CB14. Deng Xiaoping, Past Paramount Leader of China, A Review

01 Sep CB14. Deng Xiaoping, Past Paramount Leader of China, A Review

Deng Xiaoping, as China’s paramount leader, implemented reforms that opened up China to the world. The physically small man went through hardship during his political life, but under his watch, China began its remarkable transformation since 1979 to become one of the world’s largest economies. Unlike his predecessor Mao Zedong, Deng’s legacy is mostly positive and less controversial.

  1. In around 1,000 words, I will discuss Deng Xiaoping and his role in opening up China to the world.
  2. Deng Xiaoping (22 August 1904 – 19 February 1997; 92 years) was China’s paramount leader from 1978 to 1989 (12 years).
  3. Deng’s father studied at the University of Law and Political Science in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China.
  4. In 1919, aged 15, Deng and 80 schoolmates travelled to France to participate in a work-study program. The night before his departure, Deng’s father asked his son what he hoped to learn in France. Deng said, “To learn knowledge and truth from the West in order to save China.” Deng was aware that China was suffering greatly, and that the Chinese people must have modern education to save their country.
  5. Deng briefly attended schools in France, but he spent most of his time in France working as a factory fitter.
  6. Deng met Zhou Enlai (later China’s long time Premier) in France. Deng began to study Marxism and in 1924, he joined the Chinese Communist Party.
  7. In 1926, Deng travelled to the Soviet Union and studied at Moscow Sun Yat-sen University.
  8. In 1927, Deng left Moscow to return to China.
  9. On 7 August 1927, Deng went to a Communist meeting in Wuhan, and met with Mao Zedong for the first time.
  10. Beginning in 1929, Deng participated in the Communist military struggle against the Kuomintang Republic of China government.
  11. The more powerful army of the Kuomintang attacked the Communists in Jaingxi, and they fled in October 1934. Thus, began The Long March that would mark a turning point in the development of Chinese communism. 100,000 men managed to escape Jiangxi, but only 8,000 to 9,000 survivors reached the northern province of Shaanxi.
  12. The confrontation between the two parties was temporarily interrupted by the Japanese invasion of China, forcing the Kuomintang to form an alliance with the Communists to defend the nation against external aggression.
  13. Japanese troops invaded China in 1937.
  14. After Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945, Deng travelled to Chongqing, to participate in peace talks between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party. The negotiations failed and military confrontation between the two antagonistic parties resumed.
  15. The Communists finally won the civil war.
  16. On 1 October 1949, Deng attended the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.
  17. Deng occupied different positions in the central government, including Vice Premier.
  18. Deng supported Chairman Mao Zedong in the mass campaigns of the 1950s, in which he attacked the bourgeois and capitalists, and promoted Mao’s ideology. However, the economic failure of the Mao’s Great Leap Forward was seen as an indictment on the ability of Mao to manage the economy.
  19. In 1957, Deng acted as General Secretary of the Secretariat and ran the country’s daily affairs with President Liu Shaoqi and Premier Zhou Enlai.
  20. In 1963, Deng travelled to Moscow to lead a meeting of the Chinese delegation with Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev. No agreement was reached and there was an almost total suspension of relations between the two major communist powers of the time.
  21. 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.
  22. Mao, sensing his loss of prestige, launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966, during which Deng fell out of favour and was forced to retire from all his positions. Deng was ridiculed as the “number two capitalist roader”.
  23. During the Cultural Revolution, Deng and his family were targeted by Red Guards. In 1969, Deng Xiaoping was sent to rural Jiangxi province for four years, to work as a regular worker.
  24. Premier Zhou Enlai was able to convince Mao to bring Deng back into politics in 1974 as First Vice-Premier.
  25. But the Cultural Revolution was not yet over. Mao was suspicious of Deng. Beginning in late 1975, Deng was asked to draw up a series of self-criticisms.
  26. Zhou Enlai died in January 1976. Hua Guofeng, not Deng, became Zhou’s successor as Premier on 4 February 1976.
  27. On 3 March 1976, Mao removed Deng from all leadership positions.
  28. Following Mao’s death on 9 September 1976, Huo Guofeng became Chairman. But Deng gradually emerged as the de facto leader of China.
  29. By carefully mobilizing his supporters within the party, Deng outmanoeuvred Hua, who had pardoned him, then ousted Hua from his top leadership positions.
  30. Under Deng, employment barriers to Chinese deemed to be associated with the former landlord class was removed.
  31. Deng referred to controversial Mao Zedong as a “great general”, and the undisputed founder of the country. Deng personally commented that Mao was “seven parts good, three parts bad.”
