Deng Xiaoping

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Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping at the arrival ceremony for the Vice Premier of China (cropped).jpg
Deng Xiaoping in January 1979 in Washington, D.C.
Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission
In office
13 September 1982 2 November 1987
Years of service1929–1952 in the Chinese Red Army, Eighth Route Army and People's Liberation Army
1975–1980 in the People's Liberation Army
Rank Political Commissar (1929–1952)
Chief of the General Staff (1975–76, 1977–80)
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of China
Unit Chinese Red Army
Eighth Route Army
Second Field Army
People's Liberation Army General Staff Department
Battles/wars Chinese Civil War
Second Sino-Japanese War
Central institution membership

Other political offices held

Military offices held
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping (Chinese characters).svg
Deng's name in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters

Although Deng got involved in the Marxist revolutionary movement in China, the historian Mobo Gao has argued that "Deng Xiaoping and many like him [in the Chinese Communist Party] were not really Marxists, but basically revolutionary nationalists who wanted to see China standing on equal terms with the great global powers. They were primarily nationalists and they participated in the Communist revolution because that was the only viable route they could find to Chinese nationalism." [28]

Activism in Shanghai and Wuhan

After leaving the army of Feng Yuxiang in the northwest, Deng ended up in the city of Wuhan, where the Communists at that time had their headquarters. At that time, he began using the nickname "Xiaoping" and occupied prominent positions in the party apparatus. He participated in the historic emergency session on 7 August 1927 in which, by Soviet instruction, the Party dismissed its founder Chen Duxiu, and Qu Qiubai became the general secretary. In Wuhan, Deng first established contact with Mao Zedong, who was then little valued by militant pro-Soviet leaders of the party.

Between 1927 and 1929, Deng lived in Shanghai, where he helped organize protests that would be harshly persecuted by the Kuomintang authorities. The death of many Communist militants in those years led to a decrease in the number of members of the Communist Party, which enabled Deng to quickly move up the ranks. During this stage in Shanghai, Deng married a woman he met in Moscow, Zhang Xiyuan.

Military campaign in Guangxi

Beginning in 1929, he participated in the military struggle against the Kuomintang in Guangxi. The superiority of the forces of Chiang Kai-shek caused a huge number of casualties in the Communist ranks. The confrontational strategy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership was a failure that killed many militants against a stronger opponent. The response to this defeat catalyzed one of the most confusing episodes in the biography of Deng: in March 1931, he left the Communist Army seventh battalion to appear sometime later in Shanghai.

His official biography states that Deng had been charged by his superiors with deserting from the battle zone before fleeing to Shanghai, where there were leaders of the underground Communist Party. Although he was not punished in Shanghai, this episode in his biography remains unclear and would be used against him to question his devotion to the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution era.

At the Jiangxi Soviet

The campaigns against the Communists in the cities represented a setback for the party and in particular to the Comintern Soviet advisers, who saw the mobilization of the urban proletariat as the force for the advancement of communism. Contrary to the urban vision of the revolution, based on the Soviet experience, the Communist leader Mao Zedong saw the rural peasants as the revolutionary force in China. In a mountainous area of Jiangxi province, where Mao went to establish a communist system, there developed the embryo of a future state of China under communism, which adopted the official name of the Chinese Soviet Republic, but was better known as the "Jiangxi Soviet".

In one of the most important cities in the Soviet zone, Ruijin, Deng took over as secretary of the Party Committee in the summer of 1931. In the winter of 1932, Deng went on to play the same position in the nearby district of Huichang. In 1933 he became director of the propaganda department of the Provincial Party Committee in Jiangxi. It was then that he married a young woman he had met in Shanghai named Jin Weiying.

The successes of the Soviet in Jiangxi made the party leaders decide to move to Jiangxi from Shanghai. The confrontation among Mao, the party leaders, and their Soviet advisers was increasingly tense and the struggle for power between the two factions led to the removal of Deng, who favored the ideas of Mao, from his position in the propaganda department. Despite the strife within the party, the Jiangxi Soviet became the first successful experiment of communist rule in rural China. It even issued stamps and paper money under the letterhead of the Soviet Republic of China, and the army of Chiang Kai-shek finally decided to attack the communist area.

Long March

Deng Xiaoping in NRA uniform, 1937 1937 Deng Xiaoping in NRA uniform.jpg
Deng Xiaoping in NRA uniform, 1937

Surrounded by the more powerful army of the Republic of China, the Communists fled Jiangxi in October 1934. Thus began the epic movement that would mark a turning point in the development of Chinese communism. The evacuation was difficult because the Army of the Republic had taken positions in all areas occupied by the Communists. Advancing through remote and mountainous terrain, some 100,000 men managed to escape Jiangxi, starting a long strategic retreat through the interior of China, which ended one year later when between 8,000 and 9,000 survivors reached the northern province of Shaanxi.

During the Zunyi Conference at the beginning of the Long March, the so-called 28 Bolsheviks, led by Bo Gu and Wang Ming, were ousted from power and Mao Zedong, to the dismay of the Soviet Union, became the new leader of the Chinese Communist Party. The pro-Soviet Chinese Communist Party had ended and a new rural-inspired party emerged under the leadership of Mao. Deng had once again become a leading figure in the party.

The confrontation between the two parties was temporarily interrupted, however, by the Japanese invasion, forcing the Kuomintang to form an alliance for the second time with the Communists to defend the nation against external aggression.

Japanese invasion

The invasion of Japanese troops in 1937 marked the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War. During the invasion, Deng remained in the area controlled by the Communists in the north, where he assumed the role of deputy political director of the three divisions of the restructured Communist army. From September 1937 until January 1938, he lived in Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Wutai Mountains. In January 1938, he was appointed as Political Commissar of the 129th division of the Eighth Route Army commanded by Liu Bocheng, starting a long-lasting partnership with Liu.

