Deng Liqun

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Deng Liqun

Deng Liqun 1949.jpg

Deng Liqun in Yining, Xinjiang, August 1949
Secretary of the Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of China
In office
September 1982 November 1987
General Secretary Hu Yaobang
Head of Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China
In office
April 1982 August 1985
Preceded by Wang Renzhong
Succeeded by Zhu Houze
Personal details
Born(1915-11-27)November 27, 1915
Guidong, Hunan, China
Died February 10, 2015(2015-02-10) (aged 99)
Beijing, China
Political party Communist Party of China
Spouse(s) Luo Liyun
Children Deng Yingtao
Alma mater Peking University
Deng Liqun
Traditional Chinese 鄧力群
Simplified Chinese 邓力群

Deng Liqun (November 27, 1915 – February 10, 2015) was a Chinese politician and theorist who was one of the leading figures of the Communist Party of China during the 1980s, most well known for his involvement with the party's propaganda work. Deng was born in Guidong County, Hunan province, and joined the Communist Party in 1936. [1] [2] He came from an intellectual family and joined the party out of intellectual commitment. [3] He was often referred to as "Little Deng", to be distinguished from Deng Xiaoping (no relation), the "Old Deng". [1]

Communist Party of China Political party of the Peoples Republic of China

The Communist Party of China (CPC), also referred to as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China. The Communist Party is the sole governing party within mainland China, permitting only eight other, subordinated parties to co-exist, those making up the United Front. It was founded in 1921, chiefly by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao. The party grew quickly, and by 1949 it had driven the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government from mainland China after the Chinese Civil War, leading to the establishment of the People's Republic of China. It also controls the world's largest armed forces, the People's Liberation Army.

Guidong County County in Hunan, Peoples Republic of China

Guidong County is a county in Hunan Province, China, bordering Jiangxi province to the east. It is under the administration of Chenzhou prefecture-level City.

Hunan Province

Hunan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze watershed in South Central China; it borders the province-level divisions of Hubei to the north, Jiangxi to the east, Guangdong and Guangxi to the south, Guizhou to the west, and Chongqing to the northwest. With a population of just over 67 million as of 2014 residing in an area of approximately 210,000 km2 (81,000 sq mi), it is China's 7th most populous and the 10th most extensive province-level by area.


Purged during the Cultural Revolution, Deng emerged in the 1980s as one of the most vocal members of the leftist wing of the party in the lead-up of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. He advocated for the orthodox Communist-style planned economy and spoke out against market economic reforms and political liberalization. He retreated from active politics in 1987, after failing to secure enough internal support to gain a seat on the Politburo, which was partly attributed to his hard-line ideological stance, but continued to agitate for the leftist line.

Early life and education

Deng Liqun was born into a wealthy land-owning family in Guidong County, Hunan province, in 1915. [4] His father passed the imperial civil service examination, but never became an official, instead opening the first Western-style school in the county. Deng's elder brother became the chairman of the Nationalist provincial government. Deng went to Beijing in 1935, enrolling first at the Peking Academy, then entered Peking University a year later, where he studied economics and became a devoted student activist. [4] He took part in the December 9th Movement. He left college a year later for Yan'an, Shaanxi, the wartime base of the Communist Party, to join the party and follow Mao. [5]

Kuomintang political party in the Republic of China

The Kuomintang of China is a major political party in the Republic of China on Taiwan, based in Taipei and is currently an opposition political party in the Legislative Yuan.

Beijing Huiwen Middle School

Beijing Huiwen Middle School, previously known as Peking Academy, also referred to as Beijing Huiwen High School, is a public beacon high school in Dongcheng District, Beijing, China. It was established in 1871 by the Methodist Episcopal Church as Mengxueguan 蒙学馆. In 1882, Huaili Shuyuan 怀理书院 spun off with the newly added middle- and high-school divisions. In 1882, the Academy was renamed as Huiwen Academy 汇文书院. During the Boxer Rebellion, it was burned down, then rebuilt again in 1902 with the support from local church. In 1904, it again renamed as Huiwen Daxuetang 汇文大学堂.

Peking University university in Beijing, China

Peking University is a major research university in Beijing, China, and a member of the elite C9 League of Chinese universities. The first modern national university established in China, it was founded during the late Qing Dynasty in 1898 as the Imperial University of Peking and was the successor of the Guozijian, or Imperial College. The university's English name retains the older transliteration of "Beijing" that has been superseded in most other contexts.

Political career

Mao era

During the 1950s, Deng assisted Wang Zhen in quelling resistance to Communist rule in Xinjiang. Deng played a major role in the suppression of local rebellions and in enacting land reforms in the vast western region. However, officials of the CPC's Northwest Bureau became alarmed at the breakneck pace of the reforms and the extent to which violence and other means of coercion were used as a means to solidify the party's hold on power. Seeing the situation unfold, Mao removed both Wang Zhen and Deng Liqun from their positions in Xinjiang for fear that their tactics may alienate ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetan religious leaders, who were reluctant to embrace rule by the Communists. [6]

Wang Zhen (general) Chinese general and politician

Wang Zhen was a Chinese political figure and one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party of China. He was a close associate of Chinese President Li Xiannian.