  32. In November 1978, Deng visited 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 22,000 Chinese to Singapore to learn from their experiences and bring back their knowledge. 
  33. Beginning in 1979, the market model was accelerated. At the same time, China’s economy opened up to foreign trade.
  34. On 1 January 1979, the United States of America recognised the People’s Republic of China (not Taiwan anymore).
  35. In early 1979, Deng undertook an official visit to the United States meeting President Jimmy Carter. Deng made it clear that the new Chinese regime’s priorities were economic and technological development.
  36. Sino-Japanese relations improved significantly. Deng used Japan as an example of a rapidly progressing power that set a good example for China economically.
  37. Deng said, “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.
  38. Deng emphasised the Four Modernizations – economy, agriculture, ‘scientific and technological development’ and national defence.
  39. In the Army, Deng emphasised the recruitment of much better educated young men. He imposed strict discipline in all ranks.
  40. Relations with the Soviet Union improved and formal relations between the two countries were restored at the 1989 Sino-Soviet Summit.
  41. Deng’s vision for the next seventy years:
    (1) to double the 1980 Gross National Product and ensure that the people have enough food and clothing – this was attained by the end of the 1980s;
    (2) to quadruple the 1980 GNP by the end of the 20th century – this was achieved in 1995 ahead of schedule; and
    (3) 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 realised.
  42. Deng argued that China is a Socialist country with Chinese characteristics.
  43. Deng’s reforms included the introduction of planned, centralized management of the macro-economy by technically proficient bureaucrats.
  44. Deng shifted China’s development strategy to an emphasis on light industry and export-led growth. China stepped up the volume of foreign trade, especially the purchase of machinery from Japan and the West. By participating in export-led growth, China attained certain foreign funds, market, advanced technologies and management experiences, thus accelerating its economic development.
  45. From 1980, Deng attracted foreign companies to Special Economic Zones set up within China, where foreign investment and market liberalization were encouraged.
  46. The reforms sought to improve labour productivity. New material incentives and bonus systems were introduced. Rural markets selling peasants’ homegrown products were revived.
  47. From 1980 onwards, Deng negotiated with the then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom to return the territory of Hong Kong. The Sino-British Joint Declaration signed on 19 December 1984, formally outlined the United Kingdom’s return of Hong Kong 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.
  48. Under pressure from China, Portugal agreed in 1987 to the return of Macau by 1999.
  49. 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.
  50. China’s rapid economic growth increased population, and Deng continued the plans to restrict birth to only one child.
  51. In August 1983, Deng launched the “Strike hard” Anti-crime Campaign due to worsening public safety. 24,000 criminals were sentenced to death. The campaign had an immediate positive effect on public safety.
  52. Increasing economic freedom translated to greater freedom of opinion, and critics began to arise within the system.
  53. Between 15 April 1989 and 5 June 1989, the “Tiananmen Square protests” took place in Beijing.
  54. Protestors raised the issue of corruption within the government and voiced calls for economic liberalization and democratic reform.
  55. Martial law was declared on 20 May 1989. On 3–4 June 1989, over 200,000 soldiers in tanks and helicopters were sent into Beijing to quell the protests by force, resulting in hundreds to thousands of casualties.
  56. The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests weakened Deng’s power significantly.
  57. To purge sympathizers of Tiananmen demonstrators, the Communist Party initiated a one-and-a-half-year-long program similar to the Anti-Rightist Movement.
  58. Deng initially made concessions to the socialist hardliners, but he soon resumed his reforms.
  59. To reassert his economic agenda, in the spring of 1992, Deng made his famous Southern Tour of China, using his travels as a method of reasserting his economic policy.
  60. The 1992 Southern Tour is regarded as a critical point in saving the Chinese economic reform and preserved the stability of the society. After his Southern Tour, Deng was able to stop the attacks of the socialist hardliners on the reforms.
  61. Deng privately told Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau that factions of the Communist Party could have grabbed army units and the country had risked a civil war.
  62. Deng died on 19 February 1997, aged 92. His successor Jiang Zemin maintained Deng’s political and economic philosophies.
  63. Under Deng, more people were lifted out of poverty than during any other time in human history.
  64. Deng’s strong-handed tactics have been seen as 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.

© Comasters September 2020.

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