Deng stayed for most of the conflict with the Japanese in the war front in the area bordering the provinces of Shanxi, Henan and Hebei, then traveled several times to the city of Yan'an, where Mao had established the basis for Communist Party leadership. While in Henan, he delivered the famous report, "The Victorious Situation of Leaping into the Central Plains and Future Policies and Strategies", at a Gospel Hall where he lived for some time. [29] [30] In one of his trips to Yan'an in 1939, he married, for the third and last time in his life, Zhuo Lin, a young native of Kunming, who, like other young idealists of the time, had traveled to Yan'an to join the Communists.

Deng was considered a "revolutionary veteran" because his participation in the Long March. [31] He took a leading role in the Hundred Regiments Offensive which boosted his standing among his comrades. [32]

Resumed war against the Nationalists

Deng with Liu Bocheng (right) Liudeng.jpg
Deng with Liu Bocheng (right)

After Japan's defeat in World War II, Deng traveled to Chongqing, the city in which Chiang Kai-shek established his government during the Japanese invasion, to participate in peace talks between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party. The results of those negotiations were not positive and military confrontation between the two antagonistic parties resumed shortly after the meeting in Chongqing.

While Chiang Kai-shek re-established the government in Nanjing, the capital of the Republic of China, the Communists were fighting for control in the field. Following up with guerrilla tactics from their positions in rural areas against cities under the control of the government of Chiang and their supply lines, the Communists were increasing the territory under their control, and incorporating more and more soldiers who had deserted the Nationalist army.

Deng played a major part in the Huaihai Campaign against the nationalists. [32]

In the final phase of the war, Deng again exercised a key role as political leader and propaganda master as Political Commissar of the 2nd Field Army commanded by Liu Bocheng where he was instrumental in the PLA's march into Tibet. He also participated in disseminating the ideas of Mao Zedong, which turned into the ideological foundation of the Communist Party. His political and ideological work, along with his status as a veteran of the Long March, placed him in a privileged position within the party to occupy positions of power after the Communist Party managed to defeat Chiang Kai-shek and founded the People's Republic of China.

Deng Xiaoping with He Long (middle) and Zhu De (right) (1949) Deng Xiaoping, He Long and Zhu De.jpg
Deng Xiaoping with He Long (middle) and Zhu De (right) (1949)

Political career under Mao

Mayor of Chongqing

On 1 October 1949, Deng attended the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in Beijing. At that time, the Communist Party controlled the entire north, but there were still parts of the south held by the Kuomintang regime. He became responsible for leading the pacification of southwest China, in his capacity as the first secretary of the Department of the Southwest. This organization had the task of managing the final takeover of that part of the country still held by the Kuomintang; Tibet remained independent for another year.

The Kuomintang government was being forced to leave Guangzhou (Canton), and established Chongqing (Chungking) as a new provisional capital. There, Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo, a former classmate of Deng in Moscow, wanted to stop the advance of the Communist Party forces.

Under the political control of Deng, the Communist army took over Chongqing in late November 1949 and entered Chengdu, the last bastion of power of Chiang Kai-shek, a few days later. At that time Deng became mayor of Chongqing, while he simultaneously was the leader of the Communist Party in the southwest, where the Communist army, now proclaiming itself the People's Liberation Army, suppressed resistance loyal to the old Kuomintang regime. In 1950, the Communist Party-ruled state also seized control over Tibet.

Deng Xiaoping would spend three years in Chongqing, the city where he had studied in his teenage years before going to France. In 1952 he moved to Beijing, where he occupied different positions in the central government.

Political rise in Beijing

Deng Xiaoping (left) met with the 14th Dalai Lama (right) in 1954 Dalai-dengxiaoping1954.jpg
Deng Xiaoping (left) met with the 14th Dalai Lama (right) in 1954

In July 1952, Deng came to Beijing to assume the posts of Vice Premier and Deputy Chair of the Committee on Finance. Soon after, he took the posts of Minister of Finance and Director of the Office of Communications. In 1954, he was removed from all these positions, holding only the post of Deputy Premier. In 1956, he became Head of the Communist Party's Organization Department and member of the Central Military Commission.

After officially supporting Mao Zedong in his Anti-Rightist Movement of 1957, Deng acted as General Secretary of the Secretariat and ran the country's daily affairs with President Liu Shaoqi and Premier Zhou Enlai. Deng and Liu's policies emphasized economics over ideological dogma, an implicit departure from the mass fervor of the Great Leap Forward.

Both Liu and Deng supported Mao in the mass campaigns of the 1950s, in which they attacked the bourgeois and capitalists, and promoted Mao's ideology. [33] However, the economic failure of the Great Leap Forward was seen as an indictment on the ability of Mao to manage the economy. Peng Dehuai openly criticized Mao, while Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, though more cautious, began to take charge of economic policy, leaving Mao out of day-to-day affairs of the party and state. Mao agreed to cede the presidency of the People's Republic of China (China's de jure head of state position) to Liu Shaoqi, while retaining his positions as leader of the party and the army.

In 1955, he was considered as a candidate for the PLA rank of Marshal of the People's Republic of China but he was ultimately not awarded the rank.

At the 8th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 1956, Deng supported removing all references to "Mao Zedong Thought" from the party statutes. [32]

In 1963, Deng traveled to Moscow to lead a meeting of the Chinese delegation with Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev. Relations between the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union had worsened since the death of Stalin. After this meeting, no agreement was reached and the Sino–Soviet split was consummated; there was an almost total suspension of relations between the two major communist powers of the time. [34]

After the "Seven Thousand Cadres Conference" in 1962, Liu and Deng's economic reforms of the early 1960s were generally popular and restored many of the economic institutions previously dismantled during the Great Leap Forward. [33] Mao, sensing his loss of prestige, took action to regain control of the state. Appealing to his revolutionary spirit, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, which encouraged the masses to root out the right-wing capitalists who had "infiltrated the party". Deng was ridiculed as the "number two capitalist roader". [35]

Target of two purges

Cultural Revolution

Deng Xiaoping (left) with future president Li Xiannian (center) and Premier Zhou Enlai in 1963 Zhou Li Deng.jpg
Deng Xiaoping (left) with future president Li Xiannian (center) and Premier Zhou Enlai in 1963

Mao feared that the reformist economic policies of Deng and Liu could lead to restoration of capitalism and end the Chinese Revolution. [36] For this and other reasons, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966, during which Deng fell out of favor and was forced to retire from all his positions.