Xinjiang Autonomous region

Xinjiang, officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), is a provincial-level autonomous region of China in the northwest of the country. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and the eighth largest country subdivision in the world, spanning over 1.6 million km2. Xinjiang contains the disputed territory of Aksai Chin, which is administered by China and claimed by India. Xinjiang borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan), and India. The rugged Karakoram, Kunlun, and Tian Shan mountain ranges occupy much of Xinjiang's borders, as well as its western and southern regions. Xinjiang also borders Tibet Autonomous Region and the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai. The most well-known route of the historical Silk Road ran through the territory from the east to its northwestern border. In recent decades, abundant oil and mineral reserves have been found in Xinjiang, and it is currently China's largest natural gas-producing region.

Later, Deng returned to Beijing to serve as secretary to President Liu Shaoqi, and the deputy chief editor of the party's theory publication Red Flag. Deng was purged during the Cultural Revolution, being labeled a "counterrevolutionary". He went through interrogation in Shijiazhuang. He was politically rehabilitated in 1974, serving on the State Council's political research office, and later as vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences between 1978 and 1980. [1] He then took on a series of offices which solidified his role as a leading Communist theorist of the post-Mao era, including the head of the Policy Research Office of the Central Secretariat from 1979, and head of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China from 1982 to 1985.

President of the Peoples Republic of China Ceremonial office and nominal de jure Head of State of China


Liu Shaoqi 2nd President of the Peoples Republic of China

Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, politician, and theorist. He was Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee from 1954 to 1959, First Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1956 to 1966 and Chairman (President) of the People's Republic of China, China's de jure head of state, from 1959 to 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China.

Cultural Revolution socio-political movement in China

The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until 1976. Launched by Mao Zedong, then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, its stated goal was to preserve Chinese Communism by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-impose Mao Zedong Thought as the dominant ideology within the Party. The Revolution marked Mao's return to a position of power after the failures of his Great Leap Forward. The movement paralyzed China politically and negatively affected both the economy and society of the country to a significant degree.

After economic reforms

As the post-Mao Communist Party liberalized and embraced market-oriented economic reforms, Deng became one of its most outspoken critics. While Deng Liqun was not fond of Mao-era political fanaticism and rural collectivization policies and was a supporter of Deng Xiaoping in the latter days of the Cultural Revolution, he believed that the party under Deng Xiaoping had strayed too far from orthodox Marxist–Leninist ideals and attempted to tighten control over ideology.

Chinese economic reform Reforms allowing more free markets in China since Deng Xiaoping

The Chinese economic reform refers to the program of economic reforms termed "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" and "socialist market economy" in the People's Republic of China (PRC) which reformists within the Communist Party of China - led by Deng Xiaoping - started in December 1978.

In 1975, Deng Liqun was assigned as a senior member of the Party Research Office, subsequently the Political Research Office (predecessor of the Policy Research Office) in the State Council, along with Hu Qiaomu, Yu Guangyuan, Wu Lengxi, Hu Sheng, Xiong Fu and Li Xin. Deng mobilized internal opposition to liberal reforms in the early 1980s through his position as chief of propaganda and ideology. [4] Within the circle of Deng-era intelligentsia, Deng is known to the spokesperson of the conservative Left, in a fierce rivalry with the more liberal-minded Yu Guangyuan, who drafted Deng Xiaoping's Third Plenum Speech on reform and opening-up, and a prominent ally of Hu Yaobang. As a result of Deng Liqun's interventions, while market forces were being unleashed on the economy and the government began courting foreign investment, the ideological realm of the country continued to maintain a conservative tone, especially in its wariness to embrace western-style ideas. Deng has been described as "the conservatives' primary hatchet man" during the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign of 1983, reportedly stemming from his antipathy to General Secretary Hu Yaobang, the party's leading reformist at the time. [7] Conservative forces began taking hold of the party in the late 1980s, and following what was characterized as Hu Yaobang's mishandling of the student protests of 1986, Hu was forced to resign from his post of General Secretary. Deng Liqun was instrumental in the ouster of Hu in 1987. [1]

After Hu was ousted from power, Deng Liqun was touted as a potential successor to Hu for the office of General Secretary. Deng's candidacy was supported by conservative stalwarts such as Chen Yun and Li Xiannian, as well as his former patron Wang Zhen. However, Deng Xiaoping, who held 'paramount power' in China at the time, grew increasingly alarmed at Deng Liqun's unyielding stance on ideological issues. Deng Xiaoping's chief protege Zhao Ziyang, then serving as Premier, vehemently opposed Deng Liqun's assuming the party's top office. [8] Indeed, Zhao, who was initially reluctant to become General Secretary, later remarked that fear of an ideological hardliner like Deng Liqun assuming the post made him (Zhao) more determined to take on the office himself. However, in backroom deals, Deng Xiaoping conceded to Deng Liqun's conservative supporters by offering the younger Deng a seat on the Politburo as to "open a channel to allow him to air his views," so long as Deng Liqun relinquished control of the ideological realm. [8]

