard Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972 came an acceptance to the outside world. While still a very traditionalist culture, China became more of an open population. The society itself sought new experiences from the exterior for the first time. New trade relationships, new cultural ideas and new understandings that the rest of the world isn't as bad as they were told are some of the important social improvements in China over the last half-century.