During the Cultural Revolution, he and his family were targeted by Red Guards, who imprisoned Deng's eldest son, Deng Pufang. Deng Pufang was tortured and jumped out, or was thrown out, of the window of a four-story building in 1968, becoming a paraplegic. In October 1969 Deng Xiaoping was sent to the Xinjian County Tractor Factory in rural Jiangxi province to work as a regular worker. [37] In his four years there, [38] Deng spent his spare time writing. He was purged nationally, but to a lesser scale than President Liu Shaoqi.

In 1971, Mao's second official successor and the sole Vice Chairman of the party, Lin Biao, was killed in an air crash. According to official reports, Lin was trying to flee from China after a failed coup against Mao. This made Deng (who had been political commissar of the 2nd Field Army during the civil war) the most influential of the remaining army leaders. [36] Premier Zhou Enlai was Mao's third successor but he fell ill with cancer and made Deng his choice as successor. In 1973, Deng returned to Beijing, after Zhou brought him back from exile in order for Deng to focus on reconstructing the Chinese economy. [39] Zhou was also able to convince Mao to bring Deng back into politics in October 1974 as First Vice-Premier, in practice running daily affairs. [40] He remained careful, however, to avoid contradicting Maoist ideology on paper. In January 1975, he was additionally elected Vice Chairman of the party by the 10th Central Committee for the first time in his party career; Li Desheng had to resign in his favour. Deng was one of five Vice Chairmen, with Zhou being the First Vice Chairman.

Deng Xiaoping (centre) with U.S. president Gerald Ford (left), 1975 Gerald and Betty Ford meet with Deng Xiaoping, 1975 A7598-20A.jpg
Deng Xiaoping (centre) with U.S. president Gerald Ford (left), 1975

During his brief ascendency in 1973, Deng established the Political Research Office, headed by intellectuals Hu Qiaomu, Yu Guangyuan and Hu Sheng, delegated to explore approaches to political and economic reforms. He led the group himself and managed the project within the State Council, in order to avoid rousing the suspicions of the Gang of Four.

The Cultural Revolution was not yet over, and a radical leftist political group known as the Gang of Four, led by Mao's wife Jiang Qing, competed for power within the Party. The Gang saw Deng as their greatest challenge to power. [41] Mao, too, was suspicious that Deng would destroy the positive reputation of the Cultural Revolution, which Mao considered one of his greatest policy initiatives. Beginning in late 1975, Deng was asked to draw up a series of self-criticisms. Although he admitted to having taken an "inappropriate ideological perspective" while dealing with state and party affairs, he was reluctant to admit that his policies were wrong in essence. His antagonism with the Gang of Four became increasingly clear, and Mao seemed to lean in the Gang's favour. Mao refused to accept Deng's self-criticisms and asked the party's Central Committee to "discuss Deng's mistakes thoroughly".

"Criticize Deng" campaign

Zhou Enlai died in January 1976, to an outpouring of national grief. Zhou was a very important figure in Deng's political life, and his death eroded his remaining support within the Party's Central Committee. After Deng delivered Zhou's official eulogy at the state funeral, [32] the Gang of Four, with Mao's permission, began the so-called Criticize Deng and Oppose the Rehabilitation of Right-leaning Elements campaign. Hua Guofeng, not Deng, was selected to become Zhou's successor as Premier on 4 February 1976.

On 2 February 1976, the Central Committee issued a Top-Priority Directive, officially transferring Deng to work on "external affairs" and thus removing Deng from the party's power apparatus. Deng stayed at home for several months, awaiting his fate. The Political Research Office was promptly dissolved, and Deng's advisers such as Yu Guangyuan suspended. As a result, the political turmoil halted the economic progress Deng had labored for in the past year. [42] On 3 March, Mao issued a directive reaffirming the legitimacy of the Cultural Revolution and specifically pointed to Deng as an internal, rather than external, problem. This was followed by a Central Committee directive issued to all local party organs to study Mao's directive and criticize Deng.

Deng's reputation as a reformer suffered a severe blow when the Qingming Festival, after the mass public mourning of Zhou on a traditional Chinese holiday, culminated in the Tiananmen Incident on 5 April 1976, an event the Gang of Four branded as counter-revolutionary and threatening to their power. Furthermore, the Gang deemed Deng the mastermind behind the incident, and Mao himself wrote that "the nature of things has changed". [43] This prompted Mao to remove Deng from all leadership positions, although he retained his party membership. As a result, on 6 April 1976 Premier Hua Guofeng was also appointed to Deng's position as Vice Chairman and at the same time received the vacant position of First Vice Chairman, which Zhou had held, making him Mao's fourth official successor.

Paramount Leader

Paramount leader of China

Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter at the arrival ceremony of Deng's visit to the U.S. (1979) Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter at the arrival ceremony for the Vice Premier of China. - NARA - 183157-restored.jpg
Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter at the arrival ceremony of Deng's visit to the U.S. (1979)

Following Mao's death on 9 September 1976 and the purge of the Gang of Four in October 1976, Deng gradually emerged as the de facto leader of China. Prior to Mao's death, the only governmental position he held was that of First Vice Premier of the State Council, [44] but Hua Guofeng wanted to rid the Party of extremists and successfully marginalised the Gang of Four. On 22 July 1977, Deng was restored to the posts of vice-chairman of the Central Committee, Vice-chairman of the Military Commission and Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army. [45]

By carefully mobilizing his supporters within the party, Deng outmaneuvered Hua, who had pardoned him, then ousted Hua from his top leadership positions by 1980. In contrast to previous leadership changes, Deng allowed Hua to retain membership in the Central Committee and quietly retire, helping to set the precedent that losing a high-level leadership struggle would not result in physical harm.