Deng Liqun's Secretariat Policy Research Office was consequently disbanded, and much of his propaganda duties transitioned to Hu Qili and a newly formed "Central Leading Group for Propaganda and Ideology". At the 13th Party Congress, Deng Liqun was tapped to replace another conservative, Hu Qiaomu, on the Politburo. However, during elections for the 13th Central Committee, Deng reportedly received the lowest vote total of any candidate, and under new election procedures in which there were more candidates than positions, was not even elected to the 175-member Central Committee, making him ineligible for the Politburo position. [9] According to Zhao Ziyang's memoirs, Chen Yun intervened to safeguard Deng's salary and other compensation following his loss in the election, benefits that continued until his death. [10]


Following his failure to get elected to the Politburo, Deng retreated from active politics. Deng said the failure to get elected caused him great embarrassment. However, Deng continued to agitate for leftist causes through his writing and personal influence. Many of his former subordinates in the Policy Research Office were later promoted to ministerial-level positions across the party and government apparatus, increasing conservative influence in the new generation of leadership under Jiang Zemin. Deng understood the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 as a vindication of his beliefs that the contradiction between economic liberalization on the one hand and rigid political control on the other caused an inevitable rupture of public sentiment, and that the solution was to roll back economic reforms. [4]

After Tiananmen, Deng maintained his hardline stance, and became increasingly critical of the reformist wing of the party, accusing them of pursuing an essentially capitalist line. [1] During Deng Xiaoping's "southern tour of 1992", which called for increased economic liberalization, Deng Liqun hit back at the party establishment with a scathing article entitled "Uphold the Dictatorship of the Proletariat." Deng was also one of the foremost critics of the "Peaceful Evolution theory," the idea that the spread of liberal democratic culture and ideas seen in Western countries will lead to the peaceful and gradual dismantling of the Communist power structure in China. Beginning in 1997, Deng Liqun became increasingly critical of the leadership of Jiang Zemin. In 2001, the 85-year-old Deng published an open letter denouncing the so-called "Three Represents", Jiang's theoretical contribution to Communist ideology which essentially allowed private businesspeople to join the Communist Party. [11]

In October 2005, Deng published an autobiographical work entitled Twelve Years (1975-1987) in limited circulation in Hong Kong, which recounted his role in the major political events during that period. In reviewing the book, dissident journalist Gao Yu accused him of glorifying himself at the expense of Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. [12] Despite their erstwhile political rivalry, Deng sent wreaths to mourn the death of both Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. [1]

In August 2014, Deng made a rare public statement in a letter to the Xinjiang Party Committee commemorating five Uyghurs who died in a plane crash in 1949 en route to Beijing. [13]


Deng has been called the "King of the Left" and the "master of the pen" by external observers, due to his writing abilities and unyielding support for 'puritan' Marxist–Leninist and Maoist principles. [14] His belief that the post-Mao Communist Party had fundamentally departed from Communism continues to be cited by leftist and Maoist groups well into the 21st century, experiencing a mild but officially-tolerated resurgence during the ideological tightening of the Xi Jinping years. [4] When he died, Deng was eulogized with the standard line of "long-tested and loyal fighter of the Communist cause, proletarian revolutionary" by the authorities, but was also unusually designated "an outstanding leader in the front lines of ideology, thought, and propaganda and a Marxist theoretician." [15]

Personal life

Deng Liqun was known to be married twice; [4] his second marriage was to Luo Liyun, with whom he had a son and a daughter. [16] Deng's son, Deng Yingtao (邓英淘), was a member of the Rural Development Group, a group of intellectuals who discussed Chinese rural development issues, in the early 1980s. [17] Deng Liqun outlived his son, who died in March 2012 after an illness. [18] Luo Liyun died in 2011. Deng also had two daughters from an earlier marriage which ended in divorce. [4] After being bedridden due to illness for a few years, Deng Liqun died on February 10, 2015, in Beijing. [19]

During the Yan'an Rectification Movement, party member Li Rui (later Mao's Secretary and a deputy head of the party's Organization Department) was detained to "rectify his mistakes". During Li's time in detention, Deng was said to be sexually involved with Li Rui's wife. As a consequence, Li Rui and his wife divorced after Li was proved innocent and released, despite the latter's confession of the mistake. Li recalled the event almost fifty years later in a letter to Zhao Ziyang in which Li accused Deng of "moral impropriety", during Deng's putative candidacy for the General Secretary office in 1987, in a plea against Deng's assuming higher office. [8]

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Party political offices
Preceded by
Wang Renzhong
Head of the Propaganda Department
Succeeded by
Zhu Houze