This article examines the range of national experiences of communist rule in terms of the aspiration to ‘overtake and outstrip the advanced countries economically’. It reviews the causal beliefs of the rulers, the rise and fall of their economies (or, in the case of China, its continued rise), the core institutions of communist rule and their evolution, and other outcomes. The process of overcoming a development lag so as to approach the global technological frontier has required continual institutional change and policy reform in the face of resistance from established interests. So far, China is the only country where communist rule has been able to meet these requirements, enabled by a new deal with political and economic stakeholders. The article places the ‘China Deal’ on a spectrum previously limited to the Soviet Big and Little Deals.