During his paramount leadership, his official state positions were Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from 1978 to 1983 and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (an ad hoc body comprising the most senior members of the party elite) of the People's Republic of China from 1983 to 1990, while his official party positions were Vice Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party from 1977 to 1982, Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party from 1981 to 1989 and Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission from 1982 to 1987. He was offered the rank of General First Class in 1988 when the PLA restored military ranks, but as in 1955, he once again declined. Even after retiring from the Politburo Standing Committee in 1987 and the Central Military Commission in 1989, Deng continued to exert influence over China's policies until his death in 1997.

Important decisions were always taken in Deng's home in Zhongnanhai with a caucus of eight senior party cadres, called "Eight Elders", especially with Chen Yun and Li Xiannian. Deng ruled as "paramount leader" although he never held the top title of the party, and was able to successively remove three party leaders, including Hu Yaobang. [46] Deng stepped down from the Central Committee and its Politburo Standing Committee. However, he remained as the chairman of the State and Party's Central Military Commission and still being seen as the Paramount Leader of China rather than the then General Secretary Zhao Ziyang and then President Li Xiannian and Yang Shangkun.

Boluan Fanzheng

Deng repudiated the Cultural Revolution and, in 1977, launched the "Beijing Spring", which allowed open criticism of the excesses and suffering that had occurred during the period, and restored the National College Entrance Examination (Gao Kao) which was cancelled for ten years during the Cultural Revolution. Meanwhile, he was the impetus for the abolition of the class background system. Under this system, the CCP removed employment barriers to Chinese deemed to be associated with the former landlord class; its removal allowed a faction favoring the restoration of the private market to enter the Communist Party.

Deng gradually outmaneuvered his political opponents. By encouraging public criticism of the Cultural Revolution, he weakened the position of those who owed their political positions to that event, while strengthening the position of those like himself who had been purged during that time. Deng also received a great deal of popular support. As Deng gradually consolidated control over the CCP, Hua was replaced by Zhao Ziyang as premier in 1980, and by Hu Yaobang as party chief in 1981, despite the fact that Hua was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the "paramount leader" of the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Republic of China. During the "Boluan Fanzheng" period, the Cultural Revolution was invalidated, and victims of more than 3 million "unjust, false, wrongful cases" by 1976 were officially rehabilitated. [47]

Deng's elevation to China's new number-one figure meant that the historical and ideological questions around Mao Zedong had to be addressed properly. Because Deng wished to pursue deep reforms, it was not possible for him to continue Mao's hard-line "class struggle" policies and mass public campaigns. In 1982 the Central Committee of the Communist Party released a document entitled On the Various Historical Issues since the Founding of the People's Republic of China. Mao retained his status as a "great Marxist, proletarian revolutionary, militarist, and general", and the undisputed founder and pioneer of the country and the People's Liberation Army. "His accomplishments must be considered before his mistakes", the document declared. Deng personally commented that Mao was "seven parts good, three parts bad". The document also steered the prime responsibility of the Cultural Revolution away from Mao (although it did state that "Mao mistakenly began the Cultural Revolution") to the "counter-revolutionary cliques" of the Gang of Four and Lin Biao.

International affairs

Deng Xiaoping (left) and his wife Zhuo Lin (right) are briefed by Johnson Space Center director Christopher C. Kraft (extreme right) Visit of Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping to Johnson Space Center - GPN-2002-000077.jpg
Deng Xiaoping (left) and his wife Zhuo Lin (right) are briefed by Johnson Space Center director Christopher C. Kraft (extreme right)

In November 1978, after the country had stabilized following political turmoil, Deng visited Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and met with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Deng was very impressed with Singapore's economic development, greenery and housing, and later sent tens of thousands of Chinese to Singapore and countries around the world to learn from their experiences and bring back their knowledge. Lee Kuan Yew, on the other hand, advised Deng to stop exporting Communist ideologies to Southeast Asia, advice that according to Lee, Deng later followed. [48] [49]

Thanks to the support of other party leaders who had already recovered their official positions, in 1978 the rise to power of Deng was inevitable. Even though Hua Guofeng formally monopolized the top positions in the People's Republic, his position, with little support, was becoming increasingly difficult. In December 1978, during the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Deng took over the reins of power. [50]

Beginning in 1979, the economic reforms accelerated the market model, while the leaders maintained old Communist-style rhetoric. The commune system was gradually dismantled and the peasants began to have more freedom to manage the land they cultivated and sell their products on the market. At the same time, China's economy opened up to foreign trade. On 1 January 1979, the United States recognized the People's Republic of China, leaving the (Taiwan) Republic of China's nationalist government to one side, and business contacts between China and the West began to grow. In late 1978, the aerospace company Boeing announced the sale of 747 aircraft to various airlines in the PRC, and the beverage company Coca-Cola made public their intention to open a production plant in Shanghai.

In early 1979, Deng undertook an official visit to the United States, meeting President Jimmy Carter in Washington as well as several Congressmen. The Chinese insisted that former President Richard Nixon be invited to the formal White House reception, a symbolic indication of their assertiveness on the one hand, and their desire to continue with the Nixon initiatives on the other. During the visit, Deng visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston, as well as the headquarters of Coca-Cola and Boeing in Atlanta and Seattle, respectively. With these visits so significant, Deng made it clear that the new Chinese regime's priorities were economic and technological development.

Sino-Japanese relations also improved significantly. [51] Deng used Japan as an example of a rapidly progressing power that set a good example for China economically.

Reform and Opening-up

Four modernizations

Deng Xiaoping billboard in Lizhi Park, Shenzhen, one of China's first special economic zones and is regarded as China's Silicon Valley Deng Xiaoping billboard 02.JPG
Deng Xiaoping billboard in Lizhi Park, Shenzhen, one of China's first special economic zones and is regarded as China's Silicon Valley

Deng quoted the old proverb "it doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat." The point was that capitalistic methods worked. [52] Deng worked with his team, especially as Zhao Ziyang, who in 1980 replaced Hua Guofeng as premier, and Hu Yaobang, who in 1981 did the same with the post of party chairman. Deng thus took the reins of power and began to emphasize the goals of "four modernizations" (economy, agriculture, scientific and technological development and national defense). He announced an ambitious plan of opening and liberalizing the economy. [53] On Deng's initiative, the CCP revoked the position of Chairman and made the General Secretary the ex officio leader of the party.

The last position of power retained by Hua Guofeng, chairman of the Central Military Commission, was taken by Deng in 1981. However, progress toward military modernization went slowly. A border war with Vietnam in 1977–79 made major changes unwise. The war puzzled outside observers, but Xiaoming Zhang argues that Deng had multiple goals: stopping Soviet expansion in the region, obtain American support for his four modernizations, and mobilizing China for reform and integration into the world economy. Deng also sought to strengthen his control of the PLA, and demonstrate to the world that China was capable of fighting a real war. Zhang thinks punishment of Vietnam for its invasion of Cambodia was a minor factor. [54] In the event, the Chinese forces did poorly, in terms of equipment, strategy, leadership, and battlefield performance. [55] China's main military threat came from the Soviet Union, which was much more powerful even though it had fewer soldiers, because it was far advanced in all sorts of weapons technology. In March 1981, Deng deemed a military exercise necessary for the PLA, and in September, the North China Military Exercise took place, becoming the largest exercise conducted by the PLA since the founding of the People's Republic. Moreover, Deng initiated the modernization of the PLA and decided that China first had to develop an advanced civilian scientific infrastructure before it could hope to build modern weapons. He therefore concentrated on downsizing the Army, cutting 1 million troops in 1985 (百万大裁军), [56] retiring the elderly and corrupt senior officers and their cronies. He emphasized the recruitment of much better educated young men who would be able to handle the advanced technology when it finally arrived. Instead of patronage and corruption in the officer corps, he imposed strict discipline in all ranks. In 1982 he established a new Commission for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense to plan for using technology developed in the civilian sector. [57] [58]

Deng did little to improve poor relations with Brezhnev and the Kremlin during his early rule. He continued to adhere to the Maoist line of the Sino–Soviet split era that the Soviet Union was a superpower as "hegemonic" as the United States, but even more threatening to China because of its close proximity. [59] Relations with the Soviet Union improved after Mikhail Gorbachev took over the Kremlin in 1985, and formal relations between the two countries were finally restored at the 1989 Sino-Soviet Summit. [60]

Three steps to economic development

In 1986, Deng explained to Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes that some people and regions could become prosperous first in order to bring about common prosperity faster. [61] In October 1987, at the Plenary Session of the National People's Congress, Deng was re-elected as Chairman of the Central Military Commission, but he resigned as Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission and was succeeded by Chen Yun. Deng continued to chair and develop the reform and opening up as the main policy, and he advanced the three steps suitable for China's economic development strategy within seventy years: the first step, to double the 1980 GNP and ensure that the people have enough food and clothing, was attained by the end of the 1980s; the second step, to quadruple the 1980 GNP by the end of the 20th century, was achieved in 1995 ahead of schedule; the third step, to increase per capita GNP to the level of the medium-developed countries by 2050, at which point, the Chinese people will be fairly well-off and modernization will be basically realized. [62]

Further reforms

Improving relations with the outside world was the second of two important philosophical shifts outlined in Deng's program of reform termed Gaige Kaifang (lit. Reforms and Openness). China's domestic social, political, and most notably, economic systems would undergo significant changes during Deng's time. The goals of Deng's reforms were summed up by the Four Modernizations, those of agriculture, industry, science and technology, and the military.

The strategy for achieving these aims of becoming a modern, industrial nation was the socialist market economy. Deng argued that China was in the primary stage of socialism and that the duty of the party was to perfect so-called "socialism with Chinese characteristics", [63] [32] and "seek truth from facts". (This somewhat resembles the Leninist theoretical justification of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the 1920s, which argued that the Soviet Union had not gone deeply enough into the capitalist phase and therefore needed limited capitalism in order to fully evolve its means of production.) The "socialism with Chinese characteristics" settles a benign structure for the implementation of ethnic policy and forming a unique method of ethnic theory. [64]

This interpretation of Maoism reduced the role of ideology in economic decision-making. Downgrading communitarian values, but not necessarily criticising the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, Deng emphasized that "socialism does not mean shared poverty". His theoretical justification for allowing market forces was given as such:

The proportion of planning to market forces is not the essential difference between socialism and capitalism. A planned economy is not equivalent to socialism, because there is planning under capitalism too; a market economy is not capitalism, because there are markets under socialism too. Planning and market forces are both means of controlling economic activity. The essence of socialism is liberation and development of the productive forces, elimination of exploitation and polarisation, and the ultimate achievement of prosperity for all. This concept must be made clear to the people. [65]

Unlike Hua Guofeng, Deng believed that no policy should be rejected outright simply because it was not associated with Mao. Unlike more conservative leaders such as Chen Yun, Deng did not object to policies on the grounds that they were similar to ones that were found in capitalist nations.

This political flexibility towards the foundations of socialism is strongly supported by quotes such as:

We mustn't fear to adopt the advanced management methods applied in capitalist countries ... The very essence of socialism is the liberation and development of the productive systems ... Socialism and market economy are not incompatible ... We should be concerned about right-wing deviations, but most of all, we must be concerned about left-wing deviations. [66] [ page needed ]

Although Deng provided the theoretical background and the political support to allow economic reform to occur, the general consensus amongst historians is that few of the economic reforms that Deng introduced were originated by Deng himself. Premier Zhou Enlai, for example, pioneered the Four Modernizations years before Deng. In addition, many reforms would be introduced by local leaders, often not sanctioned by central government directives. If successful and promising, these reforms would be adopted by larger and larger areas and ultimately introduced nationally. An often cited example is the household responsibility system, which was first secretly implemented by a poor rural village at the risk of being convicted as "counter-revolutionary". This experiment proved very successful. [67] [ page needed ] Deng openly supported it and it was later adopted nationally. Many other reforms were influenced by the experiences of the East Asian Tigers. [68] [ page needed ]

This was in sharp contrast to the pattern of perestroika undertaken by Mikhail Gorbachev, in which most major reforms originated with Gorbachev himself. The bottom-up approach of Deng's reforms, in contrast to the top-down approach of perestroika, was likely a key factor in the success of the former. [69] [ page needed ]

Deng's reforms actually included the introduction of planned, centralized management of the macro-economy by technically proficient bureaucrats, abandoning Mao's mass campaign style of economic construction. However, unlike the Soviet model, management was indirect through market mechanisms. Deng sustained Mao's legacy to the extent that he stressed the primacy of agricultural output and encouraged a significant decentralization of decision making in the rural economy teams and individual peasant households. At the local level, material incentives, rather than political appeals, were to be used to motivate the labor force, including allowing peasants to earn extra income by selling the produce of their private plots at free market value.

Export focus

In the move toward market allocation, local municipalities and provinces were allowed to invest in industries that they considered most profitable, which encouraged investment in light manufacturing. Thus, Deng's reforms shifted China's development strategy to an emphasis on light industry and export-led growth. Light industrial output was vital for a developing country coming from a low capital base. With the short gestation period, low capital requirements, and high foreign-exchange export earnings, revenues generated by light manufacturing were able to be reinvested in technologically more advanced production and further capital expenditures and investments.

However, in sharp contrast to the similar, but much less successful reforms in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the People's Republic of Hungary, these investments were not government mandated. The capital invested in heavy industry largely came from the banking system, and most of that capital came from consumer deposits. One of the first items of the Deng reforms was to prevent reallocation of profits except through taxation or through the banking system; hence, the reallocation in state-owned industries was somewhat indirect, thus making them more or less independent from government interference. In short, Deng's reforms sparked an industrial revolution in China. [70]

These reforms were a reversal of the Maoist policy of economic self-reliance. China decided to accelerate the modernization process by stepping up the volume of foreign trade, especially the purchase of machinery from Japan and the West. By participating in such export-led growth, China was able to step up the Four Modernizations by attaining certain foreign funds, market, advanced technologies and management experiences, thus accelerating its economic development. From 1980, Deng attracted foreign companies to a series of Special Economic Zones, where foreign investment and market liberalization were encouraged. [71] [72]

The reforms sought to improve labor productivity. New material incentives and bonus systems were introduced. Rural markets selling peasants' homegrown products and the surplus products of communes were revived. Not only did rural markets increase agricultural output, they stimulated industrial development as well. With peasants able to sell surplus agricultural yields on the open market, domestic consumption stimulated industrialization as well and also created political support for more difficult economic reforms.

There are some parallels between Deng's market socialism especially in the early stages, and Vladimir Lenin's NEP as well as those of Nikolai Bukharin's economic policies, in that both foresaw a role for private entrepreneurs and markets based on trade and pricing rather than central planning. An interesting anecdote on this note is the first meeting between Deng and Armand Hammer. Deng pressed the industrialist and former investor in Lenin's Soviet Union for as much information on the NEP as possible.

Return of Hong Kong and Macau

A model reconstruction of Deng Xiaoping's 1984 meeting with UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Shenzhen Deng Thatcher 3.JPG
A model reconstruction of Deng Xiaoping's 1984 meeting with UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Shenzhen

From 1980 onwards, Deng led the expansion of the economy, and in political terms took over negotiations with the United Kingdom to return the territory of Hong Kong, meeting personally with then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher had participated in the meetings with the hopes of keeping British rule over Hong Kong Island and Kowloon—two of the three constituent territories of the colony—but this was firmly rejected by Deng. [73] The result of these negotiations was the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed on 19 December 1984, which formally outlined the United Kingdom's return of the whole Hong Kong colony to China by 1997. The Chinese government pledged to respect the economic system and civil liberties of the British colony for fifty years after the handover. [74] [75]

Under pressure from China, Portugal agreed in 1987 to the return of Macau by 1999, with an agreement roughly equal to that of Hong Kong. The return of these two territories was based on a political principle formulated by Deng himself called "one country, two systems", which refers to the co-existence under one political authority of areas with different economic systems of communism and capitalism. Although this theory was applied to Hong Kong and Macau, Deng apparently intended to also present it as an attractive option to the people of Taiwan for eventual incorporation of that island, where sovereignty over the territory is still disputed. [76]

Population control and crime control

China's rapid economic growth presented several problems. The 1982 census revealed the extraordinary growth of the population, which already exceeded a billion people. Deng continued the plans initiated by Hua Guofeng to restrict birth to only one child, limiting women to one child under pain of administrative penalty. [77] The policy applied to urban areas, and included forced abortions. [78]

In August 1983, Deng launched the "Strike hard" Anti-crime Campaign due to the worsening public safety after the Cultural Revolution. [79] [80] [81] It was reported that the government set quotas for 5,000 executions by mid-November, and sources in Taiwan claimed that as many as 60,000 people were executed in that time, [82] although more recent estimates have placed the number at 24,000 who were sentenced to death (mostly in the first "battle" of the campaign). [81] [83] A number of people arrested (some even received death penalty) were children or relatives of government officials at various levels, including the grandson of Zhu De, demonstrating the principle of "all are equal before the law". [80] [81] [84] The campaign had an immediate positive effect on public safety, while controversies also arose such as whether some of the legal punishments were too harsh and whether the campaign had long-term positive effect on public safety. [84] [85]

Increasing economic freedom was being translated into a greater freedom of opinion, and critics began to arise within the system, including the famous dissident Wei Jingsheng, who coined the term "fifth modernization" in reference to democracy as a missing element in the renewal plans of Deng Xiaoping. In the late 1980s, dissatisfaction with the authoritarian regime and growing inequalities caused the biggest crisis to Deng's leadership.

Crackdown of Tiananmen Square protests

The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, culminating in the June Fourth Massacre, were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in the People's Republic of China (PRC) between 15 April and 5 June 1989, a year in which many other communist governments collapsed.

The protests were sparked by the death of Hu Yaobang, a reformist official backed by Deng but ousted by the Eight Elders and the conservative wing of the politburo. Many people were dissatisfied with the party's slow response and relatively subdued funeral arrangements. Public mourning began on the streets of Beijing and universities in the surrounding areas. In Beijing this was centered on the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square. The mourning became a public conduit for anger against perceived nepotism in the government, the unfair dismissal and early death of Hu, and the behind-the-scenes role of the "old men". By the eve of Hu's funeral, the demonstration had reached 100,000 people on Tiananmen Square. While the protests lacked a unified cause or leadership, participants raised the issue of corruption within the government and some voiced calls for economic liberalization [86] and democratic reform [86] within the structure of the government while others called for a less authoritarian and less centralized form of socialism. [87] [88]

During the demonstrations, Deng's pro-market ally General Secretary Zhao Ziyang supported the demonstrators and distanced himself from the Politburo. Martial law was declared on 20 May by the socialist hardliner Li Peng, but the initial military advance on the city was blocked by residents. The movement lasted seven weeks. On 3–4 June, over two hundred thousand soldiers in tanks and helicopters were sent into the city to quell the protests by force, resulting in hundreds to thousands of casualties. Many ordinary people in Beijing believed that Deng had ordered the intervention, but political analysts do not know who was actually behind the order. [89] [ page needed ] However, Deng's daughter defends the actions that occurred as a collective decision by the party leadership. [90]

To purge sympathizers of Tiananmen demonstrators, the Communist Party initiated a one-and-a-half-year-long program similar to the Anti-Rightist Movement. Old-timers like Deng Fei aimed to deal "strictly with those inside the party with serious tendencies toward bourgeois liberalization", and more than 30,000 communist officers were deployed to the task. [91] [ page needed ]

Zhao was placed under house arrest by hardliners and Deng himself was forced to make concessions to them. [89] [ page needed ] He soon declared that "the entire imperialist Western world plans to make all socialist countries discard the socialist road and then bring them under the monopoly of international capital and onto the capitalist road". A few months later he said that the "United States was too deeply involved" in the student movement, referring to foreign reporters who had given financial aid to the student leaders and later helped them escape to various Western countries, primarily the United States through Hong Kong and Taiwan. [89] [ page needed ]

Although Deng initially made concessions to the socialist hardliners, he soon resumed his reforms after his 1992 southern tour. After his tour, he was able to stop the attacks of the socialist hardliners on the reforms through their "named capitalist or socialist?" campaign. [92] [ page needed ]

Deng privately told former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau that factions of the Communist Party could have grabbed army units and the country had risked a civil war. [91] [ page needed ] Two years later, Deng endorsed Zhu Rongji, a Shanghai Mayor, as a vice-premier candidate. Zhu Rongji had refused to declare martial law in Shanghai during the demonstrations even though socialist hardliners had pressured him. [89] [ page needed ]

Resignation and 1992 southern tour

A patrol boat in use during Deng Xiaoping's southern tour of 1992 DengXiaoPingNanXunJunJian.jpg
A patrol boat in use during Deng Xiaoping's southern tour of 1992

Officially, Deng decided to retire from top positions when he stepped down as Chairman of the Central Military Commission in November 1989 and his successor Jiang Zemin became the new Chairman of Central Military Commission. [93] [94] China, however, was still in the era of Deng Xiaoping. He continued to be widely regarded as the "paramount leader" of the country, believed to have backroom control despite no official position apart from being chairman of the Chinese Contract Bridge Association, [95] and appointed Hu Jintao as Jiang's successor on 14th Party Congress in 1992. [ according to whom? ] Deng was recognized officially as "the chief architect of China's economic reforms and China's socialist modernization". To the Communist Party, he was believed to have set a good example for communist cadres who refused to retire at old age. He broke earlier conventions of holding offices for life. He was often referred to as simply Comrade Xiaoping, with no title attached.

Because of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Deng's power had been significantly weakened and there was a growing formalist faction opposed to Deng's reforms within the Communist Party. To reassert his economic agenda, in the spring of 1992, Deng made a tour of southern China, visiting Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and spending the New Year in Shanghai, using his travels as a method of reasserting his economic policy after his retirement from office. [96] [97] The 1992 Southern Tour is widely regarded as a critical point in the modern history of China, as it saved the Chinese economic reform and preserved the stability of the society. [98] [99] [100] [101] [102]

Death and reaction

Deng Xiaoping's ashes lie in state in Beijing whose banner reads "Memorial Service of Comrade Deng Xiaoping", February 1997 Deng Funeral.jpg
Deng Xiaoping's ashes lie in state in Beijing whose banner reads "Memorial Service of Comrade Deng Xiaoping", February 1997

Deng died on 19 February 1997 at 9:08 p.m. Beijing time, aged 92 from a lung infection and Parkinson's disease. [103] [104] The public was largely prepared for his death, as there had been rumors that his health was deteriorating. At 10:00 on the morning of 24 February, people were asked by Premier Li Peng to pause in silence for three minutes. The nation's flags flew at half-mast for over a week. The nationally televised funeral, which was a simple and relatively private affair attended by the country's leaders and Deng's family, was broadcast on all cable channels. After the funeral, his organs were donated to medical research, the remains were cremated at Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, and his ashes were subsequently scattered at sea, according to his wishes. For the next two weeks, Chinese state media ran news stories and documentaries related to Deng's life and death, with the regular 19:00 National News program in the evening lasting almost two hours over the regular broadcast time.

Deng's successor, Jiang Zemin, maintained Deng's political and economic philosophies. Deng was eulogized as a "great Marxist, great Proletarian Revolutionary, statesman, military strategist, and diplomat; one of the main leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, the People's Liberation Army of China, and the People's Republic of China; the great architect of China's socialist opening-up and modernized construction; the founder of Deng Xiaoping Theory". [105] Some elements, notably modern Maoists and radical reformers (the far left and the far right), had negative views, however. In the following year, songs like "Story of Spring" by Dong Wenhua, which were created in Deng's honour shortly after Deng's southern tour in 1992, once again were widely played.

Deng's death drew international reaction. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Deng was to be remembered "in the international community at large as a primary architect of China's modernization and dramatic economic development". French President Jacques Chirac said "In the course of this century, few men have, as much as Deng, led a vast human community through such profound and determining changes"; British Prime Minister John Major commented about Deng's key role in the return of Hong Kong to Chinese control; Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called Deng a "pivotal figure" in Chinese history. The Kuomintang chair in Taiwan also sent its condolences, saying it longed for peace, cooperation, and prosperity. The Dalai Lama voiced regret that Deng died without resolving questions over Tibet. [106]

Statue of Deng Xiaoping in Shenzhen Deng Xiaoping statue in Shenzhen.JPG
Statue of Deng Xiaoping in Shenzhen


Memorials to Deng have been low profile compared to other leaders, in keeping with Deng's image of pragmatism. Rather than being embalmed, as was Mao, he was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea. There are some public displays, however. A bronze statue was erected on 14 November 2000, at the grand plaza of Lianhua Mountain Park in Shenzhen. This statue is dedicated to Deng's role as a planner and contributor to the development of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. The statue is 6 metres (20 ft) high, with an additional 3.68-meter base, and shows Deng striding forward confidently. Many CCP high level leaders visit the statue. In addition, in coastal areas and on the island province of Hainan, Deng appeared on roadside billboards with messages emphasizing economic reform or his policy of one country, two systems.

A bronze statue to commemorate Deng's 100th birthday was dedicated 13 August 2004 in the city of Guang'an, Deng's hometown, in southwest China's Sichuan. Deng is dressed casually, sitting on a chair and smiling. The Chinese characters on the pedestal were written by Jiang Zemin, then Chairman of the Central Military Commission. [107]

Deng Xiaoping's Former Residence in his hometown of Paifang Village in Sichuan has been preserved as an historical museum.

In Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, there is a six-lane boulevard, 25 metres (82 ft) wide and 3.5 kilometres (2 mi) long, the Deng Xiaoping Prospekt, which was dedicated on 18 June 1997. A two-meter high red granite monument stands at the east end of this route. The epigraph is written in Chinese, Russian and Kirghiz. [108] [109]

The documentary, Deng Xiaoping, released by CCTV in January 1997, presents his life from his days as a student in France to his "Southern Tour" of 1993. [110] In 2014, CCTV released a TV series, Deng Xiaoping at History's Crossroads , in anticipation of the 110th anniversary of his birth.


Deng has been called the "architect of contemporary China" [93] [94] [111] [112] and is widely considered to be one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. [113] He was the Time Person of the Year in 1978 and 1985, the third Chinese leader (after Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Soong Mei-ling) and the fourth time for a communist leader (after Joseph Stalin, picked twice; and Nikita Khrushchev) to be selected. [114]

Deng is remembered primarily for the economic reforms he initiated while paramount leader of the People's Republic of China, which pivoted China towards a market economy, led to high economic growth, increased standards of living of hundreds of millions, [115] expanded personal and cultural freedoms, and substantially integrated the country into the world economy. [116] [117] [118] More people were lifted out of poverty during his leadership than during any other time in human history, attributed largely to his reforms. [113] For this reason, some have suggested that Deng should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. [119] [120] [121] Deng is also credited with reducing the cult of Mao Zedong and with bringing an end to the chaotic era of the Cultural Revolution. [122] Furthermore, his strong-handed tactics have been credited with keeping the People's Republic of China unified, in contrast to the other major Communist power of the time, the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991. [123]

However, Deng is also remembered for leaving in place a communist government that continues to exist, for human rights, and for numerous instances of political violence. [117] [124] As paramount leader, he oversaw the Tiananmen Square massacre; afterwards, he was influential in the Communist Party's domestic cover-up of the event. [125] [126] [127] Furthermore, he is associated with some of the worst purges during Mao Zedong's rule; for instance, he ordered an army crackdown on a Muslim village in Yunnan which resulted in the deaths of 1,600 people, including 300 children. [122]

As paramount leader, Deng also negotiated an end to the British colonial rule of Hong Kong and normalized relations with the United States and the Soviet Union. [124] [128] In August 1980, he started China's political reforms by setting term limits for officials and proposing a systematic revision of China's third Constitution which was made during the Cultural Revolution; the new Constitution embodied Chinese-style constitutionalism and was passed by the National People's Congress in December 1982, with most of its content still being effective as of today. [129] [130] [131] [132] He helped establish China's nine-year compulsory education, [133] [134] and revived China's political reforms. [135]


  • Deng Xiaoping (1995). Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping: 1938–1965. Vol. I (2nd ed.). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN   7-119-01456-0. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  • (1995). Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping: 1975–1982. Vol. II (2nd ed.). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN   7-119-00167-1. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  • (1994). Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping: 1982–1992. Vol. III (1st ed.). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN   7-119-01689-X. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2020.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. /ˈdʌŋʃˈpɪŋ/ , also UK: /ˈdɛŋ-,-ˈsjpɪŋ/ ; [1] [2] [3] Chinese :邓小平; pinyin :Dèng Xiǎopíng; also romanised traditionally as Teng Hsiao-ping; [4] born Xiansheng (先圣)

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General and cited sources

Further reading